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A term for a feature of Western neumatic notation. Liquescence arises in singing diphthongs and certain consonants to provide for a semi-vocalization of that vowel or consonant as a passing note to the next pitch. It is indicated by special neume shapes in all the regional notations of Western chant. Mocquereau listed the following situations where liquescence occurs: on the consonants l, m, n, r, d, t and s, when these are succeeded by another consonant; on the double consonant gn; on i and j, when these follow another consonant; on m and g, when these have a vowel on either side; and on the diphthongs au, ei and eu. Liquescent neumes include the following, in which it is understood that the last note of each neume is semi-vocalized: the Epiphonus, two notes in ascending order, the liquescent podatus (see Pes); the Cephalicus, two notes in descending order, the liquescent ...



Matthias Thiemel

The prominence given to a note or notes in performance by a perceptible alteration (usually increase) in volume (‘dynamic accent’); a lengthening of duration or a brief preceding silence of articulation (‘agogic accent’); an added ornament or pitch inflection of a melodic note (‘pitch accent’); or by any combination of these. The term is also used for any of the notational signs used to indicate that such prominence is required. On instruments capable of immediate dynamic nuance, including the voice and most strings, wind and percussion, an increase of volume is usually the chief element in this prominence, commonly at the start (with a more assertive effect), but alternatively just after the start (with a more insinuating effect, for which one specific term is Sforzando). On instruments not capable of much if any dynamic nuance, such as the harpsichord and the organ, prominence of this type can be given, and an effect of dynamic accentuation simulated, by agogic accents. In principle, any quality that distinguishes notes from their predecessors and successors can produce a ‘subjective’ or ‘perceptible’ accent....


Edith Gerson-Kiwi

revised by David Hiley

(from Gk. cheir: ‘hand’)

The doctrine of hand signs: a form of conducting whereby the leading musician indicates melodic curves and ornaments by means of a system of spatial signs.

The practice of cheironomy can be detected in several basic forms:

(i) as hand movements made in the air to guide a musical performance;

(ii) as the transformation of these into a neumatic notation: many of the written symbols are recognizable as stylized graphs of the outlines of such movements;

(iii) as the conversion of the conducting hand into a kind of reading-board (such as the Guidonian Hand: see Solmization, §I) by using the single ends and joints of the fingers as the sites of pitches. In the Western medieval system these pitches were presented as isolated notes of a measured acoustical ratio, in contrast to the fluctuating intonation of the singing voice. Moreover, these exact and instrumentally conceived pitches by then formed part of a modal unit such as the ...


Thurston Dart

revised by John Morehen and Richard Rastall

(Fr. tablature; Ger. Tabulatur; It. intavolatura)

A score in which the voice-parts are ‘tabulated’ or written so that the eye can encompass them. In practice, scores in staff notation with one voice-part per staff are not usually called tablatures unless they are for a solo keyboard instrument (see §2(v) below). The term is more often used for a condensed score in which two or more voice-parts are written or printed on a single staff or comparable area of the page, although when this consists entirely of staff notation it is more often called ‘keyboard score’ or (for concerted music) ‘short score’. The common use of the term ‘tablature’ therefore excludes these; the following article thus discusses any notational system of the last 700 years that uses letters, numbers or other signs as an alternative to conventional staff notation. Such systems were chiefly used for instrumental music; dance tablatures are beyond the scope of this article. For a discussion of tablature in its historical context, ...


David Hiley

(from Lat. clavis: ‘key’)

In Western notation the sign placed at the beginning of a staff to denote the pitch of one of its lines, and hence of the other lines. Apart from instances in theoretical writings of the late 9th century, clefs were first systematically used in functional liturgical manuscripts of the 11th century, where they take the form of simple letters. F and c clefs were always the most widely used, the letters soon becoming formalized to take on their early shapes as ‘clefs’. The g clef became increasingly common in the 15th century, when the range of part-writing expanded upwards. With the general adoption of F (for the left hand) and g(for the right) clefs for keyboard music at the end of the 18th century, the c clef became less common. The F and g clefs came to be known as the ‘bass clef’ and ‘treble clef’ respectively.

