Monday, January 3, 5949

K'ang (c. 1051-996 BC) - Pentatonic - Hymn

King K'ang of Chou (reigned c. 1021-996) was the third sovereign of the Chinese Chou Dynasty.

King K'ang followed his father King Cheng's policy and expanded the Chou territory in the North and in the West. He also repressed a rebellion in the east in this prosperous era.

China - Entrance Hymn for the Emperor (c. 1000 BC)

Heterophonic Ensemble Version
(with gongs and a basically monophonic bell intro of measures 8-15)

Midi Version

A pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five pitches per octave in contrast to an heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. Pentatonic scales are very common and are found all over the world, including but not limited to Celtic folk music, Hungarian folk music, West African music, African-American spirituals, American blues music and rock music, Sami joik singing, children's songs, the clarinet music of Epirus in northwest Greece and Southern Albania, the tuning of the Ethiopian krar and the Indonesian gamelan, the melodies of Japan and China, the Afro-Caribbean tradition, Polish highlanders from the Tatra Mountains, and Western Classical composers such as French composer Claude Debussy.

Ethnomusicology commonly classifies pentatonic scales as either hemitonic or anhemitonic. Hemitonic scales contain one or more semitones and anhemitonic scales do not contain semitones. For example, a hemitonic pentatonic scale common in some areas of North and West Africa contains flatted 2nd, 3rd, and 6th degrees (hence, if the scale begins in C, it will contain a D-flat, E-flat, and A-flat, plus a G-natural).

Anhemitonic pentatonic scales can be constructed in many ways. One construction takes five consecutive pitches from the circle of fifths; starting on C, these are C, G, D, A, and E. Transposing the pitches to fit into one octave rearranges the pitches into the major pentatonic scale: C, D, E, G, A.

Another construction works backward: It omits two pitches from a diatonic scale. If we were to begin with a C major scale, for example, we might omit the fourth and the seventh scale degrees, F and B. The remaining notes, C, D, E, G, and A, are transpositionally equivalent to the black keys on a piano keyboard: G-flat, A-flat, B-flat, D-flat, and E-flat.

We can also omit the third and seventh degrees of the C major scale to obtain the notes another transpositionally equivalent anhemitonic pentatonic scale: {F,G,A,C,D}. If we omit the first and fourth degrees of the C major scale we have a third anhemitonic pentatonic scale: {G,A,B,D,E}.

Although various hemitonic pentatonic scales might be called minor, the term is most commonly applied to the relative minor pentatonic derived from the major pentatonic, using scale tones 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 of the natural minor scale. Thus C minor pentatonic would be C, E-flat, F, G, B-flat. The A minor pentatonic, the relative minor of C, would be the same tones as C major pentatonic, starting on A, giving A, C, D, E, G. This minor pentatonic contains all three tones of an A minor triad.

Some songs are almost pentatonic. For example, the almost-pentatonic nature of the Gershwin lullaby Summertime from Porgy and Bess is evident when it is played in the key of E-flat minor. In that key, the melody can be played almost entirely on the black keys of a piano, except just once per verse, where a white key is needed.

If we proceed by the principle that historically gives us the Pythagorean diatonic and chromatic scales, stacking perfect fifths with 3:2 frequency proportions, we can tune an anhemitonic pentatonic scale thus: 1:9/8:81/64:3/2:27/16. If we consider the anhemitonic scale a subset of a just diatonic scale, we can tune it thus: 1:9/8:5/4:3/2:5/3. Assigning precise frequency proportions to the pentatonic scales of most cultures is problematic. The slendro anhemitonic scales of Java and Bali are said to approach, very roughly, an equally-tempered five note scale, but, in fact, their tunings vary dramatically from gamelan to gamelan. Specially trained musicians among the Gogo people of Tanzania sing the fourth through ninth (and occasionally tenth) harmonics above a fundamental, which do necessarily accurately correspond to the frequency proportions 4:5:6:7:8:9, but this is not a scale in the western sense because these pitches are not found within a single octave and could not be put into a single octave with this manner of performance. The composer Lou Harrison has been of the most recent proponents and developers of new pentatonic scales based on historical models.

Composers of Western classical music have used pentatonic scales in many instances. Frédéric Chopin wrote the right hand piano part of his Etude Op. 10 no. 5 in the major G-flat pentatonic scale, and therefore, the melody is played using only the black keys.Antonín Dvořák, inspired by the native American music and African-American spirituals he heard in America, made extensive use of pentatonic themes in his Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World") and his "American" Quartet. Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Turandot allude to the pentatonicism of Japan and China respectively. Maurice Ravel used it as a basis for a melody in Passacaille third movement of his Piano Trio, and as a pastiche of Chinese music in Laideronette, Emperatrice des Pagodes from his Ma Mère l'Oye (Mother Goose). Bela Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin and Igor Stravinsky's The Nightingale contain many pentatonic passages. Mark Alburger's pentatonic music has included passages from The Twelve Fingers and Mary Variations.

The common pentatonic major and minor scales (C-D-E-G-A and C-Eb-F-G-Bb, respectively) are useful in modal composing, as both scales allow a melody to be modally ambiguous between their respective major (Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian) and minor (Aeolian, Phrygian, Dorian) modes (Locrian excluded). With either modal or non-modal writing, however, the harmonization of a pentatonic melody does not necessarily have to be derived from only the pentatonic pitches.

The pentatonic scale plays a significant role in Western music education, particularly in Orff-based methodologies at the primary/elementary level. The Orff system places a heavy emphasis on developing creativity through improvisation in children, largely through use of the pentatonic scale. Orff instruments, such as xylophones, bells and other metallophones, use wooden bars which can be removed by the teacher leaving only those corresponding to the pentatonic scale, which Orff himself believed to be children's native tonality.

