Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/484

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Breve and the Semibreve; and was of two kinds, Perfect and Imperfect. In Perfect Time, the Breve was equal to three Semibreves; in Imperfect Time, to two only. The following example shews the Time - Signatures most frequently used:—

Perfect Time; or, thus; or, thus.

Imperfect Time; or, thus; or, thus.

Prolation concerned the proportion between the Semibreve and the Minim; and was also of two kinds, the Greater and the Lesser—or, as Morley calls them, 'the More and the Lesse.' In the Greater Prolation, the Semibreve was equal to three Minims; in the Lesser, to two.

The Greater Prolation; or, thus; or, thus.

The Lesser Prolation; or, thus; or, thus.

The general principle observed in the formation of these Time-Signatures is, that the Rests shew the proportion between the Large, the Long, and the Breve; the Circle, the figure 3, and the Point, are signs of Perfection; the Semicircle, and the figure 2, denote Imperfection; while the Bar drawn through the Circle, or Semicircle, indicates Diminution of the value of the notes, to the extent of one-half, as does also the inversion of the figures, thus (Symbol missingsymbol characters). In a few rare cases, a double Diminution, to the extent of one fourth, was denoted by a double Bar drawn through the Circle, or Semicircle, thus (Symbol missingsymbol characters). These rules, however, though applicable to most cases, were open to so many exceptions, that Ornithoparcus, writing in 1517, and Morley, in 1597, roundly abuse their uncertainty. In very early times, the three rhythmic systems were combined in proportions far more complex than any of the Compound Common or Triple Times of modern Music. In Canons, and other learned Compositions, two or more Time-Signatures were frequently placed at the beginning of the same Stave. In a portion of the Credo of Hobrecht's Missa 'Je ne demande' we find as many as five:—

These complications were much affected by Josquin des Prés, and the early Composers of the Flemish School; but, in the latter half of the 16th century—the so-called 'Golden Age'—the only combinations remaining in general use were, Perfect Time, with the Lesser Prolation ((Symbol missingsymbol characters) 3, or (Symbol missingsymbol characters)); Imperfect Time, with the Lesser Prolation ((Symbol missingsymbol characters)); the Greater Prolation alone ((Symbol missingsymbol characters)); and the Lesser Prolation ({{missing symbol) answering, respectively, to the {(missing symbol}}, Alla Breve, (Symbol missingsymbol characters), and Common Time, of our present system. [See Proportion.]

The Perfection and Imperfection of the longer notes, and the duration of the shorter ones, was also materially affected by the addition of Points, of which several different kinds were, in use, all similar in form ((Symbol missingsymbol characters)), but differing in effect, according to the position in which they were placed.

The Point of Augmentation was the exact equivalent of the modern Dot—that is to say, it increased the length of the note to which it was attached, by one half. It could only be used with notes naturally Imperfect; and was necessarily followed by a shorter note, to complete the beat.

Sometimes, the place of this sign was supplied by two black notes; the first of which, losing one fourth of its value by virtue of its colour, represented the note with the Point, while a shorter black note completed the beat. Passages are constantly written in both ways, in the same compositions.

Written; or thus. Sung.

Written; or thus; more rarely. Sung.

The Point of Perfection was used for two different purposes. When placed in the centre of a Circle, or Semicircle, it indicated either Perfect Time, or the Greater Prolation. When placed after a note, Perfect by virtue of the Time-Signature, but made Imperfect by Position (see page 471), it restored its Perfection. In this case, the Point itself served to complete the triple beat; in which particular alone it differed from the Point of Augmentation. Thus, the second Semibreve in the following example, being succeeded by a Minim, would become Imperfect by Position, were it not followed by a Point of Perfection. The third Semibreve, being preceded by a Minim, really does become Imperfect; while the first and last Semibreves remain Perfect, by virtue of the Time-Signature.

Written. Sung.

The Point of Alteration, or, as it was sometimes called, the Point of Duplication, was less simple in its action. When used, in Ternary Rhythm, before the first of two short notes placed between two long ones, it doubled the length of the second short note, and restored the Perfection of the two long ones, which would otherwise have become Imperfect by Position. In order to distinguish this sign from the Point of Augmentation, the best typographers usually placed it above the general level of the notes to which it belonged—a precaution the neglect of which causes much trouble to modern readers.

Written. Sung.