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  • 'Music, one of the most dazzling fruits of human civilisation,

  • 'is, today, a massive global phenomenon.'

  • And so it's hard for us to imagine a time, when, in centuries gone by,

  • people could go weeks without hearing any music at all.

  • Even in the 19th century,

  • you might hear your favourite symphony four or five times

  • in your whole lifetime, in the days before music could be recorded.

  • 'The story of music, successive waves of discoveries, breakthroughs

  • 'and inventions, is an ongoing process.'

  • The next great leap forward may take place in a backstreet of Beijing

  • or upstairs in a pub in South Shields.

  • ORCHESTRA PLAYS: "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga

  • # Can't read my Can't read my

  • # No he can't read my poker face

  • # She's got to love nobody. #

  • Whatever music you're into,

  • Monteverdi or Mantovani, Mozart or Motown, Machaut or mash-up,

  • the techniques it relies on didn't happen by accident.

  • Someone, somewhere, thought of them first.

  • Music can make us weep or make us dance.

  • It's reflected the times in which it was written.

  • It has delighted, challenged, comforted and excited us.

  • In this series, I'm tracing the story of music from scratch.

  • To follow it on its miraculous journey, there'll be no need

  • for misleading jargon or fancy labels.

  • Terms like Baroque, Impressionism or Nationalism

  • are best put to one side.

  • Instead, try to imagine how revolutionary and how exhilarating

  • many of the innovations we take for granted today

  • were to people at the time.

  • There are a million ways of telling the story of music. This is mine.

  • MUSIC: "Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba by Handel

  • The years 1650 to 1750 were an age of invention and rapid innovation.

  • Great discoveries were made in science and in music.

  • Musical structures were transformed in the hands of composers

  • like Handel and Bach.

  • This period also saw the rise and rise of purely instrumental music,

  • and the birth of what became the modern orchestra.

  • It was an age of transition where music blossomed

  • from being a private affair to a public spectacle.

  • Small wonder that the music of this age of invention

  • is still staggeringly popular in our own 21st century,

  • from the shores of Tristan da Cunha, to the concert halls of Beijing.

  • We live in a technological age,

  • so we can identify with what it was like

  • to live in the late 17th century,

  • when innovations were also coming thick and fast.

  • And to understand our music today, we need to go back to a time

  • when many of its now-familiar components simply didn't exist.

  • Imagine a time when leaping from this chord...

  • to this chord...

  • was a painful experience, or from this one...

  • ..to this one...

  • Imagine a time when an oboe and a trumpet

  • struggled to play the same tune together.

  • Imagine a time when no-one thought of stringing together

  • a chain of chords in a pleasing sequence,

  • like the one that begins this song by Keane.

  • HOWARD PLAYS "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane

  • # I walked across an empty land

  • # I knew the pathway Like the back of my hand... #

  • What makes so much of the music we enjoy today

  • sound the way it does is a series of discoveries

  • that burst into life in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

  • Laws governing the use of chords, which chords you could use

  • and what instruments you could play them on all slid into place,

  • like the parts of a magical and intricate machine.

  • People of the period were obsessed with the interplay of cog and wheel,

  • the laws of motion and gravity

  • and the understanding of the dimension of time itself.

  • No wonder it was a period that saw great advances in clock making.

  • Listen to the music of this period and you hear the ticking of clocks,

  • the perfectly calibrated whirring and spinning of cogs,

  • the turning of wheels and the to and fro of pendulums.

  • The most striking thing about this age of invention is how the

  • exhilarating speed of scientific investigation

  • was reflected in constant experiment and innovation in music.

  • In the 100 years between 1650 and 1750,

  • music underwent a massive upgrade.

  • It went from this...

  • ..to this.

  • Though nowadays it includes instruments of all shapes,

  • sizes and types,

  • the orchestra grew from just one leg-of-ham-sized package.

  • A folk fiddle version of the violin had been around for some time,

  • but the more sophisticated type we recognise today

  • began its journey in Italian workshops in the late 16th century,

  • only really coming in to its own as leader of the instrumental pack

  • in the following century.

  • The violin's rise went hand-in-glove

  • with that of the extravagant absolute Kings of France,

  • Louis XIII and XIV, who brought in Italian experts to play

  • for their flamboyant royal ballets.

  • Louis XIV, the Sun King, was a passionate fan of the ballet,

  • even giving himself starring roles in them,

  • no doubt to gasps of Gallic delight from the assembled courtiers.

  • The ballets were on a fantastic scale,

  • often performed in palace halls or outdoors,

  • so the bright, edgy sound of the violin was just the ticket

  • to fill the space.

  • In fact, not just one violin, but loads of them.

  • One violin good, 24 violins better.

  • You might have 10 or 12 or even 24 violins playing the same tune.

  • Similarly, when they started adding in larger, deeper-toned models

  • of the violin family, like violas and cellos,

  • they were also grouped together to play the same musical line.

  • This, then, was the beginning of the modern orchestra.

  • The musician in charge of the royal violin band for over 30 years

  • was Jean-Baptiste Lully,

  • who created a thicker, grander ensemble style

  • especially for this beefed-up ensemble.

  • There was another important innovation

  • for which dance was responsible.

  • Louis XIV's long colourful ballets would begin with a self-contained

  • instrumental introduction, or opening,

  • the French word for which is overture.

  • The Italians called it Sinfonia.

  • These overtures were soon borrowed by opera, too.

  • They then began to develop into longer and longer orchestral pieces,

  • eventually becoming the symphony.

  • The symphony's basic structure was also to come from dance.

