History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (2023)

History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (1)Musical notation has been invented and re-invented several times, and has since gone through a rapid and accelerating process of evolution. From basic indications of a simple song line going higher and lower, the complexity of musical notation has grown so that it can now specify in detail all the music for a 100-strong symphony orchestra and chorus. In this article we look at some of the key stages in that evolution, from hand-written notation, through printing processes, specialist types of notation and the impact on music notation of electronic devices and computers. Using specialist score-editing software programmes, that same orchesteral musical score can now be quickly changed, edited, reformatted, split into multiple parts and printed with relative ease.

The Earliest Music and Musical Notation

We know that music has been part of human culture for many years, and was probably part of the cultural explosion which took place in Europe between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago, though early people had undoubtedly experimented with natural sounds prior to this. Although ancient wooden artifacts tend to rot and decay over time, instruments made of bone last longer. Two simple flutes dated to 42,000 to 43,000 years ago were discovered in Germany. One was made from a bird's bone and another from mammoth ivory. It is safe to assume that the techniques of making instruments and playing music were passed via an oral tradition for many thousands of years, by people copying and sharing musical ideas across the generations. However without recording techniques or any form of musical notation, we have no idea what the music of these early periods sounded like.

History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (3)Many artistic relics from the world's great civilisations include depictions of music making, and it is clear that music was a normal part of life for the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and other people. The Greek mathematician Pythagoras studied certain aspects of music theory, particularly the mathematical nature of harmony and musical scales. He knew for example that the pitch of a note from a vibrating string was related to its length, and that simple ratios of length gave rise to harmonious notes (e.g. if you halve the length of a string, its note sounds an octave higher). These early Societies (e.g. Babylonians and Egyptians) used various forms of musical notation, such as indications about using particular strings on a lyre and how the lyres were tuned.

However our knowledge of these is based on surviving fragments and is therefore incomplete. The earliest known example of a complete notated musical composition (a song complete with lyrics) used a method of notation developed by the ancient Greeks. This piece of music is called the Seikilos Epitaph, it is carved on a tombstone in Turkey, and it most probably dates from the 1st century AD. The Byzantine Empire, which grew from the Roman Empire with a new base at Constantinople, developed the equivalent of the Western "sol-fa" scale and a form of notation based on pitches being higher or lower than the previous one. The alternative to the "sol-fa" method of indicating the notes of a scale, is the letter system used today with notes represented by the letters A to G. This means of representing notes seems to have had its origin in "Boethian notation" developed by a Roman philosopher called Boethius in the 6th century AD.

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The method used in the Seikilos Epitaph of adding musical symbols above the lyrics of a poem (see the enlargement of the engraving by clicking on the image above) is an early form of what is called "Neume Notation". A set of (bawdy and satirical) poems known as "Carmina Burana" from the 11th and 12th centuries used this form of Neume Notation for a portion of the poems. The manuscripts were discovered in a Bavarian monastery in 1803, and much later in 1935-36 some of these poems were set to music by the composer Carl Orff in a style reflecting their medieval origin.

Early Musical Notation and the Church

The early development of Western musical notation arose in the hands of the Church in various parts of Europe including Spain and Italy. Many of the earliest music notations were for choral music, with the notes being typically indicated above the word or syllable of the text being sung. The church music of this period is known as "Plainchant" or "Gregorian chant" named after Gregory the Great who was Pope from 590 until his death in 604 AD. However, exact pitches were still not specified at this time, only whether notes should be higher or lower than the previous one. This problem was fixed by introducing horizontal lines to the music notation, firstly a single line but before long all Plainchant was notated in churches and monasteries using a system based on a stave of 4 horizontal lines.

The stave of 4 lines is usually attributed to an Italian Benedictine Monk called Guido of Arezzo (approx. 991-1033). In "Micrologus" a treatise on music notation, he also used the initial letters of a hymn to define musical pitches. These letters were ut, re mi, fa, sol, la. In most countries "Ut" became "Do" and centuries later with the addition of "ti" the system came to be called the sol-fa notation which was taught in many schools. When Gregorian Chant became more complex, its notation followed suit. The French composer Pérotin (approx. 1200 AD) helped to develop early polyphony. See his "Alleluia Nativitas" at the right which has 3 parts, the top 2 parts using 5-line staves. The next major invention was a means to indicate rhythm, and various rhythmic indications were introduced from about the 13th century. The power of musical notation is now obvious because, with a little knowledge, it becomes possible to create a repeatable musical work. Indeed we can recreate the church music of this period and know what it sounds like. Examples of Gregorian Chant on mfiles include the Dies Irae and the Pange Lingua though recreated using modern notation.

