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Musical Styles

OCMS Ancient Music OCMS
Around 500 A.D., western civilization began to emerge from the period known as "The Dark Ages," the time when invading hordes of Vandals, Huns, and Visigoths overran Europe and brought an end to the Roman Empire. For the next ten centuries, the newly emerging Christian Church would dominate Europe, administering justice, instigating "Holy" Crusades against the East, establishing Universities, and generally dictating the destiny of music, art and literature. During this time, Pope Gregory I is generally believed to have collected and codified the music known as Gregorian Chant, which was the approved music of the Church. Much later, the University at Notre Dame in Paris saw the creation of a new kind of music called organum. Secular music was sung all over Europe by the troubadours and trouv�res of France. And it was during the Middle Ages that western culture saw the arrival of the first great name in music, Guillaume de Machaut.

OCMS Medieval Music in The Middle Ages OCMS
The traditions of Western music can be traced back to the social and religious developments that took place in Europe during the Middle Ages, the years roughly spanning from about 500 to 1400 A.D. Because of the domination of the early Christian Church during this period, sacred music was the most prevalent. Beginning with Gregorian Chant, church music slowly developed into a polyphonic music called organum performed at Notre Dame in Paris by the twelfth century. Secular music flourished, too, in the hands of the French trouv�res and troubadours, until the period culminated with the sacred and secular compositions of the first true genius of Western music, Guillaume de Machaut.

Music had been a part of the world's civilizations for hundreds of years before the Middle Ages. Primitive cave drawings, stories from the Bible, and Egyptian heiroglyphs all attest to the fact that people had created instruments and had been making music for centuries.

Music had been a part of the world's civilizations for hundreds of years before the Middle Ages. Primitive cave drawings, stories from the Bible, and Egyptian heiroglyphs all attest to the fact that people had created instruments and had been making music for centuries.

The word music derives from the ancient Greek muses, the nine goddesses of art and science. The first study of music as an art form dates from around 500 B.C., when Pythagoras experimented with acoustics and the mathematical relationships of tones. In so doing, Pythagoras and others established the Greek modes: scales comprised of whole tones and half steps.

With the slow emergence of European society from the dark ages between the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of the Christian Church, dozens of "mini-kingdoms" were established all over Europe, each presided over by a lord who had fought for and won the land. Mostly through superstitious fear, the early Church was able to claim absolute power over these feudal lords. The Church was able to dictate the progress of arts and letters according to its own strictures and employed all the scribes, musicians and artists. At this time, western music was almost the sole property of the Christian Church.

Gregorian Chant
Gregorian ChantEarly Christians derived their music from Jewish and Byzantine religious chant. Like all music in the Western world up to this time, Christian plainchant was monophonic: that is, comprised of a single melody without any harmonic support or accompaniment. The many hundreds of melodies are defined by one of the eight Greek modes, some of which sound very different than the
major/minor scales our ears are used to today. The melodies are free and seem to wander, dictated by the Latin liturgical texts to which they are set. As these chants spread throughout Europe, they were embellished and developed along many different lines in various regions. It was believed that Pope Gregory I (reigned 590-604) codified them during the sixth-century, establishing uniform usage throughout the Western Church. Although his actual contribution to this enormous body of music remains unknown, his name has been applied to this music, and it is known as Gregorian Chant.

Gregorian chant was a music designed to be sung in very specific settings, and in order to understand Chant it is necessary to understand at least the outlines of these settings. Gregorian chant was the principle music used in worship services for the first thousand years of Christianity. These worship settings may be divided into two general classes of liturgy: the Mass (the celebration of the Lord's supper), and the Divine Officies (structured readings of Psalms and other sacred texts). Gregorian chant remains among the most spiritually moving and profound music in western culture. An idea of its pure, floating melody can be heard in the Easter hymn, Victimae paschali laudes.

Many years later, composers of Renaissance polyphony very often used plainchant melodies as the basis for their sacred works.
Plainchant is the official monophonic unison chant, originally unaccompanied, of the Christian liturgies. The term refers particularly to the chant repertories with Latin texts. i.e. those of the major Westem Christian liturgies (Ambrosian, Gallican, Mozarabic and Gregorian and Old Roman). and in a more restricted sense to the repertory of Gregorian chant, the official chant of the Roman Catholic Church.

