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date: 18 August 2019


  • Matthias Thiemel


The use of Periodicals, in musical performance, real or imagined. The term may refer to particular notes or chords, or more comprehensively to an entire performance; in the modern Western tradition, accentuation, together with phrasing, articulation, dynamics etc. contributes to ‘expression’, and in vocal settings since the 16th century at least this has often been taken to imply a responsibility of conforming expressively to the spoken accentuation of the text.

Over the centuries composers and theorists have offered more or less precise guidelines for accentuation. Some 13th-century writers (Anonymus 4, Franco of Cologne, Odington and Lambertus) stated that singers should moderate dissonances occurring at points of emphasis or at the beginnings of compositions. Keyboard composers up to the early 18th century advocated the use of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ fingers on ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ beats. In general, however, polyphonic music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods is characterized by freedom in the accentuation implied by the separate parts: Rousseau observed that ‘there are as many accents as there are modifications of the voice; and there are as many kinds of accent as there are differences between such modifications’ (...

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