Notation for Non-religious Music

Of course music continued to evolve outside of the church, though in most cases this continued via an oral tradition. Only educated people could read and write in any case, and the process of writing down music was both expensive and laborious (using quills and rare paper) especially if multiple copies were required. Even those brief times when secular music was written down in notation form (e.g. the song Sumer Is Icumen In, click the image to enlarge to full size) this was done by the church, possibly as part of its engagement with local communities or a particular study of folk music. Perhaps the expense of paper and hand-written notation also resulted in additional forms of notation which economised on space, e.g. instructions to repeat sections or to go back to the beginning. Thus, developments in notation in certain cases paralleled the evolution of musical forms.

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Another preserved manuscript containing many examples of secular music is a medieval Tuscan book thought to date from the late 14th or early 15th century. This book has more than 100 examples of music manuscripts and is currently held in the British Library and catalogued as "Add MS 29987" which you can view online in the Library's website. There are 3 examples of a type of dance called a "Saltarello" (due to its jumping or hopping nature), and the 2nd Saltarello has achieved a certain popularity and can be seen in the accompanying image or at the Library website at page Page f.62v. In modern notation you can find this on mfiles as the original melody Saltarello 2 and in a simple arrangement Saltarello 2 arranged.

A number of further developments then led to what we would regard as modern musical notation. Four horizontal lines became the five used by most staves currently. Clefs were used to indicated the range of pitches shown on a stave, and sharps and flats and key signatures were used to specify the pitches used by a section of music or for individual notes. Two common clefs are the treble or G-clef and the bass or F-clef. A pair of treble and bass clefs together were used to notate keyboard music, and musical notation was used not just for choral music but also for instrumental music. Much early keyboard music was for an early keyboard instrument called a virginal (similar to a harpsichord), and many collections of hand-written virginal music are held today in museums in Europe and beyond. One of these collections is the "Fitzwilliam Virginal Book" (which includes the dance Sellenger's Round arranged by William Byrd). Another interesting collection for folk music historians is called the Skene Manuscript which mostly consists of melodies with some bass notes, and this includes the song Flowers of the Forest.

Printed Musical Notation

History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (10)Various methods of "printing" have been in use for many centuries. However it was the invention of the printing press using moveable type which allowed for printing on a large scale. This allowed books, news and information to become more readily available and helped to spread ideas more rapidly across the world. It wasn't long before the concepts of printing text were applied to the printing of music, and the first attempts at this were made in the 15th and 16th centuries. In England Elizabeth I granted Thomas Tallis (and William Byrd his pupil at the time) a monopoly to print and publish music, and this resulted in their works becoming widely known. Elsewhere in Europe the development of printed music helped to give composers a degree of independence from their wealthy patrons since they could earn an income from publishing their music.

The printing of music also helped to standardise notation symbols, since there was less room for the inevitable variations that arose from hand-written music. Composers still wrote their music by hand in the first place, and this was then passed to copyists to produce parts for first performances, before later being type-set for printing and wider distribution. In general composers will typically go through many drafts when developing their works, and handwritten manuscripts in museums frequently show an evolution of ideas, with sections of music scored out, and new sections of music or new parts added in. (See the article Manuscripts, Pens and Composers by Jeffrey Dane which has many examples of hand-written scores.) Many composers (such as Beethoven for example) used notebooks to record themes or ideas which might be mulled over for many years before being developed into complete works. However printing facilitates a much wider (and faster) sharing of ideas, and musicians and other composers can learn about the music of others without needing to attend concerts of their works. Widespread availability of printed music also allows music to be studied and analysed by students.

History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (12)Different methods of representing music have continued to evolve. Some of these alternative or supporting methods are used for particular instruments. For example, it is quite common to see little pictograms used for recorders and other wind instruments to show which holes on the instrument should be covered (or partially covered) to play a particular note. Similarly many percussion instruments do not produce notes of a definite pitch. The notation for such "untuned percussion" may use a different number of lines or just a single line to represent when a note is struck, and a range of different symbols to indicate in more detail how the note should be struck.