The origins of Christian liturgical chant lie in Jewish synagogue practice and in pagan music at early church centres (Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome and Constantinople). By the 4th century there were distinct families of Eastern and Western (Latin) rites, each with its own liturgy and music. As political and liturgical unification began under Carolingian rule in the mid-8th century, all the local Latin musical rites except the Ambrosian were suppressed in favour of the Gregorian. Notation appears nowhere before the 9th century, precise pitch representation being found only a century or two later. Of the Latin rites, only the Gregorian, Old Roman and Ambrosian survive complete.

Each plainchant family has its distinctive modal idioms; in some repertories (Gregorian-Old Roman, Byzantine, Slavonic, Coptic) the modes are assigned numbers or names. The Byzantine modal theory �Oktoechos� developed with a symmetrical arrangement of eight modes and was adopted by the Gregorian repertory in the late 8th century. These use four final pitches (D, E, F and G), with sub-forms in a higher range (authentic) and lower range (plagal) for each final. Certain modes are preferred for certain liturgical categories, liturgical seasons or particular feasts. In the Gregorian tradition tonaries from the 9th century onwards listed melodies by mode, imposing the modal system only after the repertory had been fixed.

The forms or the chant repertory can be divided into psalmodic and non-psalmodic. There are three main forms of psalmody: antiphonal, in which two halves of a choir sing psalm verses in alternation with a refrain (antiphon); responsorial, in which one or more soloists alternate with the choir in singing psalm verses and a refrain (respond); and direct, in which the cantors sing verses without a refrain. Non-psalmodic forms include the strophic form of the hymn, in which a single melody is repeated for all strophes; the sequence, in which there is repetition within each couplet; the repetitive forms of the Kyrie and Agnus Dei; and the non-repetitive forms of the Sanctus, Gloria and Credo. In the Mass, the chants of the Ordinary are all non-psalmodic and those of the Proper are psalmodic. Recitation formulae are used for both psalmodic and non-psalmodic texts. The syllabic psalm tones are the musical patterns based on mode that accommodate the recitation of psalm verses. The beginning, middle and end of each verse are punctuated with small intonation, flex, mediant and cadential formulae.

There are three melodic styles of chant: syllabic, in which each syllable of text is set to a single note; neumatic, in which two to a dozen notes accompany a syllable; and melismatic, in which single syllables may be sung to dozens of notes. The Christian liturgies are divided into the Eucharistic Mass and the Divine Office, and it is the liturgy that determines the musical style of plainchant. In general, the more solemn the occasion, the more florid the music, although the most solemn chants are intoned by the celebrant. Each family of chant is characterized by a specific melodic type: antiphons and psalms are normally set syllabically, introits, Sanctus and Agnus Dei melodies are neumatic, and graduals, alleluias and offertories contain extensive melismas.

Chant composition involves the contrived selection of traditional modal materials, which may be divided into cells, formulae and patterns. Cells are miniature melodic gestures, which either stand alone or contribute to the larger stylized formulae; formulae are longer, more individual melismatic elements; and patterns are flexible frameworks or pitches that accommodate whole phrases of text. These melodic idioms are chosen and ordered according to established modal procedures.
Notre Dame and the Ars Antiqua
Sometime during the ninth century, music theorists in the Church began experimenting with the idea of singing two melodic lines simultaneously at parallel intervals, usually at the fourth, fifth, or octave. The resulting hollow-sounding music was called organum and very slowly developed over the next hundred years. By the eleventh century, one, two (and much later, even three) added melodic lines were no longer moving in parallel motion, but contrary to each other, sometimes even crossing. The original chant melody was then sung very slowly on long held notes called the tenor (from the Latin tenere, meaning to hold) and the added melodies wove about and embellished the resulting drone.

