The Notation of Medieval Music

The Notation of Medieval Music

The Notation of Medieval Music

The Notation of Medieval Music

Excerpt

When Carl Parrish’s The Notation of Medieval Music went out of print a few years ago, students were deprived of an indispensable pedagogical tool; it is gratifying indeed to see it reappear so soon.

Those responsible for its republication were faced with the sensitive question of revision: surely two decades of intense activity in virtually every phase of medieval notation had rendered the book out of date. But precisely how to revise it? A moment’s reflection should convince one of the inadequacy of patchwork such as expanding the bibliography, replacing a few of the plates, and rewriting the least acceptable portions of the text, for example, those pages on chant where Parrish seemed too grateful toward his erstwhile Solesmes hosts. Any such approach would labor under a twofold disadvantage: on the one hand its changes would be insufficient to please anybody, and on the other it would serve to destroy the integrity of the finely-crafted original. To put it in another way, the publishers of this edition had but two worthy alternatives: a revision so thorough that it would be in effect a new book and a reedition of the original virtually without change.

The former of these alternatives is indeed worthy, but is it practical? It would require one of our best paleographers to take several years from his personal research to produce not just a text—the time has passed for that—but a genuine history of medieval notation. Much of it would represent a synthesis of existing material, but much of it would have to be original scholarship, at times tenta-

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