The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900-1600

The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900-1600

The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900-1600

The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900-1600

Excerpt

A book on musical notation, especially the first one to appear in the United States of America, can hardly have a more appropriate introduction than the following passage from Waldo S. Pratt article 'On Behalf of Musicology,' which appeared in the first volume of The Musical Quarterly, in 1915:

It is true that only those with exceptional training, peculiar access to materials, and leisure for long and hard labor can hope to discover. and publish that which is new to the scientific world. But a humbler type of 'original research' is possible for all, that which discovers to the student what he knew only from the authorities. Every such effort toughens the muscles of the reasoning faculties, and helps to set us free from the bondage to mere tradition and the idolatry of mere authority, which debilitates the mind like insidious poison.

These words serve as an eloquent expression of the raison d'btre of a book whose aim is 'to set us free from the bondage to mere tradition,' which hopes to enable the student to 'discover what he knew only from the authorities,' and which is designed to prepare him for 'original research' in the field of early music.

Twenty years have elapsed since Johannes Wolf published the first and, to the present day, the only complete study on musical notation. The extraordinary merits of this book do not need to be emphasized here, since they are known to every student of musicology. It suffices to say that a score of years has by no means outdated it or rendered it useless. Today it is still an excellent example of what it was meant to be, namely, a 'Handbuch der Notationskunde' or, in other words, a work in which the entire field of musical notation from the earliest periods to the present day is treated. So broad a scope necessarily involves the inclusion of much material of infrequent occurrence and of subordinate importance; and on the other hand, a rather cursory treatment of material which, from the student's point of view, is certainly deserving of more thorough discussion. The unavoidable shortcomings of so comprehensive a plan as is carried out in the Handbuch, together with the natural progress in musicological research made during the last twenty years, constitute the point of departure of the present book, and indicate its position in the literature on the subject' it deals exclusively and thoroughly with those . . .

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