Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/483

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NOTATION.
471
 

not appear to have been an original one; but, rather, a compendium of the praxis in general use at the time in which he wrote: nevertheless, it is certain that we owe to him our first knowledge of the Time-Table. He it is, who first introduces to us the now familiar forms of the Large—described under the name of the Double Long—the Long, the Breve, and the Semibreve. The relationship of these new characters to preexistent Neumæ is plainly shewn by their outward form, the Large (Longa note.PNG) and the Long (Longa.png) being self-evident developments of the Virga, ((Symbol missingsymbol characters)), while the Breve (Black mensural brevis.svg) and the Semibreve ((Symbol missingsymbol characters) or Black mensural semibrevis.svg) are equally recognisable as the offspring of the Punctus (Punctum.Handschrift.gif). Franco makes each of the longer Notes equal, when Perfect, to two [App. p.732 "three"] Notes of the next lesser denomination; when Imperfect, to two only—the term Perfect being applied to the number Three, in honour of the Ever Blessed Trinity.[1] The Long was always Perfect, when followed by another Long, and the Breve, when followed by another Breve; but a Long preceded or followed by a Breve, or a Breve by a Semibreve, became, by Position, Imperfect. This simple rule was of immense importance; for it resulted in enabling the Composer to write in Triple or Duple Rhythm at will. The Semibreve, so long as it remained the shortest note in the series, was, of course, indivisible. But, after the invention of the Minim—either by Philippus de Vitriaco in the 13th century, or Joannes de Muris in the 14th—the Semibreve was also used, both in the Perfect and the Imperfect form; being equal, in the one case, to three, and, in the other, to two Minims. The Introduction of the Minim prepared the way for that of the Greater Semiminim, now known as the Crotchet; the Lesser Semiminim, afterwards called the Croma or Fusa, and in English the Quaver; and the Semicroma or Semifusa, answering to the modern Semiquaver. These three notes, like the Minim, were always Imperfect; and, for many centuries, they were used only after the manner of embellishments.

Originally, the notes of Measured Chaunt were entirely black: but, after a time, red notes were intermixed with them, on condition—as Morley tells us—of losing one-fourth of their value. They do not, however, appear to have remained very long in use, or to have been, at any time, extensively employed. About the year 1370 both the black and red forms fell gradually into disuse; their place being supplied by white notes, with square or lozenge-shaped heads, which seem to have made their earliest appearance in France, though they were first brought into general notice by the leaders of the great Flemish School. The figures of these notes, and their corresponding rests, given in one of the earliest works on Music ever issued from the press—the 'Practica musicæ' of Franchinus Gafurius, printed at Milan, in 1496—differed little from the forms retained in use until the close of the 16th century.

Large. Long. Breve. Minim. <%? ^gor . miuim - Croma.

Perfect Large Rest. Imperfect Perfect Large Long Rest. Rest. Imperfect Long Rest. Breve Rest. Semibreve Rest.

Minim Rest, or Suspirium. Greater Semiminim Rest, or Semisuspirium. Croma Rest. Semicroma Rest.


White-headed notes were always written upon a Stave of Five Lines. Traces of this Stave are found, as early as the beginning of the 13th century, in a MS. Tract, 'De speculatione musices,' by Walter Odington, a Monk of Evesham in Worcestershire, whose work, now preserved at Cambridge, is only second in value to that of Franco; but it does not seem to have been universally recognised until after the invention of printing. A few square black notes were occasionally interspersed among the white ones, on conditions analogous to those attached to the employment of red notes among black ones at an earlier epoch—the loss of a third of their value when Perfect, and a fourth when Imperfect. We shall find it necessary to describe the office of these black notes more particularly, when speaking of the Points of Augmentation, Division, and Alteration. The lesser Semiminim, Croma, and Semicroma always remained black.

Apart from the modifications producible by Position, the Rhythm of Measured Music was regulated by the three-fold mechanism of Mode, Time, and Prolation; three distinct systems, each of which might be used, either alone, or in combination with one or both of the others; each being distinguished by its own special Time-Signature. [See Mode, Time, Prolation, Time-Signature.]

Mode governed the proportion between the Large and the Long, and the Long and the Breve; and was of two kinds—the Greater, and the Lesser; each of which might be either Perfect or Imperfect. In the Greater Mode Perfect, the Large was equal to three Longs; in the Greater Mode Imperfect, it was equal to two only. In the Lesser Mode Perfect, the Long was equal to two Breves; in the Lesser Mode Imperfect, it was equal to two. The Modal Signs by which these varieties were indicated differed considerably at different periods; but the following were the forms most frequently employed:—

Great Mode Perfect. Great Mode Imperfect.

Lesser Mode Perfect. Lesser Mode Imperfect.


Time regulated the proportion between the

  1. 'Quod a summa Trinitate, quæ vera est et summa perfectio, nomen assumsit.' (Franco, 'Musica et cantus mensurabilis,' cap. iv.)