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Henry H. Sprague

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry Harrison Sprague
Henry Harrison Sprague.png
President of the Massachusetts Senate[1]
In office
1890[1] – 1891[1]
Member of the
Massachusetts Senate[1]
Fifth Suffolk District[2]
In office
1888[1] – 1891[1]
Member of the
Massachusetts House of Representatives
In office
Member of the
Massachusetts House of Representatives[1]
In office
1881[1] – 1883[1]
Member of the
Boston, Massachusetts
Common Council[1]
In office
1874[1] – 1876[1]
Personal details
BornAugust 1, 1841
Athol, Massachusetts
DiedJuly 28, 1920(1920-07-28) (aged 78)
Boston, Massachusetts
Spouse(s)Charlotte Sprague Ward
Alma materHarvard College, 1864[1]

Henry Harrison Sprague (August 1, 1841 – July 28, 1920) was a Massachusetts lawyer and politician who served as a member of the Boston, Massachusetts Common Council, in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and as a member,[2] and President of, the Massachusetts Senate.[1][3][4]

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  • ✪ Why Do Notes Have Names?
  • ✪ How A Pair Of Microwave Engineers Broke Music
  • ✪ The Mother Chord


hey, welcome to 12tone! a while back I did a video about the history of notation, or why this circle, on this line, with this squiggle in front of it, means this note, but there's one question I never got around to answering: why do we call that note G? well, I figured it was time to look into that, and I've brought my friend Mark from the Endless Knot along to help out! Hello! Thanks for inviting me over! the history of modern note names is a long and colorful one, and it begins in the 6th century, with a Roman senator and philosopher named Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius. Born just after the Gothic leader Odoacer deposed the last Roman Emperor and declared himself King of Italy, Boethius held positions such as senator and consul under Odoacer’s successor Theodoric the Great and considered it his greatest achievement to have his two sons serve as co-consuls together. But his high status didn’t last, as he fell out of royal favour and was accused of treason by his political rivals, imprisoned, and eventually executed. While imprisoned he wrote the Consolation of Philosophy, a dialogue between himself and the personified Lady Philosophy, which investigated such questions as why God lets bad things happen to good people, and whether we have free will, concluding that worldly fortune is fickle and true happiness comes from within. This book was one of the most influential philosophical treatises of the middle ages, and made famous the image of the wheel of fortune, forever being turned by the blindfolded Lady Fortuna, signifying the fickleness of fate. but what makes Boethius important to our story is his earlier treatise on music, titled De Institutione Musica, which is generally considered the earliest known record of music written down with the modern alphabet, in a system we now call Boethian Notation. it's a little different from our modern system, though: for starters, it only spans two octaves. this was common practice back then: the two-octave range was known as the "Greater Perfect System", and consisted of two heptachords, or seven-note groups, with an added note at the bottom to complete the octave. this technique traces its roots back to the Greeks, who had their own system of notation that also used letters. well, actually, they had two systems, depending on whether they were notating vocal or instrumental music, but that's a topic for another time. Boethian notation simplified things a bit. he dropped the added note at the bottom, leaving him with 14 notes which he labeled A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, and O, and you may have noticed that he skipped J. Mark, why is that? Well, the letter J didn't separate from I to become its own character until around the 16th century. that's right, this system of notation is so old, it predates the letter J by a thousand years. of course, since we're dealing with 6th-century texts, there's a lot missing: it's unclear whether this system was Boethius's own work or just a record of the common notation of the time and, since he wasn't a composer, it doesn't appear that he ever actually used it to notate anything, so whether or not it's fair to call it "Boethian notation" at all is a matter of some debate. still, though, it's noteworthy because it's one of the few concrete records we have from that far back, and as we move forward in time, things get a little murkier. music at the time was primarily vocal, at least within the church where most of the academic work of the time took place, and that music was learned primarily by ear, so there was less demand for written notation. the primary system, called neumatic notation, was just a way of reminding singers about ornamentations, and wasn't really concerned with specific pitches at all. fortunately for us, though, instruments exist, and their notation still called for precise names. possibly the most important instrument for our purposes is the monochord, which was a piece of wood with a single string. it also featured a movable bridge, which could be placed at different points along the string to produce various notes, and those spots were generally named with letters. at this point, it appears that people had abandoned the sprawling system of Boethius in favor of one that only used the first seven letters of the alphabet. to help differentiate between similarly-named notes, they used capital letters for the lower octave and lower-case letters for the higher one. when a third octave was needed, doubled lower-case letters were used to show that the note was extra high. but, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, the monochord was tuned such that if you removed the bridge entirely, you'd get a note lower than the