  • Sections of different dance music, pavannes, sarabandes, gigues etc,

  • began to be gathered together into suites, often in groups of three.

  • That's right, the three-piece suite was actually invented

  • by 17th century musicians.

  • But the idea of linked music at different speeds came to dominate

  • the symphony, and did so until the end of the 19th century.

  • In the late 17th century, another crucial part

  • of the musical tool-kit was put into place.

  • The composer who first introduced many of the innovations

  • that Vivaldi, Bach and Handel built on,

  • and which we now take for granted, was Arcangelo Corelli.

  • Corelli was the first violin virtuoso,

  • and he built on his love of the violin

  • an idea that took off spectacularly.

  • He gathered stringed instruments together into groups

  • and created for them a new form, the concerto.

  • Now, a concerto,

  • where a small group of players alternates with a larger group,

  • makes its impact by contrasting loud and soft passages,

  • like the juxtaposition of light and shade, chiaroscuro, in painting.

  • Corelli's innovation was called the concerto grosso,

  • literally the big concert,

  • and in it he explored the contrast between a small group,

  • just two violins and a cello, called concertino, and a bigger group

  • of everyone else called the ripieno, meaning the stuffing.

  • Every composer in Italy now had a stab at writing concerti grossi.

  • One young Venetian admirer of Corelli

  • was to make the concerto as famous as pizza.

  • His name was Antonio Vivaldi.

  • Vivaldi took the big group, little group idea one step further,

  • casting a charismatic solo violin against the whole ensemble.

  • The solo concerto announced its arrival on the musical stage,

  • with a set of pieces that were to become,

  • in the 20th century, deservedly ubiquitous.

  • Vivaldi's concertos introduced a sense of drama and virtuosity

  • that took his contemporaries' breath away.

  • In effect, he was turning his violinists and cellists into divas,

  • to match the opera stars of the day.

  • What makes Vivaldi's music so exhilarating

  • is its sense of forward momentum.

  • How this was achieved was in itself a giant leap forward.

  • It's all about the movement of chords,

  • and it's one of the most fun things in all music.

  • Whatever you're playing, just having one chord

  • after another in a random succession is not really very appealing.

  • Which is why hardly anyone ever does it.

  • So how do you decide how to string chords together in patterns

  • that don't sound like random twaddle?

  • In the 17th century, by experimenting with chains

  • of certain chords in a sequence, composers stumbled across a concept

  • students of music call harmonic progression,

  • but could just have easily be described as musical gravity.

  • The laws governing actual gravity had been formulated

  • in the late 17th century by Sir Isaac Newton.

  • Just as he revealed the inner workings of the universe,

  • so too musicians, at the same time,

  • worked out the inner gravity of music.

  • They made the important discovery that some chords

  • have an attraction to other chords.

  • So this chord, known to every guitarist as G7,

  • is drawn magnetically towards the chord C.

  • To put it another way, chord five yearns for chord one,

  • especially when it's corrupted by the 7th note.

  • Here's chord five,

  • and here it is with the corrupting 7th note,

  • and here is where it wants now to go.

  • The same law of magnetism

  • applies to every key family, no matter which one you chose,

  • so A flat 7...

  • ..leads to D flat.

  • B7...

  • leads to E.

  • F7...

  • leads to B flat.

  • And so on.

  • In the 1600s, musicians became obsessed

  • with these laws of attraction.

  • Composers found that stringing sequences of chords together

  • to trigger this attraction drove the music along.

  • A master of this technique was English composer Henry Purcell.

  • Born just around the corner from Westminster Abbey,

  • where he later worked, Purcell survived the plague

  • and the Great Fire of London,

  • so he knew a thing or two about moving on.

  • His music makes creating imaginative chains of chords look effortless.

  • All he needed was a short sequence that repeated itself a number

  • of times and he'd constructed for himself a whole song.

  • In his Evening Hymn, published in 1688,

  • he sets up a simple sequence of chords.

  • This sequence he then repeats five times, followed by a middle bit

  • where he has a second sequence, then he returns to his original chord

  • sequence for another 13 times, to finish the song off.

  • The amazing thing is you don't get bored with the sequence,

  • despite its repetition.

  • That's because Purcell overlays onto it a ravishingly beautiful melody

  • that follows its own meandering path across the top.

  • # Now, now that the sun

  • # Hath veil'd his light

  • # And bid the world good night

  • # To the soft bed

  • # To the soft

  • # The soft bed

  • # My body I dispose

  • # But where

  • # Where shall my soul repose?

  • # Dear, dear God. #

  • Look at this painting by Vermeer, which was finished in 1664.

  • At first sight, the colours appear to be vivid and well-defined.

  • But look closer and we discover that Vermeer creates this effect

  • by layering colour upon colour, each subtly blending into the next.

  • This melding of colours is like the way harmony works in music.

  • Notes are laid on top of each other, to make constantly shifting chords.

  • # ..praise the mercy

  • # That prolongs thy days. #

  • The chord progression in Purcell's Evening Hymn was to pop up

  • in countless other pieces by other composers

  • in the decades that followed.

  • Indeed, composers went back to the same few archetypes time and again.

  • The most popular sequence by far even had its own name,

  • the circle of fifths.

  • This sequence used the seventh note to trigger chord after chord

  • to jump ship from chord five to chord one.

  • On a piano keyboard you could even make a circle of fifths

  • include every note and chord there is, like this.

  • Starting on B, I add the seductive seventh,

  • to take me to E.

  • I add the seventh, to take me to A,

  • and so on.

  • Arriving back where I started on B.

  • A chain of 10 moves like that would be excessive,