Where did it go?

Thousands of years ago the Egyptians built pyramids.  There are those who are dumbfounded by the concept of such primitive people building things so great. How did they do that? Well, they simply stacked stones on top one another until it was complete. The precise method we don’t know, yet another lost technology…… These same folks glued things together with hot hide glue and finished items with shellac. We still use these products today; not lost technology.

I’m dumbfounded by individuals today who assume that people in earlier times didn’t know what we know? Technologies are lost every day. Don’t they actually know more than we?

I see every day individuals who only see things in their perspective. Judging yesterday’s folks and groups of folks by today’s standard, even going so far as to want to remove historical items because they don’t conform to today’s ideology. It has been said those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.

One of the musical methods (Diatonics) was developed in Greece 2500 years ago. The basis of the Diatonic system is still used today, and once again folks feel they must inject their modern chromatic influences; insisting it is only proper.  Diatonics is by definition lacking chromatic influence.

Dulcimore making is a folk craft started in the southern highlands of Appalachia and now practiced by a few individuals scattered across the world. So many of the methods have been lost to the ages so the best we can do is speculate. So many crafts have been lost to the ages.  My time at the Museum of Appalachia showed me many a technology in transition. Imagine my frustration with folks dating things by when a technology was introduced but when so many folks continued to do it their way for many years (some till they died!) giving the date a much larger window if you will. I see it in the transitional period of the contemporary dulcimer! It was introduced to the world by Jean Richie in the 1940’s. Remember, Jean never played contemporary dulcimer, she played traditional dulcimore. Others around her accepted the piece and changed the instrument as well as the style of play. I.D. Stamper never played contemporary dulcimer, but held on to the noter drone traditional style well into the 1970’s. Just saying…..

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Diatonics

There were seven “Greek” modes and in no particular order;

Dorian

Hypodorian

Phrygian

Hypophrygian

Lydian

Mixolydian

Hypolydian

We now use the following, (they have also been referred to as the “Church Modes”)

Ionian is the name assigned by Heinrich Glarean in 1547. Ionia was one of the four ancient Greek tribes.

Dorian is the original Greek name. Dorian was one of the four ancient Greek tribes.

Phrygian is the original Greek name. Phrygian is named after the ancient kingdom of Phrygia in Anatolia

Lydian is the original Greek name. Lydian is named after the ancient kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia.

Mixolydian is the original Greek name. (Mixo-) is a reference to the half-Lydian mode in ancient Greek music.

Aeolian is the name assigned by Heinrich Glarean in 1547. Aeolian was one of the four ancient Greek tribes.

Locrian got its name sometime after the 18th century. (?) Locrian is named after the ancient Greek regions of Locris.

One of the first things I realized in our descriptions of the Dulcimore’s Diatonic scales was the scales starting with Ionian. Yes the Ionian scale is where the modes start, but the Dulcimore starts with Mixolydian off the nut so;

Mixolydian open

Aeolian first staple

Locrian second staple

Ionian third staple

Dorian fourth staple

Phrygian fifth staple

Lydian sixth staple

Of these seven Diatonic modes we play primarily four. Mixolydian, Aeolian, Ionian and Dorian; Mixolydian and Ionian being the two major modes and Aeolian and Dorian being the two minor modes.

Any of these modes can be played on one string provided the staples are placed in a Diatonic sequence. That is; wide, wide, narrow, wide, wide, wide, narrow. Each mode has five whole notes and two half notes. These are the white piano keys, there are no Pentatonic notes!

To play Diatonic, we add a lower tonic and a perfect fifth accompanying drone. We can refer to the tones by number. The base string lower tonic being (1), the perfect fifth being (5) and the melody note being the upper tonic (8). We must retune to get the placement of the melody string to adhere to the mode, which is to start on the staple we want the mode to start.  Once again,

Mixolydian is off the nut so;

Mixolydian open (1-5-8)

Aeolian first staple (1-5-7)

Locrian second staple (1-5-6)

Ionian third staple (1-5-5)

Dorian fourth staple (1-5-4)

Phrygian fifth staple (1-5-3)

Lydian sixth staple (1-5-2)

These are the straight Diatonic modes. We tune to these to play 1-5-8 on the staple starting our given mode. We play a lower tonic, a perfect fifth (dominant), and an upper tonic. This (1-5-8) is our note of final resolution and is where the scale starts.

What you may have noticed missing is any reference to “keys”. There are no keys in Diatonics. Yes, keys may be assigned to any given mode, but that is folks using Chromatics and music theory to describe how they understand the system. Diatonics by definition is absent “any” Chromatic influence, once you inject Chromatics you are no longer Diatonic. One mustn’t learn music theory in order to then learn Diatonics.