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a system of graphic signs for the written expression of music; the writing down of music.
Notation originated in antiquity. The ancient Greeks used a system of letters that indicated the pitch but not the duration of sounds. This system was followed until the tenth century, when the Greek letters were replaced by Latin ones. In the 20th century, Latin letters are still used to designate individual sounds and tonalities. In the Middle Ages neumatic notation was widely used. Special symbols called neumes were written above the texts to remind the singer of the chant melodies.
Later, horizontal lines, which made possible the more precise indication of the pitch of sounds, came into use. In the 11th century the Italian music theoretician Guido d’Arezzo introduced a system of four lines, the prototype of the modern staff. At the beginning of the lines he placed a letter indicating the pitch of the sounds represented. (This was the forerunner of the modern clefs.) Subsequently, the number of lines was increased to five, and the neumes were replaced by notes with square heads. This system, which was widely used to notate Gregorian chant, was called Choralnotation. The next development in notation was mensural notation, which fixed both the pitch and the duration of sounds. In addition to mensural notation, a system of letters or numbers, the tablatures, was used during the 15th through 17th centuries for the written representation of instrumental music. Like the modern number system that is designed to simplify the teaching of certain folk instruments, the tablatures indicated not the sounds but the strings and frets. In the 17th and 18th centuries chords were indicated by means of numbers placed over or under the bass notes (the figured bass).
From the late tenth century staffless znamennoe, or kriukovoe, notation was used in the Orthodox Church in ancient Rus’. In the 16th and 17th centuries there was a gradual shift from kriukovoe notation to the five-line staff.
Modern notation graphically indicates the pitch of the notes and their metric and rhythmic relationship. Together with the well-developed system of markings for tempo, dynamics, and expression, it makes possible a precise but not overly restrictive representation of a musical work. Although the performer does not depart from the written notes, he lends his own interpretation to a work. Exponents of 20th-century avant-garde musical tendencies have introduced new markings for the performer; however, these are not widely used. Some 20th-century composers have almost entirely abandoned the traditional forms of notation, providing in the written music only hints for the performer. There is a special system of notation for the blind.
REFERENCESNiurnberg, M. Notnaia grafika. Leningrad, 1953.
Wolf, J. Handbuch der Notationskunde, vols. 1–2. Leipzig, 1913–19.
V. A. VAKHROMEEV