SOLRESOL: A Brief History

Solresol, or "Langue Musicale Universelle", was invented at the beginning of the 19th century by Jean Francois Sudre (1787-1864), a music master who realized that the seven-note diatonic scale could provide elemental symbols for a universal language.

The French versions of these seven symbols are do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and si, although in this document I use so in preference to sol, and ti instead of si. So, in truth, Julie Andrews should have sung:-

Do, a deer, a female deer
Re, a drop of golden sun
Mi, a name I call myself
Fa, a long long way to run
Sol, the closest star to Earth
La, the note that follows sol
Si, the Italian word for "yes"
Which brings us back to Do!

The words in Solresol are short melodies. I'll represent words as a sequence of characters taken from the set {D, R, M, F, S, L, T}. For example, the word solresol will be written as SRS, which corresponds to the three notes so, re and so. The word itself translates as "language".

Solresol may be spoken, sung, whistled or played on a musical instrument. It may be written compactly, simply by representing each symbol by its first letter. It may be signed, which is reminiscent of "Close Encounters" yet again; it may even be represented with the seven colours of the rainbow.

As with all a priori languages (languages which use an invented set of elements which stand for basic concepts and are grouped into supposedly universal logical classifications, based on scientific and philosophical issues), Solresol is difficult to learn. Even so, it became very popular in the mid-19th century, and won several prizes.

It was so popular, in fact, that the French army toyed with the idea of using Solresol as the official means of communication when on the battlefield. This is presumably due to the fact that pure tones may be broadcast over further distances than articulated speech, and the confusion it would cause the enemy!

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Last modified on: Monday, 06-Jul-98 12:49:42 WST.
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