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Music Notation

Page history last edited by Kate M. Fisher 11 years, 10 months ago




     Musical notation is defined as, a visual analogue of musical sound, either as a record of sound heard or imagined, or as a set of visual instructions for performers.[2]

      There are two main motivations behind the use of notation: the need for a memory aid and the need to communicate. [2] As for use in memory, it assists the performer in music that he may know well but not in it's full entirety, it can be a guide or outline,in a sense, for improvisation. Music notation allows a performer to have a much larger repetoire than he would have without the notation system. As a means of communication, it preserves music over a long period of time; it facilitates performance by those not in contact with the composer; it makes possible a complexity of interaction between large numbers of performers that could not be achieved by aural means; it euips the conductor with a set of spatial symbols by which to obtain certain responses during performanc; it presents music as a 'text' for study and analysis, and offers the student the mans of bringing it to life in his minds when no performance is possible; and it serves the theoriest as a medium by which to demonstrate musical or acoustical law. [2] 



A form of music instruction was first recognized in the heiroglyphic writings of the early Egytians.  Heiroglyphic writing can be defined as a "mixture of ideographs (pictures representing not merely the objects depicted but also ideas associated with those objects) and phonetic symbols, which survived to about AD 400."[2] It is in early temple and tomb carvings that these pictures show a variety of music-making scenes in which the system being used involve hand, arm, and finger signs.  This system is called Cheironomy. The instructor uses had signs to inform the performers of musical details such as melody and rhythm. This form was also possibly used in India, Isreal, and in Roman chant.


It was the developed of the alphabet system that led to music notation as we know it. "By 2700 Egyptian writing had a set of some 22 hieroglyphs[3] to represent syllables that begin with a single consonant of their language, plus a vowel (or no vowel) to be supplied by the native speaker." (Wikipedia) It was the older of the Greek music notation systems, called 'instrumental' notation, that first adopted the use of the muxture of Greek letters and archaic signs to represent a continuous diatonic series of notes over three octaves. This notation must have come into existence some time before 500 BC, whereas the 'vocal' notation, using the Ionice alphabet developed later. [2] The following picture is an example of ancient music notation.                                                                                               



































[1]Bond, Mark Evans. A History of Music in Western Culture. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003


[2]"Notation." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 6th ed. 1980.


[3]Raeburn, Michael, and Alan Kendall, eds. Classical Music and its Origins. Vol. 1. Heritage of Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.


[4]Seaton, Douglass. Ideas and Styles in the Western Musical Tradition. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc, 2007.




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