In Andal music everything beings with the music of the Faith of the Seven. Some of the very first sacred records we have of the Seven are precisely of musical nature; mostly simple chants etched on parchment or leather from thousands of years ago, some even argue they date as far back as Andalos. How those chants became the music we hear nowadays in the septs is a very long tale, so I’ll be as brief as possible, taking as many shortcuts and omitting as many unnecessary details as I can. Whether or not the Andals had musical records of any type when they crossed the Narrow-Sea they brought their songs within their hearts. Almost all these songs are lost to us now, but their influence is strong to this day. The Andals were devoted to their faith and they thought their music came directly from the Seven as reflected in the musical system still used to this day: seven notes for the Seven Gods; 7 musical scales for the Seven Gods. This system has been immovable for millennia and will likely be for the millennia to come, for even though there are no references to any music in the Seven-Pointed Star, no one doubts the Seven intended for music to be but another manifestation of their essence.
Just as there is no aspect of the Seven Gods that governs over the others, this resulting sequence of notes (fig. b) has no set beginning nor end, it simply extends upwards and downwards repeating the same sequence of seven notes (fig. c). It is the musician who must choose a note and elevate that note above the others to Evoque the aspect of the Seven he wants to serve. As stated before, this means there are seven possible sequences depending on what note is chosen as the first note, every one with a unique sound and character.
The real question has always been: what note, and therefore sequence, belongs to each of the Seven Gods? Never an argument has proven less fruitful than that one, for endless debate has been had over the centuries without a satisfactory answer. That is, except for one God whose musical representation has been clear to the Andals since the beginning of time. No one disagrees that The Stranger can be heard when playing the top sequence of notes outlined in the example above. Having created our musical sequence from a perfect 5th we would expect this interval to be present in all the sequences, but The Stranger, distancing itself from any other God twists this beautiful interval and renders the expected perfect 5th into a diminished 5th, making all music in this sequence a dissonant cacophony unbearable to men’s ears.
In the case of the remaining 6 sequences, while no one can assert that a sequence must unequivocally belong to a specific God (except for the indisputable case of The Stranger), tradition is a most powerful force, especially over millennia, and very few people have the inclination to dispute what we have come to regard as the most apt of associations. This model comes to us from such a long time ago that it might have initiated before the coming of the Andals to Westeros and the inspired author of it will forever remain a mystery. Of course, every now and then a new musical composition tries to subvert expectations and challenge the listeners ears by redefining the standard model but these are always found to be short-lived for it is hard to uproot such a long tradition.
The standard model sets the 3 male Gods and 3 female Gods in two different categories depending on the quality of the distance from the first to the third note of their respective sequences (fig. d). In the sequences of the Father, the Warrior and the Smith this interval is noticeably shorter than in the sequences of the Mother, the Crone and the Maiden. Practically any I ever inquired about his aspect, even foreigners from Essos, are quick to admit clear masculine qualities in the sequences of the Father, the Warrior and the Smith such as sternness and strength, while the sequences of the Mother, the Crone and the Maiden evoke in them feminine qualities such delicacy, beauty and liveliness. Another argument made by pious musicians to support the standard model is that if we look at the 7 notes as they exist before reorganizing them into one single octave we can see the Father and the Mother deserving the preferential status given to them in prayer, with the Father having the Smith and the Warrior to both his sides, the Mother having the Maiden and the Crone to both her sides; and the Stranger remaining alone (fig. e).
There are those Septons who think this systematization of the music is heretic as men cannot comprehend the nature of the Seven Gods but that hasn’t stopped musicians to try use this model (and others more obscure) to guide them in the creation of their music, for after all these models would be useless if there were no music based on them. Here is where I want to bring the attention of the reader back to the two opposing styles we encounter in the South of Westeros: Sept Music and Common Music.
Chords are a new invention in Andal music brought in by the Valyrian conquerors the Targaryen dynasty with their own music. Nevertheless, religious music has resisted to change and remains rather monophonic and dependent on modes.
Instruments are more advanced in their construction than instruments in the North and Dorne. The influence of the Targaryen has brought in a surge in brass instruments, especially in and around Kingslanding. Their music has influenced much of Dornish and Northern music through the centuries.
