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Musical Notation

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MUSICAL NOTATION, a graphic method of representing sounds to the ear through the medium of the eye. It is probable that the earliest attempts at notation were made by the Hindus and Chinese, from whom the principle was transferred to Greece. The exact nature of the Greek notation is a subject of dispute, different explanations assigning 1680, 1620, 99o, or 138 signs to their alphabetical method of delineation. To Boethius we owe the certainty that the Greek notation was not adopted by the Latins, although it is not certain whether he was the first to apply the 15 letters of the Roman alphabet to the scale of sounds included within the two octaves, or whether he was only the first to make record of that application.

Indications of a scheme of notation based, not on the alphabet, but on the use of dashes, hooks, curves, dots and strokes are found to exist as early as the 6th century, while specimens in illustra tion of this different method do not appear until the 8th. The origin of these signs, known as neumes or nods) (q.v.) is the full stop (punctus), the comma (virga), and the mound or undulating line (c/ivus), the first indicating a short sound, the sec ond a long sound, and the third a group of two notes. The musical intervals were suggested by the distance of these signs from the words of the text. The variety of neumes employed at different times, and the fluctuations due to handwriting, have made them extremely difficult to decipher. In the loth century a marked advance is shown by the use of a red line traced horizontally above the text to give the singer a fixed note (F=fa), thus help ing him to approximate the intervals. To this was added a second line in yellow (for C = ut), and finally a staff arose from the fur ther addition of two black lines over these.

A variety of experiments resulted in the assignment of the four-lined staff to sacred music and of the five-lined staff to secu lar music. The yellow and red colours were replaced by the use of the letters F and C (fa and ut) on the lines. This use of letters to indicate clef (q.v.) is forestalled in a manuscript of Guido of Arezzo's Micrologus, dating from the 12th century, in which is the famous hymn to St. John, printed with neumes on a staff of

three lines (see GUIDO OF AREZZO and HEXACHORD). The use of letters for indicating clefs has survived to the present day, our clef signatures being modified forms of the letters C, F and G, which have passed through a multitude of shapes.

Before the I2th century there is no trace of a measured nota tion (i.e., of a numerical time division separating the component parts of a piece of music). It was at the time of Franco of Cologne that measured music took its rise. together with the black notation in place of neumes, which disappeared altogether by the end of the 14th century. In the black notation, which led to the modern system, the square note with a tail (I) is the long sound; the square note without a tail (a) is the breve; and the lozenge shape (4) is the semibreve. In a later development there were added the double long and the minum (*), The breve, according to Franco of Cologne, was the unit of measure.

The development of a fixed time division was further continued by Philippe de Vitry. It has been noted with well-founded aston ishment that at this period double time (i.e., two to the bar) was unknown, but only triple time which was regarded as "perfect"— "because it bath its name from the Blessed Trinity which is pure and true perfection." Vitry championed the rights of imperfect time and invented signs to distinguish the two. The perfect circle 0 represented the perfect or triple time; the half circle ( the imperfect or double-time. This ( has survived in modern nota tion to indicate four-time, which is twice double-time; when crossed (r it means double-time. The method of dividing into perfect and imperfect was described as prolation. The addition of a point to the circle or semi-circle (0 f ) indicated major prolation; its absence, minor prolation. The substitution of white for black notation began with the first year of the 14th century and was fully established in the 15th century.

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