For the sake of clarity, ...


Andrew Hughes and Edith Gerson-Kiwi

[solfatio, solmifatio]

The use of syllables in association with pitches as a mnemonic device for indicating melodic intervals. Such syllables are, musically speaking, arbitrary in their selection, but are put into a conventionalized order (such as kung–shang–chiao–chueh–yü; ding–dong–dèng–dung–dang; ut–re–mi–fa–sol–la).

Many systems of this sort exist in the principal musical cultures of the world; they serve as aids in the oral transmission of music, and may be used either for direct teaching or as a means of memorizing what has been heard. A solmization system is not a notation: it is a method of aural rather than visual recognition (see Notation, §I, 2, and Tonic Sol-fa).

Andrew Hughes

In the West, the practice of solmization was known in classical antiquity (see §II below), but that system was apparently not transmitted to the Latin Middle Ages. The earliest similar system to appear in medieval theory was that involving the noeagis type of formula, first used about the 9th century, which seems to indicate the precise psalm ...


David Charlton and Kathryn Whitney

(Fr. partition; Ger. Partitur; It. partitura)

The use of the word score (Old Norse skor; Old Eng. scoru: ‘incision’) derives from the act of marking vertical lines through one or more staves of music to form bars. This process was originally described, in Latin, as partire or cancellare, whence came the term partitura cancellata (abbreviated partitura), a score divided into compartments (cancelli). Morley (A Plaine and Easie Introduction, 1597/R) used ‘partition’ for the sections in score.

The noun ‘score’ means: (a) a form of manuscript or printed music in which the staves, linked by bar-lines, are written above one another, in order to represent the musical coordination visually (see §3(vi) below); (b) a page, volume, fascicle or other artefact containing a complete copy of a musical work; and (c) by extension, a piece of music customarily written ‘in score’, i.e. in the form of a score as defined under (...


David Fallows

(from Gk. metron: ‘a measure’ and nomos: ‘law’; Fr. métronome; Ger. Metronom, Taktmesser; It. metronomo)

An apparatus for establishing musical tempo. More specifically, it is the clockwork-driven double-pendulum device perhaps invented about 1812 by Diederich Nikolaus Winkel but refined and patented by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel in 1815. The name seems to have entered the English and French languages specifically on Maelzel’s patents filed in London and Paris; and there is no apparent evidence of its earlier use in any European language.

Traditionally the metronome has had two main purposes, which should be considered quite separately.

Nearly all the main developments have been driven by the need for composers and editors to fix the tempo they considered appropriate for a particular work (but see Tempo and expression marks, §4). This began to seem necessary for the first time in the late 17th century, when the music of different nationalities evolved markedly different styles and performance conventions but was internationally available. Thus Etienne Loulié (1696...


David Fallows

Words and other instructions in musical scores used to define the speed and specify the manner of performance.

Tempo and expression marks may be the most consistently ignored components of a musical score. Musicians who know the key, pitch, phrasing and perhaps even the first page or so of the precise scoring of the Figaro overture, for instance, are rarely able to name the tempo and opening dynamic of this most popular of all scores. (In fact Mozart himself got it wrong in his Verzeichnüss, putting Allegro assai for Presto.) That is partly because only the notes are objective facts, but also because musicians tend to look first at the music, only later checking the markings to see whether they agree with initial impressions; the markings without the music say very little. By a bizarre paradox, concert programmes and radio announcements often give the tempo mark as the only information about a particular movement; but that odd convention is really just a means of orientation, guiding the listener as to which sections are faster than others. For the present purposes it should perhaps be taken as axiomatic that staff notation is relatively precise for what it is equipped to express whereas verbal or implicitly verbal instructions are employed for the dimensions that cannot be expressed in such simple and unambiguous form. To distinguish between correct and incorrect performance of pitches and rhythms is a relatively simple matter whereas tempo and expression are far more subjective....