This music thrived at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and much later became known as the Ars Antiqua, or the "old art." The two composers at Notre Dame especially known for composing in this style are L�onin (fl. ca. 1163-1190), who composed organa for two voices, and his successor P�rotin (fl. early13th century), whose organa included three and even four voices. P�rotin's music is an excellent example of this very early form of polyphony (music for two or more simultaneously sounding voices), as can be heard in his setting of Sederunt principes.

This music was slowly supplanted by the smoother contours of the polyphonic music of the fourteenth century, which became known as the Ars Nova.
The Trouv�res and the Troubadours
Popular music, usually in the form of secular songs, existed during the Middle Ages. This music was not bound by the traditions of the Church, nor was it even written down for the first time until sometime after the tenth century. Hundreds of these songs were created and performed (and later notated) by bands of musicians flourishing across Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, the most famous of which were the French trouv�res and troubadours. The monophonic melodies of these itinerant musicians, to which may have been added improvised accompaniments, were often rhythmically lively. The subject of the overwhelming majority of these songs is love, in all its permutations of joy and pain. One of the most famous of these trouv�res known to us (the great bulk of these melodies are by the ubiquitous "Anonymous") is Adam de la Halle (ca. 1237-ca. 1286). Adam is the composer of one of the oldest secular music theater pieces known in the West, Le Jeu de Robin et Marion. He has also been identified as the writer of a good many songs and verses, some of which take the form of the motet, a piece in which two or more different verses (usually of greatly contrasted content and meter) are fit together simultaneously, without regard to what we now consider conventional harmonies. Such a piece is De ma dame vient! by this famous trouv�re.

Although secular music was undoubtedly played on instruments during the Middle Ages, instrumental dance music didn't come into its own until the later Renaissance.
The Renaissance
The Renaissance was a time of rebirth in learning, science, and the arts throughout Europe. The rediscovery of the writings of ancient Greece and Rome led to a renewed interest in learning in general. The invention of the printing press allowed the disbursement of this knowledge in an unprecedented manner. The invention of the compass permitted the navigation of the world's oceans and the subsequent discovery of lands far removed from the European continent. With Copernicus' discovery of the actual position of the earth in the solar system and Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church lost its grip on society and a humanist spirit was born. This spirit manifested itself in the painting and sculpture of Michelangelo, the plays of Shakespeare, and in both the sacred and secular dance and vocal music of the greatest composers of the era.
Dance music of the Renaissance
Throughout the Renaissance instrumental dance music flowered and thrived, and was composed, or more likely improvised, by many people. Musicians whose names have come down to us collected much of this existing music and had it published in various volumes over the years. The Terpsichore of
Michael Praetorius (c.1571-1621) and the dance music of Tielman Susato (c.1500-1561) represent some of the outstanding examples of dance music from the late Renaissance. A piece such as La Spagna, (attributed to Josquin des Prez) is an excellent example of the buoyant rhythms and sounds of the Renaissance dance. Many of these dance forms were modified and developed by later composers and found their way into the Baroque dance suite.

Baroque HarpsichordIn its simplest form, the term baroque refers to a specific period of music with highly embellished melodies and fugal or contrapuntal forms.

The English word baroque is derived from the Italian barocco, meaning bizarre, though probably exuberant would be a better translation more accurately reflecting the sense.

More on Baroque Music

OCMS Piano Sonata OCMS
The piano sonata has been one of the most popular types of piano music since the Classical period. This term was used in the late 16th century for instrumental music. A cantata was vocal music.

Some famous composers of piano sonatas are

The blues were truly the music of the American heartland. They were less a style of music, and more a way of dealing with and communicating the truth. The lyrics, dealing with the basic problems and hardships of life, such as poverty, religion, isolation, loneliness, work, racism, death, and especially love, provide an interesting perspective into the lives of African Americans.

Underneath the lyrics, the music was haunting, introducing new scales with flattened 3rd and 7th notes, creating "blue" notes found no where else in music. With the introduction of the blues came the use of instruments as voices themselves, and not simply for accompaniment. The influences of African-Americans, immigrants, and the blues during this time changed the face of popular culture forever.
Styles that Influenced the Blues
If so many art and musical forms didn't heavily influence the blues, the music probably wouldn't be all that interesting. However, what makes the music fascinating is its broad spectrum of influences and very rich history.