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History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (13)The guitar is a very popular instrument today, and alternative forms of notation can be used for its music. The simplist is a list of chord names (with or without chord diagrams) which indicate chords to be strummed, and guitar "Tablature" or Tabs uses numbers on a stave of 6 lines to indicate at which fret particular strings should be stopped. Guitar Tabs have descended from that of an earlier stringed instrument, the Lute. It is curious that guitar tabs look very similar to conventional notation, despite the fact that the lines in their stave have a completely different meaning. Some modern styles of music are so unusual that they need strange new forms of music to define them. In fact some such musical pieces don't use notation at all, but consist of a set of instructions to be followed by the musician or musicians.

History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (14)Despite these alternative forms of notation, standard musical notation remains a cornerstone of Western music education. Musical notation is widely understood, many children have the opportunity to learn an instrument at school and the basics of musical notation. Even people who can't read music still recognise a range of symbols since they are ubiquitous in our culture. Musical notes appear in cartoons and comics coming from the mouths of people or birds when they whistle or sing, and notes, clefs, sharps or flats appear frequently on Christmas cards and decorations, in company logos, on wrapping paper, T-shirts, mugs, pencils and all sorts of objects.

Computers and Electronic Representations of Music

History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (15)Computers have revolutionised the way we do many things, and music is no exception. Just as word processors allow text to be entered, edited and printed, so music notation software (such as Finale or Sibelius used on mfiles) allows music notation to be entered, edited and printed. Indeed the type-setting of music (just like newspapers, magazines and books) is generally done on computers today. Notation software makes many things easier, including the making of corrections in the middle of a piece, the extraction of parts from orchestral scores, the transposition of music between different instruments, changing the key of a piece and many other tasks that continued to be time-consuming even in the world of mass printing facilities. The power of software even allows music to be played using sampled instruments which give a good impression of what it would sound like with real instruments.

History of Music Notation - evolution, printing, specialisation and computers (16)Other types of musical software use different ways to represent the underlying music. One method with a real life analogue is the "piano roll" representation. Piano rolls were originally rolls of stiff paper or card with holes punched in appropriate places to trigger the playing of a note by mechanical means, for example on a "player piano" or other instruments. On a computer screen horizontal lines represent the different notes with the length of the line representing the duration of the note. Another method for representing music in a computer is called MIDI. This stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" and was originally developed (and still used) to allow electronic instruments and devices to exchange information. Midi (and its different extensions) includes an ability to apply different effects to the music, typically electronic effects which were not available when musical notation was developed.

Nevertheless despite all these new developments if you want a musician to play some music, then the musician will generally expect you to use a form of musical notation to represent that music. While music notation has evolved considerably from its early beginnings it looks as though its foreseeable future is secure.

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Music Notation - Interesting examples and videos

Here is a list of the music examples mentioned in this article, all converted to modern sheet music notation:

  • The Seikilos Epitaph - the oldest known complete song with music melody
  • Dies Irae - a Gregorian Chant frequently used by Classical and Film Composers
  • Pange Lingua - another Gregorian Chant
  • Sumer Is Icumen In - an early Folk Song famously used in the film "The Wicker Man"
  • Saltarello 2 - a lively dance tune from Tuscany in Italy
  • Sellenger's Round - an old Irish Dance, as adapted by William Byrd
  • Flowers of the Forest - an old Scottish Melody used in the film "The Piano"

For two of the above examples we have videos comparing the original notation with modern music notation:

Here are some further images and videos which illustrate things mentioned in this article:

  • The Elephant from "Carnival of the Animals" by Camille Saint-Saens - the vertical green line following the music in this screen view of Sibelius playing the music, which is for Double-Bass and Piano
  • Sugar Plum Fairy from "The Nutcracker" by Peter Tchaikovsky - this video illustrates typical orchestral sheet music, the bottom 5 lines show the string sections, the tinkly instrument above that is a celeste, with the horns and different woodwind instruments on the upper half of the screen
  • Toccata and Fugue in Dm by Johann Sebastian Bach - this video illustrates sheet music for the organ (played using Sibelius), with 3 lines for 2 manuals and the pedals
  • Etude in D Op.31 No.3 by Fernando Sor - this scrolling sheet music shows the music being played using Sibelius. The music is notated in 2 different ways, the top line shows standard music notation while the bottom line shows the same music in "guitar tablature" (or "Guitar Tab") format
  • Sample of Percussion Sheet Music - this video (created using Sibelius) briefly illustrates sheet music notation for percussion. The first 4 bars shows how an orchestral snare drum might typically be notated using a stave of 1 line, while the next 4 bars show how a stave of 5 lines might be used to notate some typical music for a drum kit, with closed hi-hats, kick and snare drums, with the final bar consisting of a flourish for toms ending on a crash cymbal
  • Promenade from "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Modest Moussogsky - illustrating a scrolling piano roll view of music
  • Arabesque No.1 by Claude Debussy - the piano roll view of this piece helps to show the many musical patterns used by Debussy in this piece
  • This Pinterest Board shows Sheet Music Notation used artistically on lots of different objects - illustrating just how ubiquitous sheet music notation has become in our society

