MODES AND PLAINSONG
THE human voice, though it may not have been the first, remains potentially the most expressive of all musical instruments. Primitive man may have thumped some kind of drum before he sang, but he must have sung before he fashioned any kind of pipe. A complete history of vocal music should doubtless chronicle the most rudimentary attempts at song by human beings, just as it should certainly include an account of the vocal music of Oriental and other races outside the European orbit. These races have, in fact, pushed vocal expression very far; indeed, their art of vocalization is at least as expressive and as complex as our own. For the present purposes, however, all this must be neglected. Even the vocal art of the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, though the direct ancestor of our own, remains too remote to justify consideration in the scheme of this Book. We are concerned only with European vocal music in the sense meant by the ordinary person today, and the origins of it need only be considered in so far as they have any direct bearing on the subject.
All of our music may be said to have developed from the Gregorian chant. The kind of music indissolubly linked with the name of the great Pope Gregory was not an invention; it was rather a compilation, a standardization of current tunes that existed for centuries before Gregory. They were used in churches; St. Ambrose of Milan had even made a hymn-book of them. Nobody knows very much about their origin. To some extent they may have been a direct legacy from the music of Greece and Rome; they were almost certainly influenced by the old Jewish ritual music practised in the synagogues. What Gregory did was to eliminate the tunes he thought unsuitable for ecclesiastical purposes and to codify the rest, as well as the various liturgies to which they were sung in different European centres. This happened about the year 600, and, thanks largely to the devotion