David Hiley

In Western notation a vertical line drawn through the staff to mark off metrical units. Hence also the metrical unit thus indicated, which in American usage is called ‘measure’. English usage often relies on context alone to make the distinction clear (e.g. ‘up to the double bar’, ‘the end of the bar’), but ‘bar-line’ is also common.

Vertical lines were occasionally used in early polyphonic music, written in score to help align the voices and text (e.g. GB-Lbl 36881; Cu Ff.1.17; the Codex Calixtinus, E-SC ; facs. of E-SC f.187v in Besseler and Gülke). But most of the ‘classical’ repertories of the 13th (Notre Dame or Parisian, Ars Antiqua), 14th (Ars Nova, Ars Subtilior etc.), 15th and 16th centuries, though written in regular metres, did not use bars. Only the earliest of these repertories, however, regularly used score notation.

The earliest repertories to employ bar-lines at regular metric intervals – keyboard and lute (vihuela) music – were written in ...


Matthias Thiemel

The intensity of volume with which notes and sounds are expressed. In the 20th century dynamics came to be seen as one of the fundamental parameters of composition which function interdependently to create musical meaning and structure.

Dynamic variation is so natural to the performance of almost all styles of music that its presence can normally be assumed even when indications for it are mainly or even entirely absent from the notation. That dynamic transitions occurred in the music of ancient Greece is suggested by Plutarch’s accounts, and it is likely that the monophonic hymns of the 1st century ce displayed nuances of volume illustrating their meaning or imitating the tone of speech. Medieval musicians had no word for ‘dynamics’ per se, but it is implicit in the concepts of structura and processus. By the early Renaissance period dynamic values were reflected in changes in the number of voices and their registers. In Josquin’s ...


Margaret Bent and Alexander Silbiger

[musica falsa](Lat.: ‘false, feigned or contrived music’ synonymous with falsa mutatio, coniuncta )

These terms were used by theorists from the late 12th century to the 16th, at first in opposition to musica recta or musica vera, to designate ‘feigned’ extensions of the hexachord system contained in the so-called Guidonian hand. Most scholars accept that notated polyphony of this period required performers to interpret under-prescriptive notation in accordance with their training (by contrapuntal and melodic criteria about which scholars disagree), ensuring the perfection of consonances, and approaching cadences correctly. These requirements could often be met within the rectasystem, but musica ficta was used ‘where necessary’ – in modern terms only, by ‘adding accidentals’; in medieval terms, by ‘operating musica ficta’.

In modern usage, the term musica ficta is often loosely applied to all unnotated inflections inferred from the context, for editorial or ‘performers'’ accidentals rather than notated ones (whether properly recta or ficta). Editors usually place accidentals that they have supplied, on behalf of performers, above the affected note or in brackets or small type, to distinguish them from those having manuscript authority. (On the placing of editorial accidentals, see especially Anglès, ...


Ian D. Bent, David W. Hughes, Robert C. Provine, Richard Rastall, Anne Kilmer, David Hiley, Janka Szendrei, Thomas B. Payne, Margaret Bent and Geoffrey Chew

A visual analogue of musical sound, either as a record of sound heard or imagined, or as a set of visual instructions for performers.

This article includes a discussion of notation in society (§II), subdivided into its primary types, which are considered with reference to various notational systems. Other specialized aspects of notation are considered in separate entries: Braille notation; Cheironomy; Ekphonetic notation; Pitch nomenclature; Shape-note hymnody; Solmization; Tablature; and Tonic Sol-fa. For non-Western notational systems see, in particular, China, People’s Republic of, §II, China, People’s Republic of, §IV; Indonesia; and Japan, §III, 4. Other related entries on technical subjects include Conducting; Improvisation; Mode; Psychology of music; Scale; and Tuning.

Whereas Western notation is considered as such in §III, a discussion of musical documents as sources – their physical make-up and production, their format, the layout and presentation of the music, the ordering of their contents – will be found in ...