And here are some further videos on YouTube which show alternative graphical ways to illustrate music:

Author: Jim Paterson

(Video) Who Invented The Musical Notes?

FAQs

How did music notation evolve? ›

The seeds of what would eventually become modern Western notation were sown in medieval Europe, starting with the Christian Church's goal for ecclesiastical uniformity. The church began notating plainchant melodies so that the same chants could be used throughout the church.

How was musical notation invented a brief history? ›

Musical notation in the music of so-called "western" civilization first appeared by the 9th century in the form of little mnemonic markings, called neumes, above the text of the chant that was sung in church by the clergy (see example 1). By the 10th century these markings had become increasing ornate (see example 2).

Who started music notation? ›

Around 1250, Franco of Cologne invented a system of symbols for different note durations, which consisted mostly of square or diamond-shaped black noteheads with no stems. In 1320, Philippe de Vitry built on his idea, creating a system of mensural time signatures for minims, crotchets and semiquavers.

Is music notation still evolving? ›

As far as I know, not many new letters have been added to the alphabet the last couple of hundred years - so language has evolved (and so has music) but even though the notation system has pretty much stayed the same, we are still able to write down, or read, what's going on. And same goes for music.

What is the main purpose of musical notation? ›

Musical notation gives the same information to a musical performer: it tells her what notes to play, how fast or slow to play them, and perhaps instructions about dynamics or timbre. Both the theatrical script and the musical score are, at their core, forms of communication.

What is music notation used for? ›

musical notation, visual record of heard or imagined musical sound, or a set of visual instructions for performance of music. It usually takes written or printed form and is a conscious, comparatively laborious process. Its use is occasioned by one of two motives: as an aid to memory or as communication.

What was the first music notation software? ›

Within a few years, Lejaren Hiller and Leonard Isaacson had programmed the computer to generate music for a string-quartet; and so the Illiac Suite of 1957 has the distinction of being the first example of computer-aided composition.

What is the origin and history of music? ›

Music first arose in the Paleolithic period, though it remains unclear as to whether this was the Middle (300,000 to 50,000 BP) or Upper Paleolithic (50,000 to 12,000 BP). The vast majority of Paleolithic instruments have been found in Europe and date to the Upper Paleolithic.

How do you introduce music notation? ›

Explicitly teaching music notation does not have to be purely theoretical.
...
Explicitly teaching music notation
  1. Begin a whole-class body percussion or bucket drum circle.
  2. Establish a simple beat.
  3. Create call and response rhythms between teacher and students.
  4. Increase rhythmic complexity and include student calling.
31 Mar 2021

Who is father of music? ›

Johann Sebastian Bach
Born21 March 1685 (O.S.) 31 March 1685 (N.S.) Eisenach
Died28 July 1750 (aged 65) Leipzig
WorksList of compositions
Signature
2 more rows

How do you write musical notation? ›

Find that first note on your instrument or piano. Once you are certain that is the right note, write it down. To do this, write the right pitch, right below the rhythm (so write the pitch on the staff, and give it the same rhythm as written above the staff). Do this for all pitches, in sequence.

When did music notation that we can read develop? ›

It's a system devised in — you guessed it — Italy, in the 1500s and 1600s. It was a time when instrumental music was on the rise, and the musicians needed something concrete in front of them to communicate pitch and rhythm.

How many music notation do we have? ›

These 12 notes have typically been used to compose most of the Western music we listen to. The reasons music has landed on these specific notes can be summed up as a convergence of convenience, science and listener preferences.

What is notation example? ›

A system of symbols used to represent special things. Example: In mathematical notation "∞" means "infinity". Mathematics has lots of notation!

