Mensural Notation

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Mensural Notation


a system of representing musical sounds that was used from the 13th to the 16th century.

Unlike the earlier, plainsong notation, mensural notation made it possible not only to fix the pitch but also to mark the relative duration of sounds. In the 13th century, the following signs were employed to indicate duration, values (in order of diminishing duration): Mensural Notationmaxima or duplex longa (largest or double long), Mensural Notationlonga(long) Mensural Notationbrevis (short), and Mensural Notationsemibrevis (half as short). In the 14th century still smaller duration values were introduced: Mensural Notationminima (smallest) and Mensural Notationsemiminima. There were special signs to indicate rests.

Initially, the basic unit of duration was the longa; later the brevis, and still later, in the 14th century, the semibrevis became the basic unit. The maxima and minima were always divisible into two notes of a lower value, whereas the remaining notes could be divided into two and three notes. The types of rhythmic divisions were called mensura; they were indicated by special signs placed at the beginning of a line. Later, for the purpose of indicating long durations, white notation was introduced; the semiminima and the still smaller duration values that appeared later, ihefusa and semifusa, were indicated by both white and black notation. The system of mensural notation, which reached its final stage of development in the 16th century, was the basis of modern notation.


References in periodicals archive ?
Demonstrating the connections between these books allows the author to provide imaginative musical analyses that illuminate the often-overlooked perspectives of musicians beginning to learn mensural notation in various material manifestations.
It aims at supporting all notational features of common Western music notation but also provides modules for the encoding of mensural notation, neumes, and--very important to DCM--editorial mark-up to support the production of truly digital, critical editions.
Therefore, Mullally argues that although it was not originally written in mensural notation, music for the carole should be played in 6/8 time (83).
Banks further argues that despite the appearance of a lute repertory written and printed in tablature, the lute consort repertory in textless chansonniers, written in mensural notation, was the product of the intersection between the vocal repertory of the chapel and the humanistic repertory of the improvisatori.
At the time of the founding of Prague university many new theoretical approaches were already being taught at Paris university; Boethius's Quadrivium is still included in the oldest catalogue of the Prague university library of 1370, but 18 years later the teaching was already based on the new work Musica speculativa by the professor of mathematics at Paris University Johannes de Muris, "creator" of the new metric and rhythmical system of Ars nova and its precise form of notation, which became the basis not only of what is known as the mensural notation of the 14th century, but essentially of the notation system used (after various modifications) to this day.
Helpful are the equivalency statements made both above (for modern notation) and below the staff (for mensural notation to modern notation) which detail the changes when moving between duple and triple metres.
In summary, this overview begins with a discussion of natural speech-rhythms in Greek music before going on to consider the possible use of rhythmic modes in Gregorian chant, the mensural notation of the Ars Nova composers, the invention of the bar-line and the emergence of time-signatures.
As Katelijne Schiltz notes, "the inherent ambiguity of mensural notation offered composers the possibility to play with the boundaries between the notation and its sounding result" (p.
The final chapter, by Barbara Haagh, fittingly discusses the influence of neumes, square notation and mensural notation in the manuscripts and printed antiphoner of Cambrai Cathedral, suggesting that scribes could be 'musically bilingual' or even 'trilingual' and were fully capable of copying both chant and polyphony.
D'Accone laments the lack of information concerning the formal musical training of [male] Florentines in this period, even in Cathedral schools and monasteries: "No reports of the typical musical curriculum have survived, but it seems reasonable to assume that solmization and methods of vocal production, the basic principles of mensural notation and perhaps even some elementary counterpoint were taught to youngsters" (1992, 280).
Andrew Hughes has also associated the notation, in England, with a change from solo to choral polyphony, assuming that the singers in the choirs were at first less equipped to sing from mensural notation than the more skilled soloists had been.
This argument states that scribes had a mensural notation at their disposal but considered it inappropriate for courtly song; they cannot therefore have intended the rhythms that only mensural notation could indicate.