Though it's impossible to know exactly how the blues sounded at the beginning of the century, we can still trace many of its origins. The blues seem to be heavily rooted in African American work songs, field hollers, and spirituals dating back to the first days of slavery on this continent. Influences can also be drawn from African tribal music, and Caribbean music, especially
Jamaican and Haitian music
Another aspect of the blues that makes it unique is its use of language. Early blues were sung in English of course, but the lyrics drew heavily from Southern slang, and were filled with similes, metaphors, and other literary techniques. Many blues songs were so lyrically complex that they are studied to this day by major universities and scholars.

When one thinks of the influences of the blues, it's often easy to dismiss the fact that the blues themselves were heavily drawn on as an influence. All American styles of music, with the exception of ragtime, owe an enormous debt to the blues. From jazz, to rock 'n roll, to pop, to gangsta' rap, to heavy metal, American music is in many ways touched by the blues.

Bessie Smith (1894 to 1937) was a famous blues perfomer. W. C. Handy was known as the Father of the Blues.

Ragtime was the first truly American style of music, bridging an extremely important gap between European music and a style that represented everything that America stood for. Ragtime became popular at the beginning of the Progressive Era, and set a perfect backdrop to the change and reform going on in America at the time. It was time for the country to re-evaluate itself, and the development of ragtime was following close behind. Society was quitting it's practice of conventionality and beginning to look more like an individual, and following in the footsteps of the spirit of change was ragtime. The music of ragtime itself was anything but conventional: it was syncopated, loud, joyous, and most importantly, energetic. It challenged generations of musical tradition, becoming a completely unique and visionary art form. However, at the same time it was also a very valid and influential art form that flourished throughout America and paved the way for all other styles of American music that followed.
Styles that Influenced Ragtime
Ragtime is believed to be a mixture of European classical music, especially late Romantic music, and African American folk music dating back as far as slavery. Ragtime gained it's unique sound through the use of syncopation, the art of using accents on beats that aren't traditionally accented while the bass keeps a steady rhythm. The use of syncopation at the turn of the century was simply revolutionary, but infectiously appealing to an American audience that craved innovation and change. Ragtime was primarily a piano-oriented style, but the use of other instruments, such as clarinets, banjos, and the human voice, wasn't uncommon.

Northern Virginia Ragtime Society
Promoting an interest in classical ragtime and related forms of music; membership information, past and upcoming concerts.

The Northern Virginia Ragtime Society (NVRS) was founded in December 1979 for the purpose of promoting an interest in classical ragtime and related forms of music. Over the intervening years, the NVRS has presented more than one hundred twenty-five performances featuring some of the leading professional ragtime artists as well as top local musicians. Since it's inception, the NVRS has performed on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis at the Jordan Kitts Studio, in the Merrifield area of Fairfax County, Virginia.

The Northern Virginia Ragtime Society is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, and is also a member of the Arts Council of Fairfax County, Virginia.

Information about NVRS events will be posted on this Web-site in addition to the mailings.