Why has music evolved so much? ›

Why Do New Music Genres Appear? The music trends and styles are significantly influenced by history. For example, there were many songs about the people's struggles during World War II. The political and economic situation, revolutions, technological breakthroughs also cause a significant impact on music.

What types of notation are there? ›

A notation may consist of any symbols, letters, figures, or arbitrary signs to represent terms. There are two types of notation: Pure Notation. Mixed Notation.

Why is it important to learn to read and notate music? ›

Being able to read music means you can see and understand the structure of the piece and how it's put together, allowing you to develop a greater understanding of the whole composition.

What are the two types of music notation? ›

The Different Types of Musical Notes

These are your sharps and flats, written right after a note. A flat following a note means the note must be played one semitone lower. On the other hand, a sharp indicates that the note is higher by one semitone. These notes should be easy enough to execute on a keyboard.

What is music notation paper called? ›

Manuscript paper (sometimes staff paper in U.S. English, or just music paper) is paper preprinted with staves ready for musical notation. Manuscript paper is also available for drum notation and guitar tabulature.

What is the common notation in music? ›

Common Music Notation. cmn is a simple little hack that can create and display traditional western music scores. It is available free: cmn tarball. cmn is intended as an adjunct to Heinrich Taube's Common Music and my CLM: it can present a notelist (a bewildering morass of numbers) as a standard score.

Where is music notation placed? ›

Music notes are drawn on the lines and spaces of the staff. The location of the notehead (the dot part of the note) indicates which note to play. If the notehead is on a line for F, the note to be played is F; a notehead on a space for A means to play the note A.

When was the first music software created? ›

The former Bell Labs researcher wrote the first computer-sound generating program, called MUSIC, in 1957. He claims digital music was born that year, when an IBM 704 played a 17-second track he composed with his software. Recording music was no easy task, Mathews told Wired.com in an interview.

What is the history of music? ›

In theory, "music history" could refer to the study of the history of any type or genre of music (e.g., the history of Indian music or the history of rock). In practice, these research topics are often categorized as part of ethnomusicology or cultural studies, whether or not they are ethnographically based.

What is the study of music history? ›

What is musicology? The word musicology literally means "the study of music," encompassing all aspects of music in all cultures and all historical periods.

Why is it important to study history of music? ›

For both performers and listeners, another reason to know the history of music is because it brings music alive and makes it more meaningful. History can be a way of imagining what it must have been like to be a person living in a certain place and time, with experiences in some ways very different from our own.

How are music symbols used in notation? ›

There are symbols to communicate information about many musical elements, including pitch, duration, dynamics, or articulation of musical notes; tempo, metre, form (e.g., whether sections are repeated), and details about specific playing techniques (e.g., which fingers, keys, or pedals are to be used, whether a string ...

What are the 5 lines in music notation called? ›

staff, also spelled stave, in the notation of Western music, five parallel horizontal lines that, with a clef, indicate the pitch of musical notes.

What are the 4 types of notes in music? ›

Written notes

In order of halving duration, they are: double note (breve); whole note (semibreve); half note (minim); quarter note (crotchet); eighth note (quaver); sixteenth note (semiquaver); thirty-second note (demisemiquaver), sixty-fourth note (hemidemisemiquaver), and hundred twenty-eighth note.

Who created all music? ›

AllMusic
AllMusic's logotype and logo since July 2013
Type of siteOnline database for music albums, artists and songs; reviews and biographies
Created byMichael Erlewine
URLallmusic.com
CommercialYes
5 more rows

Who is mother of music? ›

Here is your answer. Violins is the king of musical instruments. you can also call this the mother of musical instruments. One of the finest musical instrument that's why it is called king of musical instruments.

Who owned the music? ›

In general, the individual who writes or records an original song owns the copyright in the musical work or sound recording. So if only one person is involved in the writing and recording process, then that person owns the resulting copyrights.

What are the 7 notes in music? ›

In the chromatic scale there are 7 main musical notes called A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. They each represent a different frequency or pitch. For example, the "middle" A note has a frequency of 440 Hz and the "middle" B note has a frequency of 494 Hz.

Why are there 7 notes on a scale? ›

More than a thousand years ago the letters of the Roman alphabet were adopted to refer to these, and since there were only seven the letters ran A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

What is a notation rhythm? ›

Rhythm notation is created by altering the appearance of notes to indicate the relative duration that these notes occupy within a musical composition. Conversely, rests describe the relative length of silence.

