Western Classical music education is a brand name used for parts of the pedagogy of music literacy.
Music literacy, as used today, was born out of a finite notation system using neumes. This notation was necessary for the rise of the Christian Church and plainchant – a simple liturgical melody that followed sacred and secular days – was created after the fall of the Roman Empire and was attributed to Pope Gregory (AD540-604). However, it was the Frankish monks of the 9th century that appeared to have solidified and codified the notational systems set forth in the 6th and 7th centuries therefore calling them Gregorian chants. The creation of this system allowed for the preservation of plainchants and a uniformity of music that was to be sung, mainly acapella (without accompaniment). The staff system (made of 4 lines instead of the 5 used today) had the first clef (key), which was the viola, alto or later known as the “C” clef.
This clef was movable on any of the lines and spaces – at that time only using four lines and three spaces. Wherever this clef was placed was the Tonic, or the main tone from which the Priest, Monk or other would commence. These neumes were of varied value, similar to notated rhythms and would adhere, loosely, to a meter, or measured time/beat. Their values, derived from Greek musical thought, were intended for value of the pitches in measured precision, as was the value, and the spaces between. The current notation system we use today has expanded to five lines, four spaces, and a simple pattern of notation and finite pitches, currently reserved to the range of a piano, or covering all of the low to high instruments of an orchestra or choir known as the Grand Staff. The scales were from a Greek pitch system called Modes. The modes had various scales and constructions and had to be mathematically precise, using physics to determine pitching “For Pythagoras and his followers, numbers were the key to the universe and music was inseparable from numbers.” (Hanning, page 22) Greek Philosophers said of music “music is necessary to develop a person as a whole”. (M. Boyahzhieva, AES). Renaissance priests and philosophers, such as Marsilio Ficino, a Platonist philosopher said this of Music: “Plato and Aristotle taught, as we have often found from our own experience, that serious music maintains and restores this harmony to the parts of the soul, while medicine restores harmony to the parts of the body.”