ALLISON, Richard, a teacher of music in London in the reign of Elizabeth, the particulars of whose birth and decease are unknown. His name first occurs as a contributor to T. Este's 'Whole Booke of Psalms,' 1592. A few years later he published on his own account 'The Psalmes of David in Meter,' 1599, a collection of old church tunes harmonised by himself in four parts, with an accompaniment for the 'lute, orpharyon, citterne or base violl,' and important as being one of the earliest to give the melody in the cantus or soprano part—the usual practice being to give it to the tenor. Allison advertises it 'to be solde at his house in the Duke's-place near Alde-gate,' and dedicates it to the Countess of Warwick. It is ushered forth by some complimentary verses by John Dowland, the celebrated performer on the lute, and others. He appears to have been patronised by Sir John Scudamore, to whom he dedicated his collection of part-songs entitled, 'An Houres Recreation in Musicke, apt for Instruments and Voyces,' 1606. This publication contains 'a prayer' set to music, 'for the long preservation of the king and his posteritie,' and 'a thanksgiving for the deliverance of the whole estate from the late conspiracie'—the Gunpowder Plot.
Allison, Robert, probably a relative of Richard, was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal. After serving in the royal establishment for twenty years he sold his place, Feb. 8, 1609–10, to Humphry Bache. (Allison's publications; Camd. Soc. Cheque-Bk. of Chap. Royal.)
[ E. F. R. ]
ALL' OTTAVA (Ital.). 'In the octave.' (1) In pianoforte music a passage marked all' 8va, (or merely 8va.) is to be played an octave higher than written, if the sign is placed above the notes, an octave lower if placed below them. In the latter case the more accurate indication 8va. bassa is frequently employed. The duration of the transposition is shown by a dotted line, and when the notes are again to be played as written, the word loco (Ital., 'in its place') is put over (or under) the music. (2) In orchestral scores, especially manuscripts, all' 8va. signifies that one instrument plays in octaves with another, either above or below. (3) In playing from a figured bass the term shows that no harmonies are to be employed, and that the upper parts merely double the bass in octaves. In this case it is equivalent to tasto solo.
[ E. P. ]
ALL' UNISONO (Ital., abbreviated Unis.). 'In unison.' In orchestral scores this term is used to show that two or more instruments, the parts of which are written upon the same stave, are to play in unison. In modern scores the words a due, a tre, etc., are more frequently employed.
ALPENHORN, or ALPHORN, an instrument with a cupped mouthpiece, of wood and bark, used by the mountaineers in Switzerland and many other countries to convey signals and to produce simple melodies. It is nearly straight, and three or more feet in length. Those in the Museum at South Kensington are respectively 7 ft. 5 in. and 7 ft. 11 in. long. There is a Swedish instrument of this kind called Lure; another of kindred nature used in the Himalayas; and another by the Indians of South America.
The notes produced are evidently only the open harmonics of the tube, somewhat modified by the material of which it is made, and by the smallness of the bore in relation to its length. The melody is termed 'Ranz des Vaches.' Its principal musical interest is derived from its introduction into the finale of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, and Rossini's opera of 'William Tell.' Beethoven employs the ordinary horn alone; but in the overture the long solo, now usually played by the oboe, sometimes by the cor anglais, was originally intended for, and played by, a tenoroon or alto fagotto standing in F, which much more nearly approaches the real tone of the Alpenhorn than the other instruments.
A similar combination of cupped mouthpiece with wooden tube existed in the serpent, and the result was a peculiar covered and tender quality of tone now lost to music, except in so far as it can be traced in some organ reed-stops, with wooden, not metal bells.
[ W. H. S. ]
ALPHABET. The musical alphabet, which serves as the designation of all musical sounds, consists of the seven letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, and, in German, H in addition. In the natural scale (i. e. the scale without sharps or flats) the order of these letters is as follows:—C, D, E, F, G, A, B (or, in German, H), C; the cause of this apparently arbitrary arrangement will be best understood from a brief glance at the history of the musical scale.
According to Isidore, bishop of Seville (circa 595), the oldest harps had seven strings, and the shepherds' pandean pipes seven reeds, from which it appears probable as well as natural that the ancient scale consisted of seven sounds.
These seven sounds, which served for both voices and instruments, were gradually added to, until, in the time of Aristoxenus (340 B.C.), there were fifteen, extending from A the first space of the bass stave to A the second space in the treble. Each of these sounds had its distinctive name, derived from the position and length of the different strings of the phorminx or lyre, and in order to avoid writing them in full the ancient Greek authors expressed them by certain letters of the alphabet. As however the properties of the notes varied continually with the different modes and so-called mutations, which by this time had been introduced into the musical system, these letters were written in an immense variety of forms, large and small, inverted, turned to the right or left, lying horizontally, accented in many ways, etc., so that, according to Alypius, the most intelligible of the Greek writers who wrote professedly to explain them,
- Before the time of Terpander (about 670 B.C.) the Greek lyre is supposed to have had but four strings. Boethius attributes its extension to seven strings to Terpander.
- For a full description of the Greek scale see Sir J. Hawkins, 'History of Music,' ch. iv.