The oldest and most complete record of Andal music is at the Starry Sept in Oldtown, of course. The old tomes are big and heavy, but mostly redolent as hundreds of years of moisture have ravaged most of the leather covers and some of the parchment. One could argue they should be sent to another city far away from the coast where moisture is not a problem but that is a debate for another time. Access to these tomes is relatively easy for a Maester of the Citadel so I spent the good part of half a year studying them at the Starry Sept. I even convince the choir to perform some of the old prayers for me, which I must say was a delightful experience, for only when looking back we see how far we have come. From the hundreds of prayers included in these volumes I have selected some examples of how Sept music changed and developed over millennia into the new style we enjoy today. This new style is in reality older than any person alive today, dating back to the coming of the Targaryens almost three centuries ago. Nevertheless, it is important to look as far back as possible to get an idea of how Sept music came to be. Thus, the examples chosen are all from a very well-known prayer to the Seven that dates back to the very first style of chants found in the records. It is certainly eye-opening to see how the same text has been reinterpreted over and over again by some of the greatest septons.
An important caveat is that most of what I am about to describe here is indeed known to some septons and sept musicians in one way or another but not in a purely musical sense, thus my goal is not to delve into theological argument of which prayer is most apt for which sept service or pleasing to the ear but to establish some common foundation that facilitates understanding among musicians and music lovers.
The first example we will examine is the oldest known form of the prayer in a style we will aptly call the Old Style. I have transcribed it directly from the source with as much fidelity as possible leaving out any current conventions we take for granted now. The lack of any metric is the most obvious sign that this is truly the Old Style, as rhythm was not notated at all. The assumption today is that every syllable carried the same weight and had the same duration as any other. Devoid of any rhythm and harmony the nature of the prayer in the Old Style is purely melodic, and while it is unknown whether it was performed by a soloist or a choir it seems to have been intended for singers of limited vocal ability. There are two factors that motivate this seemingly frugal writing. The first one is clearly a developmental one, as sept music was in it infancy back then and it would take hundreds of years of experimentation and trial and error to develop a style that met the requirements of the Sept. The second and even more important factor was, as I pointed out before, the tailoring of these prayers to performers of limited vocal abilities. Today the congregation is not expected to sing during the service anything more than the customary antiphon in response to the Septon performing the service but it is quite possible that back at the beginning the entire congregation used to take part in the singing of the entire prayer. This minimalistic style, very limited in range and with very conjunct melodies, was probably a necessity if one expected the congregation to participate at all. These features are all displayed in the hundreds of prayers in the Old Style collected from all corners of Westeros millennia ago. This doesn’t seem to be of any remark to most of my peers but the fact that all these prayers were consistently homogeneous across all regions of the south of Westeros is rather telling. At a time when moving between towns and kingdoms was much less common than today, and where warring and instability was taken for granted it is surprising that there are no diverging styles in the prayers of the Old Style. If this style was developed and exported by septons from Oldtown (as many propose) it seems farfetched that it spread so uniformly across all of Westeros when indeed at a later time these developments would indeed show divergences. The conclusion is obvious: The Old Style is a musical tradition brought to Westeros all the way from Andalos where participation was expected of every member of the community in devotion to the Seven. It is only at a much later time and under the authority of the Starry Sept that any stylistic developments would spread from Oldtown to the rest of the continent with the resulting regional varieties.
As explained before, the Old Style is characterized by short phrases of limited range in conjunct motion. There are some exceptions to these features but we will focus on the stereotypical prayer model that we was most popular The aforementioned features make the prayers ideal for the untrained voiced but we shouldn’t overlook the musical reason behind these features. The concept of dividing the octave into seven notes for the Seven Gods is the foundation of the Andal musical system and at a time when harmony and polyphony where basically non-existent every aspect of the Seven had to be rendered in purely melodic terms. This meant that even if the text was removed from the prayer the melody alone could be used to express completely unambiguously what aspect of the Seven is being prayed to. This explains why every phrase in the prayer begins and ends on the same pitch as a way to establish the identity of the melody as clearly as possible. The structure is simple but effective: the phrase begins on the pitch associated with the aspect of the Seven, then ascends or descends from that pitch as far away as possible in order to increase the musical tension only to return to the original pitch eliminating the tension altogether.
The example chosen to stand for the standard Old Style is “The Song of the Seven” (fig. f). This piece which some scholars date as far back as the coming of the Andals to Westeros has become increasingly popular over milenia as a sung prayer rather than a sept chant, so much so, that it has disappeared altogether from the services in the septs as the septons fear it as too popular and not hallowed enough for the sept anymore. The main reason for choosing this piece over any other is that there is a good record of the many versions of this chant from the Old Style until today, and by presenting the reader with these versions one can more easily appreciate the development of these styles by observing the small but incremental changes that took place in this old chant.