musical notation


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musical notation,

symbols used to make a written record of musical sounds.

Two different systems of letters were used to write down the instrumental and the vocal music of ancient Greece. In his five textbooks on music theory BoethiusBoethius
, Boetius
, or Boece
(Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius), c.475–525, Roman philosopher and statesman. An honored figure in the public life of Rome, where he was consul in 510, he became the able minister of the Emperor Theodoric.
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 (c.A.D. 470–A.D. 525) applied the first 15 letters of the alphabet to the notes in use at the end of the Roman period. Notation of Gregorian chant was by means of neumes, which are thought to have been derived from symbols used in the Greek language to indicate pitch inflection. Neumes were certainly in use by the 6th cent., although the earliest extant manuscripts containing them are fragmentary ones from the 8th cent. These neumes indicated only the grouping of sounds in a given melody, evidently to recall to a singer the approximate shape of a melody already learned by ear.

Heighted neumes, arranged above and below a line, made the intervals of a melody more discernible in 10th-century notation, and by the end of the 12th cent. the staffstaff,
in musical notation, a set of horizontal lines upon and between which notes are written so as to determine their relative pitch, and in connection with a clef, their absolute pitch. Staffs with several lines survive from the late 9th cent., the lines denoting only pitches.
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 perfected by Guido d'ArezzoGuido d'Arezzo
or Guido Aretinus
, c.990–1050, Italian Benedictine monk, known for his contributions to musical notation and theory. His theoretical work Micrologus (c.
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 was in use. Guido placed letters on certain lines to indicate their pitch, and thereby the pitch of the remaining lines and spaces. The letters evolved into the clef signs used today. Guido also invented a system of naming scale degrees using the initial syllables of the lines of a Latin hymn (ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la). Originally used for teaching sight singing, these or their derivatives are also used in some languages for naming absolute pitches.

A staff of five lines for vocal music was adopted in France and one of six lines in Italy. Instrumental music employed staves of varying numbers of lines until the 16th cent., when the five-line staff became the standard. Signs for chromatic alteration of tones appear almost from the beginning and had assumed their present shapes by the end of the 17th cent. The essential problems in pitch notation, the use of both lines and spaces to indicate successive scale degrees and the use of extra symbols to indicate raising or lowering a tone by a half step, were solved comparatively rapidly.

However, the evolution of the rhythmic notation used today took much longer than that for pitch. Mensural notation, in which each note has a specific time value, became a necessity with the development of polyphonypolyphony
, music whose texture is formed by the interweaving of several melodic lines. The lines are independent but sound together harmonically. Contrasting terms are homophony, wherein one part dominates while the others form a basically chordal accompaniment, and monophony,
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. At first, certain patternings of neumes were used to represent the various rhythmic modes; later, in his Ars cantus mensurabilis (c.1280), Franco of Cologne created a clear indication for each note of its exact rhythmic length and selected certain neumes to represent tones of long and short duration. In his system, the long value was in principle equal to three of the short values.

In the 14th cent. Philippe de Vitry, author of Ars nova, which expands the system of Franco, codified the ready availability of duple divisions of the long and short notes. At the various rhythmic levels of a given piece either a 2:1 or a 3:1 relationship was implied, and a system of signs and colored notes developed for indicating which relationships were in force or were being temporarily altered.

In the 15th cent. numbers with the appearance of fractions indicated that one proportionality of rhythmic values was temporarily being substituted for another. Modern signatures evolved from these numbers. Bar lines, expression signs, and Italian terms to indicate tempo and dynamics came into use in the 17th cent. With the adoption of equal temperament and the major and minor modes, signatures indicating a major key or its relative minor became conventional. They assumed their present form during the baroque period.

The advent of aleatory musicaleatory music
[Lat. alea=dice game], music in which elements traditionally determined by the composer are determined either by a process of random selection chosen by the composer or by the exercise of choice by the performer(s).
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 has produced notation systems, varying from piece to piece, indicating only approximate pitch, duration, and dynamic relations. Notation for electronic musicelectronic music
or electro-acoustic music,
term for compositions that utilize the capacities of electronic media for creating and altering sounds.

Initially, a distinction must be made between the technological development of electronic instruments and the
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 is still not standardized but generally uses traditional reference symbols (staff and clef signs) in conjunction with specially adapted pitch and rhythm notation.

For a system of notation of lute and keyboard music, see tablaturetablature
, in music, a generic system of musical notation indicating actions that the player must take, rather than "representing" the music itself that will result from those actions. Tablatures have been in use in the West since the early 14th cent.
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. See also scorescore,
in musical notation, manuscript or printed music in which the various parts are placed one above the other so that notes that are to be played simultaneously are in vertical alignment. Early polyphony was notated in score until the early 13th cent.
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.

Bibliography

See W. Apel, The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900–1600 (5th ed. 1961); C. F. A. Williams, The Story of Notation (1903, repr. 1969); E. Karkoschka, Notation in New Music (1972), G. Read, Music Notation (3d ed. 1972).

References in periodicals archive ?
David Hiley writes that 'while the importance of the establishment of musical notation back in the ninth century can hardly be overestimated, the introduction of staff-notation two centuries later also poses fascinating questions for future research'.
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Strung out along wavy lines, the two vertical strokes separated by a short diagonal curve, spelling "Ara" in Arabic, resemble the primitive symbolism of musical notation.
Music Literacy: Its Role in the Education of the Blind, by Sylvia Clark, provides a historical perspective of the emergence of various musical notation systems for people who are blind in Europe and the United States.
During the period, composers and performers used more elaborate musical ornamentation, made changes in musical notation, and developed new instrumental playing techniques.
A lusty rendering of Jerusalem was enjoyed with full audience participation, but less so in the setting of the Lord's prayer, where deciphering ancient musical notation proved somewhat challenging.
completely covered with musical notation, some with Hebrew letters, to represent the Yiddish language, the songs, the words, the books and the sacred texts that were also murdered.
Musical notation analysis does not provide a cultural "picture" of how the music is performed, or of dance movements and instrument playing techniques.