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date: 19 October 2019

Tempo(i) (It.: ‘time’; Fr. mouvement; Ger. Zeitmass)locked

  • Justin London

Extract

(It.: ‘time’; Fr. mouvement; Ger. Zeitmass)

Literally, the ‘time’ of a musical composition, but more commonly used to describe musical speed or pacing. Tempo may be indicated in a variety of ways. Most familiar are metronomic designations that link a particular durational unit (usually the beat unit of the notated metre) with a particular duration in clock time (e.g. crotchet = 80 beats/minute). Also familiar are conventionalized descriptions of speed and gestural character – andante, allegro, langsam etc; (see Tempo and expression marks). There are also looser associations between metric notations and tempo, a vestige of earlier mensural practice, where, for example, 3/2 is sign of relatively slow tempo, 3/4 of moderate tempo and 3/8 of relatively quick tempo. Similarly, we retain a sense of the distinction between the half-circle 𝄴 (common time) and the crossed half-circle 𝄵 (alla breve), with the latter theoretically twice as fast (see Alla breve, Notation, and ...

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