A twentieth-century composer uses notation in accordance with the conventions of his own time, and there is therefore little chance that a twentieth-century performer will misunderstand him. A composer of the eighteenth or the sixteenth or the fourteenth century also used notation in accordance with the conventions of his own time, but there is therefore every chance in the world that a twentieth-century performer will entirely misrepresent his music through an inadequate knowledge of these conventions, for the most part long obsolete and forgotten. In a word, when a modern performer looks at a piece of early music he must not take for granted the significance of any of the symbols he sees.
(Dart 1967 : 13)
As I explained in previous chapters, some musical works are not for performance and others, which are for performance, are transmitted via instances that function as models, rather than via notations. Nevertheless, a majority of musical pieces are for performance and many of these are transmitted via musical notations. In this chapter I consider the nature of musical notations, distinguishing various types in terms of their primary functions. Following the common practice, I call notations with the main purpose of prescribing works 'scores'. Not all musical notations are scores, however. For instance, some describe musical works, performances, or styles and are notational transcriptions, while others serve as mnemonics. At the level of inscription, there may be nothing to distinguish a score from a mnemonic or a notational transcription. The primary function of a notation is not always apparent on its face, and a notation with one function might sometimes be employed for another. For example, a score might be used for analysis rather than performance. As well as elaborating the distinctions just introduced, I examine the theory of notations developed by Nelson Goodman.