Children begin improvising using only these bars, and over time, more bars are added at the teacher's discretion until the complete diatonic scale is being used. Carl Orff believed that the use of the pentatonic scale at such a young age was appropriate to the development of each child, since the nature of the scale meant that it was impossible for the child to make any real harmonic "mistakes."


A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity/deities, a prominent figure or an epic tale. The word hymn derives from Greek hymnos "a song of praise."

Hymenaios (also Hymenaeus, Hymenaues, or Hymen was a Greek god of marriage ceremonies, inspiring feasts and song. He was celebrated in the ancient marriage song of unknown origin Hymen o Hymenae, Hymen delivered by G. Valerius Catullus, from which both the terms hymn and hymen are derived.

A mostly-pentatonic melody can be heard in John Corigliano's score to The Red Violin at 1:10 above. The music is primarily anhematonic

Do Re Mi Sol La Do

until a Fa in the last phrase

Do Sol Do Mi Re Do La Sol
Sol Sol Sol Mi Mi Re Do Re
Mi Mi Mi Sol Mi La Sol Mi Do Re
Re Mi Sol Fa Mi Re Do


[Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) - Hymenaios Disguised as a Woman During an Offering to Priapus, 1634]

In Greek mythology, Hymenaios (also Hymenaeus, Hymenaues, or Hymen; Ancient Greek: was a god of marriage ceremonies and later also the god of membranes, inspiring feasts and song. A hymenaios is also a genre of Greek lyric poetry sung during the procession of the bride to the groom's house in which the god is addressed, in contrast to the Epithalamium, which was sung at the nuptial threshold.

Hymenaios was supposed to attend every wedding. If he didn't, then the marriage would supposedly prove disastrous, so the Greeks would run about calling his name aloud. He presided over many of the weddings in Greek mythology, for all the deities and their children.
Hymenaios was celebrated in the ancient marriage song of unknown origin Hymen o Hymenae, Hymen delivered by G. Valerius Catullus. Both the term hymn and hymen are derived from this celebration.

Hymenaios was summoned to give his blessing to every activity that involved the usage of membranes in Greek early industry, manly fluid filtering, filtration with Diatomaceous earth and reverse osmosis (which at the time was regarded as a magical phenomena).

At least since the Italian Renaissance, Hymenaios was generally represented in art as a young man wearing a garland of flowers and holding a burning torch in one hand.

Hymenaios was mentioned in Homer's Iliad, in the description of the forging of the shield of Achilles:

He wrought also two cities, fair to see and busy with the hum of men. In the one were weddings and wedding-feasts, and they were going about the city with brides whom they were escorting by torchlight from their chambers. Loud rose the cry of Hymen, and the youths danced to the music of flute and lyre, while the women stood each at her house door to see them.
– Book 18 (tr. Samuel Butler, 1898)

He is also mentioned in Virgil's Aeneid and in five plays by William Shakespeare: Hamlet, The Tempest, Much Ado about Nothing, Titus Andronicus, and As You Like It, where he joins the couples at the end —

"'Tis Hymen peoples every town;
High wedlock then be honoured.
Honour, high honour, and renown,
To Hymen, god of every town!"

[Charles Mengin (1853-1933) - Sappho (1877)]

Hymenaios also appears in the work of the 6th- to 7th-century Greek poet Sappho (translation: M.L. West, Greek Lyric Poetry, Oxford University Press):
High must be the chamber --
Make it high, you builders!
A bridegroom's coming --
Like the War-god himself, the tallest of the tall!

He was the son of Bacchus (revelry) and Aphrodite (love); or, in some traditions, Apollo and one of the Muses.

Other stories give him a legendary origin. In one of the surviving fragments of the Catalogue of Women associated with Hesiod, it's told that Magnes "had a son of remarkable beauty, Hymenaeus. And when Apollo saw the boy, he was seized with love for him, and wouldn't leave the house of Magnes." The story is also picked up in an account by Antoninus Liberalis. (B. Sergent, Homosexuality in Greek Myth, p. 109) According to the Suda, however, Hymenaeus's erastes was Thamyris.

Aristophanes' Peace ends with Trygaeus and the Chorus singing the wedding song, with the repeated phrase "Oh Hymen! Oh Hymenaeus!", a typical refrain for a wedding song.

According to a later Romance, Hymenaios was an Athenian youth of great beauty but low birth who fell in love with the daughter of one of the city's wealthiest men. Since he couldn't speak to her or court her, due to his social standing, he instead followed her wherever she went.

Hymenaios disguised himself as a woman in order to join one of these processions, a religious rite at Eleusis where only women went. The assemblage was captured by pirates, Hymenaios included. He encouraged the women and plotted strategy with them, and together they killed their captors. He then agreed with the women to go back to Athens and win their freedom, if he were allowed to marry one of them. He thus succeeded in both the mission and the marriage, and his marriage was so happy that Athenians instituted festivals in his honour and came to be associated with marriage.

Ancient hymns include the Great Hymn to the Aten, composed by Pharaoh Akhenaten, and the Vedas, a collection of hymns in the tradition of Hinduism. The Western tradition of hymnody begins with the Homeric Hymns, a collection of ancient Greek hymns, the oldest of which were written in the 7th century BC, in praise of the gods of Greek mythology.


In music, monophony is the simplest of textures, consisting of melody without other accompanying lines of pitch. This may be realized as just one note at a time, or with the same note duplicated at the octave (such as often when men and women sing together). Music in which all the notes sung are in unison is called monophonic. Musical texture is determined in song and music by varying different components. Monophony may also have a complex rhythmic element, as when percussion accompanies a melody.

[5963 David / 5949 Entrance Hymn Emperor / 5659 Tutankhamen]