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Musical Notation

system and letters

MUSICAL NOTATION. The art of express ing musical compqsitions ill NV .: riting by wean of certain conventional signs called notes. The oldest system of notation of which we have any knowledge is the alphabetical notation of the Greeks. The detailed descriptions of this system left to us enable us to decipher without much difficulty the few remnants of Greek music re cently discovered. The Greeks employed uncial letters which appeared in a great variety of positions inverted. sideways. divided in halves, etc. Thus no less than different combina tions were obtained.

Long after the downfall of Greece this system of notation remained in use, especially in the writings of the theorists. During the sixth cen tury A.n. Homan letters were first used. Boiqhius employed the first fifteen letters of the alphabet. But these were later reduced to seven and 'applied to the degrees of the scale.

These letters—as the Greek letters had also been —were placed in a straight line above the syl lables of the words. Althong,h in themselves sufficiently definite, the letters did not present to the eve the rising or falling of the melody, as does our modern notation. This need gave rise. in the eighth century. to a series of dots, hooks, curves. and peculiar figures which were placed above the syllables of the text at distances pro portionate to the musical pitch of the note. These characters are known as (See NErmEs.) From a combination of the signs of these Neumes and the alphabetical notation arose our modern system. But its progress was slow, and the complex system of measurable music (q.v.) had first to outlive itself before the present simpler system was established.