Some famous composers of Ragtime and their music:
  • May Aufderheide
    • Dusty Rag, 1908
    • The Thriller! 1909
  • James Herbert "Eubie" Blake (1883 - 1983)
    • The Baltimore Todolo
    • Brittwood Rag
    • The Charleston Rag, 1899
    • Chevy Chase 1914
    • Fizz Water 1914
  • William Bolcom
  • Zez Confrey
  • Marvin Hamlisch helped revitalize Ragtime with his arrangements in the movie, The Sting
  • Robert Hampton
    • Agitation Rag, 1915
    • Cataract Rag, 1914
  • Scott Hayden
  • Charles Hunter
    • A Black Smoke, 1902
    • Blue Goose Rag, 1901 (as Raymond Birch)
    • Tickled to Death, 1899
  • Charles L. Johnson (1876 - 1950)
    • Cum Bac Rag, 1911
    • Dill Pickles Rag, 1906
    • Powder Rag, 1908 - (as Raymond Birch)
    • Sweetness Rag, 1912 - (as Fanny Woods)
  • James Price Johnson
  • Scott Joplin (1868-1919)
  • Joe Jordan
    • Nappy Lee, 1903
  • Joseph Lamb (1887 to 1960)
    • American Beauty Rag, 1913
    • Bird Brain Rag, 1959
    • Bohemia Rag, 1919
    • Champagne Rag, 1910
    • Cleopatra Rag, 1915
    • Contentment Rag, 1915
    • Cottontail Rag, 1959
    • Excelsior Rag, 1909
    • Patricia Rag, 1916
    • Ragged Rapids Rag, 1905
    • Ragtime Nightingale 1915
    • Reindeer Rag, 1915
    • Sensation - A Rag, 1908
    • Top Liner Rag, 1916
  • Arthur Marshall
    • Ham and! In Ragtime, 1908
    • Kinklets, 1906
    • The Peach, 1908
    • The Pippin, 1908
  • Artie Matthews
    • Pastime Rag No. 1, 1913
    • Pastime Rag No. 2, 1913
    • Pastime Rag No. 3, 1916
    • Pastime Rag No. 4, 1920
    • Pastime Rag No. 5, 1918
  • Ferdinand (Jelly-Roll) Morton (1885 to 1941)
    • Ain't Misbehavin'
    • Big Foot Ham, 1923
    • Black Bottom Stomp, 1926
    • Frances, 1931
    • Frog-I-More Rag
    • Grandpa's Spells, 1923
    • Kansas City Stomp, 1923
    • King Porter Stomp, 1924
    • Original Jelly Roll Blues, 1915
    • Perfect Rag, 1924
    • Shreveport Stomp, 1925
    • Superior Rag
    • Valentine Stomp, 1929
    • Wolverine Blues, 1923
  • James Roberts
    • The Entertainer's Rag, 1910
  • James Scott (1886 to 1938)
    • Broadway Rag, 1922
    • Climax Rag, 1914
    • Don't Jazz Me Rag, 1921
    • Efficiency Rag, 1917
    • Evergreen Rag, 1915
    • Frog Legs Rag, 1906
    • Grace and Beauty, 1909
    • Great Scott Rag, 1909
    • Hilarity Rag, 1910
    • Honey Moon Rag, 1916
    • Kansas City Rag, 1907
    • New Era Rag, 1919
    • Ophelia Rag, 1910
    • Paramount Rag, 1917
    • Peace and Plenty Rag, 1919
    • Pegasus - A Classic Rag, 1920
    • Prosperity Rag, 1916
    • Quality - A High Class Rag, 1911
    • Rag Sentimental, 1918
    • Ragtime Oriole, 1911
    • The Suffragette Waltz, 1914
    • Sunburst Rag, 1909
    • Victory Rag, 1921
  • Charles Thompson
    • The Lily Rag, 1914
  • Tom Turpin (1873 - 1922)
    • Harlem Rag, 1897
    • Pan Am Rag, 1914
    • A Ragtime Nightmare, 1900
    • Saint Louis Rag (also known as The Metronome), 1903
  • Percy Wenrich
    • Dixie Blossoms, 1906
    • The Smiler, 1907
  • Clarence Woods
    • Sleepy Hollow Rag, Unique Rag Novelty, 1918
    • Slippery Elm Rag, 1912

LIFE cover of Lindy Hop On August 23, 1943, LIFE magazine spotlighted a dance craze that was sweeping the U.S.A. -- the Lindy Hop. The Lindy was named after American aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh; and began its entry into the American lifestyle in 1927. The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York was really jumping when George �Shorty� Snowden, one of the Savoy�s famous dancers, started doing twists, turns, jumps and twirls to the music of greats like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald. Snowden told everyone he was doing the Lindy Hop.

The jitterbug, swing or Lindy as it was called by white dancers became an integral part of Hollywood�s golden era and was picked up by the youth of America during WWII, as exhibited on the LIFE cover.

The Lindy Hop was still being danced in the 1950s to rock �n� roll at sock hops; and was the jump start for the dance styles of the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, people throughout the world still do the Lindy ... or Boogie Woogie, Rock �n� Roll, Le Roc, Ceroc, etc. (current variations of the first acrobatic social dance).

A line of music

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