A Brief Introduction
‘The notation is more important than the sound. Not the exactitude and success withwhich a notation notates a sound; but the musicalness of the notation in its notating.’
.Musical notation may be defined as ‘a visual analogue of musical sound, either as arecord of sound heard or imagined, or as a set of visual instructions for performers’.
Notation functioning in the first capacity, as a record of sound heard, for example as aresult of an ethnomusicologist’s transcription into western notation of a folk song,will not be dealt with in this study. This study will concentrate on the latter twofunctions as defined above: notation in its capacity as an analogue of imagined sound(as imagined by a composer), and notation in its capacity as a set of visual instructionsfor performers.Through the ages of the development of Western art music and the concurrentdevelopment of its notation, examples of notation have presented themselves whichseem to raise questions which extend far beyond the sphere of the nature of notationitself. Issues relating to the composer-performer relationship, the nature of a work,determinacy and indeterminacy, and the psychology of both performance andreception are raised by these notational peculiarities. In order to attempt anunderstanding and explanation of the notational pecularities found in the chosenexamples (naturally an exhaustive review is not possible here), it will be necessary toconsider them within the context in which they originally appeared. Examples will bedrawn with particular reference to keyboard literature. Seemingly impossiblenotational requests as regards the limitations of the instrument will be considered,alongside possible methods of realisation and the issues raised by these methods, suchas the use of physical gesture as an expressive device. Renaissance vocal music will
Ian D. Bent et al, ‘Notation’ in Stanley Sadie ed.,
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Vol. 18
(London: Macmillan 2001), p. 73.2