How did music notation change during the Renaissance? ›

Music was increasingly freed from medieval constraints, and more variety was permitted in range, rhythm, harmony, form, and notation. On the other hand, rules of counterpoint became more constrained, particularly with regard to treatment of dissonances.

How many different letters are used in musical notation? ›

The musical alphabet includes only 7 letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. On the staff, each line or space represents a different letter. The treble clef is also known as the G clef because it indicates that the second line from the bottom will be G. Notice how the clef makes a circle centered on the second line.

What is a standard notation? ›

A standard notation is a form of writing a given number, an equation, or an expression in a form that follows certain rules. For example, 4.5 billion years is written as 4,500,000,000 years.

What is word notation? ›

Notation comes from the Latin word notationem, which means "a marking or an explanation," from the root nota, "mark." Definitions of notation. a comment or instruction (usually added) “he added a short notation to the address on the envelope” synonyms: annotation, note.

What is the value of notation? ›

A sign-value notation represents numbers by a series of numeric signs that added together equal the number represented. In Roman numerals for example, X means ten and L means fifty. Hence LXXX means eighty (50 + 10 + 10 + 10).

What is the notation method? ›

The expanded notation method for division is just a repetition of dividing, multiplying, and subtracting for each number in the dividend. Using expanded notation in long division shows place value and helps us remember what the numbers represent.

How has technology changed music over the years? ›

New synths, sample manipulations, and new noises that we've never heard before will greatly impact how people compose music. Writing and recording music becomes easier, which allows much more people to partake in the activity. With advances in technology, it becomes easier to create.

When did music start evolving? ›

Making music is a universal human trait that goes back to at least 35,000 years ago. Explore the evidence for some of the world's earliest musical instruments.

How will music evolve in the future? ›

The future of music will most likely follow the same trends we are seeing in modern technology. It will be incredibly social similar to social media, it will become increasingly computer-based and A.I.

How was music before music notation? ›

Before Guido's time, liturgical music was (and still is) notated using markers called neumes. If you were learning a chant, you'd get some parchment with the words, and above them you'd see neumes that would slide up, or down, or twist or turn. That was your sheet music.

Was music notation developed in the Middle Ages? ›

During the early Medieval period, musical notation was a series of symbols drawn over the text to denote changes in pitch. These symbols of dots and lines were an early form of musical notation known as neumes and were used in the plainchant songs of the Church.

How did the printing press impact the music world? ›

The printing press made it cheaper and easier to distribute music and music theory texts on a wider geographic scale and to more people. This process allowed for better instruction of music theory and music history to students.

What notation system was used in medieval music? ›

Mensural notation is the musical notation system used for European vocal polyphonic music from the later part of the 13th century until about 1600. The term "mensural" refers to the ability of this system to describe precisely measured rhythmic durations in terms of numerical proportions between note values.

What is the notation of Renaissance music? ›

mensural notation, also called measured music, European system of musical notation used from c. 1260 to 1600. It evolved as a method to notate complex rhythms beyond the possibilities of previous notation (neumes) and reached its classical development after 1450.

How was music printed before computers? ›

Plate engraving

In this method, a mirror image of a complete page of music was engraved onto a metal plate. Ink was then applied to the grooves, and the music print was transferred onto paper.

How was music printed before the printing press? ›

Prior to this time, music had to be copied out by hand. This was a very labor-intensive and time-consuming process, so it was first undertaken only by monks and priests seeking to preserve sacred music for the church. The few collections of secular music that are extant were commissioned and owned by wealthy noblemen.

What was the original way of printing music? ›

Initially, plates were engraved free-hand. Later, special tools were created for engraving different elements. Plate engraving was the method of choice for printing scores until the end of the 19th century, when the development of photographic technology led to its decline.

Who is the father of notation during the Middle Ages? ›

Guido d'Arezzo, also called Guido of Arezzo, (born c. 990, Arezzo? [Italy]—died 1050, Avellana?), medieval music theorist whose principles served as a foundation for modern Western musical notation.

What was the most important musical development during the Middle Ages? ›

The most significant of these is the development of a comprehensive music notational system which enabled composers to write out their song melodies and instrumental pieces on parchment or paper.

Who made music in the Middle Ages? ›

The polyphonic music of the church merged with the poetic art of the troubadours, and the two most important composers of the age were the blind Florentine organist Francesco Landini and the French poet Guillaume de Machaut, canon of Reims.

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