lowest A. modern musicians would just call it a G, but at the time they hadn't started repeating symbols yet, and since they'd already used capital G and lower-case G, they had to resort to greek G, or Gamma. this is actually where the word "gamut" comes from: it's a contraction of "Gamma Ut", the lowest note, which was also sometimes used to describe the entire range. but what does Ut mean? well, let's take a quick detour through medieval Italy with a benedictine monk named Guido de Arezzo. While Boethius’s work was revered for its highly theoretical and mathematical exploration of music, Guido’s work tried to solve more practical problems. In his very popular treatise Micrologus, he wrote about how to compose polyphony and described his method for teaching children to learn composition through carefully structured improvisation. Guido also developed the staff notation as we know it today, with successive lines indicating the interval of a third, replacing that old neumatic notation with a more precise system. Also ascribed to him (though not actually appearing in any of his extant writings) is the Guidonian Hand, a mnemonic device in which all the notes of the gamut were assigned to a joint or fingertip making it easy to visualize where the steps and half-steps fell, making sight-singing and memorization of music easier. Oh, and the movable bridge on that old monochord, that’s been ascribed to him as well. he also invented the hexachord, which is a group of six notes, each a whole step apart except for the middle two which are separated by a half step. basically, it's the first six notes of the major scale: (bang) he wanted to name the different degrees of the hexachord, but he decided that letters were boring, so why not just make up his own? to do this, he turned to a hymn called Ut queant laxis, where he borrowed the first syllable of each line to name his notes, giving him Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, and La. in Guido's system, music moved between overlapping hexachords, so a note could use multiple different syllables depending on the hexachord you were viewing it in. over time, though, they became bound to the notes of the C hexachord, which sat exactly in the middle of Guido's gamut. this marked the birth of solfege, a system of note names still used in many European countries today, with a few differences. first of all, "Ut" is a really annoying syllable to sing. it ends on a closed consonant, so you can't sustain it. various solutions were tried, but in the end, we settled on using "Do", probably named for another Italian musicologist, Giovanni Battista Doni. also, this system had no name for the seventh note of the scale, so musicians turned back to Guido's hymn, abbreviating the last line, Sancte Iohannes, as S.I., giving us the syllable Si. in the 19th century, Sarah Glover, a music teacher from England, proposed changing this to "Ti" so that each syllable would start with a different letter. this caught on in English, where the sound "C" was already taken anyway, but most other countries didn't really feel the need to switch. she also invented what's now known as "movable do", where the syllables refer to scale degrees rather than precise notes. movable do is pretty common these days, again mostly in english-speaking countries, but the old system, called "fixed do", still has plenty of fans too. meanwhile, the letter name system kept evolving as well. as larger orchestras developed it became impractical to have different symbols for each octave, and the names standardized to the repeating system we know today. sharps and flats came in gradually, starting with B, which could be either natural or flat depending on the hexachord you were using. typically this was shown by using a soft, lower case b for the lower note and a hard, stylized b for the higher one. this stylized B is the source of both the modern natural sign and the sharp sign, and as for the flat… well, you can probably figure that out yourself. and that's basically how we got to now. depending on where you studied, modern note names come from either fixed do solfege or medieval monochord notation, and either way, it all goes back to one benedictine monk. but what about music itself? I mean, not the idea, but the word. where does that come from, and what does it have to do with museums, freemasons, and our understanding of the human brain? well, I talked with Mark about all that and more over on his channel, the Endless Knot. there's a link in the description, so go check it out. I learned a lot, and I'm sure you will too. and hey, thanks for watching, and thanks to our Patreon patrons for supporting us and making these videos possible. if you want to help out, and get some sweet perks like sneak peeks of upcoming episodes, there's a link to our Patreon on screen now. you can also join our mailing list to find out about new episodes, like, share, comment, subscribe, and above all, keep on rockin'.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Herringshaw, Thomas William (1914). Herringshaw's National Library of American Biography Contains Thirty-Five Thousand Biographies of the Acknowledged Leaders of Life and Thought of the United States; Illustrated with Three Thousand Vignette Portraits, Volume V. Chicago, Illinois: American Publishers' Association. p. 303.
  2. ^ a b Caswell, Lilley Brewer (1899). Athol, Massachusetts, Past and Present. Athol, Massachusetts: Lilley Brewer Caswell. p. 368.
  3. ^ Caswell, Lilley Brewer (1899). Athol, Massachusetts, Past and Present. Athol, Massachusetts: Lilley Brewer Caswell. pp. 367–370.
  4. ^ "Deaths". The Boston Globe. July 29, 1920. p. 23. Retrieved 2019-06-27.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Harris C. Hartwell
President of the Massachusetts Senate
Succeeded by
Alfred S. Pinkerton
This page was last edited on 18 September 2019, at 01:00
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