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 ?
Because mensural notation is contextual in orientation, the length of individual notes and the coordination among voices are shown by their relative spacing on the page.
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.
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.
The transcriptions are rhythmically neutral, using the customary note heads without stems; in versions with mensural notation the original note shapes are given above the system.
This seven-page synopsis of medieval mensural notation is one of the clearest I have read.
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).
Although the contents are mostly chant notation on a five line stave (a Spanish feature), some mensurally-notated chant, and some white mensural notation containing short polyphonic sections complete the manuscript (Illustrations 7 and 8).
The chants are presented not in the normal way such music appears in German musical sources of the period--that is, a form of stemless black notation--but in mensural notation with minims as the main note value.
Spataro, though he scoffed at del Lago's excessive veneration of "antique" theorists and composers, was fascinated by canons and by details of the system of mensural notation, subtleties that he grieved to see passing from practice in the work of contemporary composers.
While score format and modern treble and bass clefs are retained, the music itself appears in the original mensural notation.