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Solo-Drone Song Form

One of the easiest ways to play with another flute is to use this very simple technique. The solo-drone form of duets is common in world music, but largely absent from Western classical music traditions.

The idea is simple: one instrument holds a drone - a steady tone on one pitch - and the other instrument solos over the drone note. The drone note could be provided by another Native American flute or any number of instruments that can hold a steady tone, such as a cello, a shruti box, or a tamboura.

Under Construction

History of Solo-Drone in Western Classical Music

The Solo-Drone form did appear for a time during the development of devotional chants in the Middle Ages. Chants of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches began as plainchant (or “plainsong”), a form of singing prayers, psalms, and other liturgical texts using a single melodic line. Plainchant developed into Gregorian Chants, named after Pope Gregory I (540-604 CE) who was Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604. Gregorian Chant introduced a written form of music using a four-line staff notation.

This Gregorian Chant, “O Frondens Virga”; from Ordo Virtutum ("Order of the Virtues" in Latin), was composed about 1151 by Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), also know as “Saint Hildegard”. It was performed in 2006 by Wikimedia user Makemi in a live performance. It demonstrates the characteristic Gregorian Chant style: singing a single melodic line with somewhat loose meter.

O Frondens Virga - Gregorian Chant

Wikimedia user Makemi. 2006.

O frondens virga,
In tua nobilitate stans,
sicut aurora procedit.
Nunc gaude et laetare et nos debiles dignare
a mala consuetudine liberare,
atque manum tuam porrige ad erigendum nos.

Plainchant developed into organum [awrg-uhn-uhm] in the late 9th century by adding one or more voices to provide harmony (cite Musica enchiriadis, published about 895 CE). The early forms of organem had all voices singing parallel melodies, separated by a constant interval such as a perfect fifth or a perfect fourth (called parallel harmony).

Here is an example of that style, an excerpt from Kyrie IV performed by the Ensemble Organum directed by Marcel Pérès:

Organum in Parallel Fifths

Ensemble Organum directed by Marcel Pérès.

De Musica by Johannes Afflighemensis

A page from De Musica
by Johannes Afflighemensis
Click to expand

Two centuries later, Johannes Afflighemensis wrote De Musica, a treatise covering a wide range of musical topics and serving as a practical guide for working musicians ([Afflighemensis 1100] De Musica). In his description of how to write organum, he emphasizes the use of "contrary motion" - one of the earliest examples of polyphony that evolved from the rigid note-against-note of parallel harmony. One passage in De Musica describes organum sung with several notes in the upper ("organal") voice versus a single note in the underlying chant.

Here is another performance by the Ensemble Organum directed by Marcel Pérès. The chant is Viderunt omnes, by Leoninus in about 1160:

Organum with Solo-Drone

Ensemble Organum directed by Marcel Pérès.



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To cite this page on Wikipedia: <ref name="Goss_2022_solo_drone"> {{cite web |last=Goss |first=Clint |title=Solo-Drone Song Form |url=http://www.Flutopedia.com/solo_drone.htm |date=7 June 2022 |website=Flutopedia |access-date=<YOUR RETRIEVAL DATE> }}</ref>