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Posts Tagged ‘music’

The Blues

Posted by Admin on July 21, 2010

Washington Irving is credited with having first used the term “the blues” in 1807, as a synonym for melancholy:

“He conducted his harangue with a sigh, and I saw he was still under the influence of a whole legion of the blues.”

His usage was a shortening of the phrase “the blue devils” which was a synonym that goes back to at least Elizabethan times to describe a baleful presence.

That being said, the word “blue” was used by Chaucer in his poem,  Complaint of Mars — a transitional work that finds its fulfillment in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales — to represent woe.  The poem itself was written some time between 1375 and 1385. 

The idiom was reinforced by the belief that anxiety and sadness produced a blue cast to the skin of those individuals affected by sadness that lingers.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Admin on January 28, 2010

Guido of Arezzo (aka Guido Aretinus aka Guido da Arezzo aka Guido Monaco aka Guido d’Arezzo) was a Benedictine monk in Italy.  He was also a highly regarded music theorist of the Medieval era and the inventor of modern musical notation that replaced neumatic notation.

The “do-re-mi” scale are actually syllables taken from the initial syllables of each of the first six musical phrases of the first stanza of the hymn “Ut queant laxis (Hymn to St. John the Baptist)”.

Ut queant laxis
Resonare fibris
Mira gestorum
Famuli tuorum
Solve polluti
Labii reatum

Originally, the first note of the scale was “Ut” which was later replaced by “Do”  inspired by the word Dominus (Lord).

When the octave was created, a name for the seventh note of the scale had to be found.  Guido of Arezzo decided that initial letters of the last line of this same hymn would be used — Sancte Iohannes — and “Si” was added to the scale.

Posted in Idioms from the 11th Century, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »