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Musical language



Sancte Johannes
Ut queant laxis
Resonare fibris
Mira gestorum
Famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti,
Labii reatum,
Sancte Johannes
- Guido d'Arezzo


Although there are four national languages in Switzerland (German, French, Italian and Romansch), the greatest geographical divide is La Sarine, the river known locally as the Rösti-Curtain. United towards the exterior, the Swiss differ greatly from each other, not only in language, dialect and culinary tastes, but in a variety of ways. The fried, grated potato dish known as Rösti is as much the everyday meal of everyone to the north east of the river, as it is not of everyone to its south west.

So it is with music. In the French and Italian parts of Switzerland, the contemporary derivation of the above Latin chant (the first syllables of each line being the source of Do, Re, Mi), is in use. It is believed that Guido d'Arezzo was born in Paris around 995 and died in Avellano in 1050. A learned Benedictine monk, his influence upon our music and theory is still felt to this day. The seventh degree of the scale Si, was added later. Even now, Ut is still used in France, although its equivalent, Do has gained the monopoly almost everywhere else.

Of course, the adopting of an alphabetical system in countries Saxon and Anglo-Saxon rather complicated matters. After all, Si sounds the same as C and is not the same note. The wonderful British theoretical musical tool, Tonic Sol-Fa, changed Si forever to Ti to avoid any possible confusion. Julie Andrews was forever grateful!

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Copyright © 25 January 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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