How we got to naming it C Major

As I’m reading through this blog post Music Modes Explained: What They Are and How to Use Them I notice how it might be possible that the letters C, D, E, etc that represent the names of the musical keys nowadays might be derived from the names of what we now call musical modes (i.e.Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etc).

A new thought has come up and I’m now inclined to believe that the music theory presented nowadays might comprise - at least partially - from misinterpretations of previous theories and concepts. On the other hand it might also be an attempt to simplify certain terms as to make things easier for new learners.

This idea relies on some observations related to how we, humans, have a tendency to adapt something to mould our experience and knowledge and end up using that particular object in a rather unique way, instead of updating our knowledge first by learning of how the object has been designed to be used and adapting our behaviour so as to follow the intended design ideas.

Sometimes, such attitudes result in improving a design, however oftentimes we end up misusing the object - or more exactly underusing it. It can often be observed in how we use the tools at our disposal, particularly those features that help us with storing and organising objects. Think about the drawers in one’s home, or the hard-disk of one’s computer; one of the things that connects us is how messy our homes become after living there for a few years. Decluttering is such a big deal simply because making sense of a lot of objects requires hard work.

Going back to the article …

Just like many other explanations of music theory, it references C Major and builds the rest of the explanation upon it, going through each of the notes.

Since discovering that the layouts of the minor scales mirror each other perfectly, the thought that the minor keys are in fact more important that then major ones - at least in terms of explaining how it all started - is a constant source of anxiety. It’s also the force that seems to drive me to ask more questions and however stressful it might be, I cannot be more happy with most of the outcomes.

The fact that I am now on a quest to find out more about the inventions and the inceptions of musical elements and the concepts around them is nothing short of amazing. I never thought of history as an exciting discipline; learning dates and years has always seemed irrelevant and difficult to do.

I now realize how exciting history can become once you yearn to find out more about a particular something and how important timelines are. Knowing the point in time when concepts like frequency and pitch have been introduced as well as when the octave has been divided into 12 parts is of utmost importance to understanding how we got to today’s knowledge of music.

This is the first page of what I think it might become a great journey of revealing the true sources of today’s music theory.