Mensural notation |
Music Terms

Mensural notation |

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terms and concepts

from Latin mensura — mera; letters — dimensional notation

A system for recording musical sounds used in the 13th-16th centuries. Unlike earlier non-mental notation (see Nevmy), the edges indicated only the direction of movement of the melody, and the choral notation that replaced it, in which only the height of sounds was indicated, M. n. made it possible to fix both the pitch and the relative duration of sounds. This became necessary with the development of polyphony, when in motets there was a departure from the simultaneous pronunciation of each syllable of the text in all voices. M. i. developed and described by Johannes de Garlandia, Franco of Cologne, Walter Odington, Hieronymus of Moravia (13th century), Philippe de Vitry, de Muris, Marchetto of Padua (14th century), Johannes Tinctoris (15th-16th centuries), Francino Gaffori (16th c.), etc.

To con. 13th c. to designate the duration of sounds and pauses in M. n. the following signs were used (given in descending order of duration; all terms are Latin):

In the 14th century even smaller durations came into use – minima

(smallest) and semiminima

(half minimum).

The counting unit of durations at first was the note longa. There was a longa perfecta note (perfect), equal to three brevis, and a longa imperfecta note (imperfect), equal to two brevis. From Ser. 14th c. the concepts of perfecta, a three-part division, and imperfecta, a two-part division, were also extended to the ratios of other “neighboring” notes in place in a series of note durations; only the notes duplex longa (later maxima) and minima were always double beats. These types of rhythmic divisions were called scales. There were special names for the scales of each duration. So, the longa scale was called modus, the brevis scale was called tempus, the semibrevis scale was called prolatio. Later, the note brevis became the counting time, corresponding to the modern. whole note; types of its scales, i.e. tempus perfectum (dividing into three semibrevis) and tempus imperfectum (dividing into two semibrevis) were denoted respectively by signs


; the latter designation is still used today for the size 4/4. These signs were placed at the beginning of a musical line or in the middle in cases of changing the scale. From the 14th century unit of calculation of durations in M. n. became the note semibrevis. Its division into three minima shares was designated by the term prolatio major (perfecta), into two – by the term prolatio minor (imperfecta). A dot in the tempus sign was used as a distinctive sign. This made it possible to briefly outline all four of the then applied basics. type of subordination of durations:

1) brevis and semibrevis – tripartite, i.e. tempus perfectum, prolatio major (corresponds to modern sizes 9/4, 9/8) – sign

; 2) brevis – tripartite, semibrevis – bipartite, i.e. tempus perfectum, prolatio minor (corresponds to modern sizes 3/4, 3/8) – sign


3) brevis – two-part, semibrevis – three-part, i.e. tempus imperfectum, prolatio major (corresponds to modern sizes 6/4, 6/8) – sign

; 4) brevis – bipartite, semibrevis – bipartite, i.e. tempus imperfectum, prolatio minor (corresponds to modern sizes 2/4, 4/4).

The above signs and notation did not provide a record of all possible types of rhythmic. organization of sounds. In this regard, rules were developed that linked the specific duration of a note and between which notes it was located. So, the imperfectio rule stated that if in a tripartite division a relatively extended note is followed by a note of an adjacent shorter duration, and then comes again the same length as the first one, or if a note is followed by more than three notes of an adjacent shorter duration, then the duration of this note decreases one third:

The alteratio rule (alterations, changes) prescribed a doubling of the duration of the second of two adjacent notes of the same duration, brevis, later and semibrevis, with a tripartite articulation:

Dep. many voices. compositions were often written at that time in such a way that the counting units in them turned out to be different. Therefore, when reducing voices into one whole, rhythmic was required. conversion of votes. At the same time, voices recorded with larger durations were subjected to “diminutio” (diminutio). The most common was the reduction of all the durations of a given voice by half (proportio dupla). It was denoted by a vertical line passing through the scale sign – , or the inversion of this sign – , or a numerical fraction 2/1. Other types of diminutio were also used. The cancellation of the diminutio indicated by the fraction was carried out by moving the numerator and denominator (for example, 1/2 after 2/1). Diminutio 2/1, referring to all voices, represented a simple tempo acceleration.

Because the application of types imperfectio and diminutio complicated musical notation, attempts were made to facilitate the reading of notes by introducing new musical signs. At the same time, in connection with the transition from parchment to paper, they began to replace “black” musical signs with “white” ones. This process was especially intense in Italy. By the beginning of the 16th century. Here is the following system of musical notation:

Gradually, black musical signs were established to designate semiminims and smaller durations, and for the pauses corresponding to the fuze and semifuze, the first of the two signs. This system of signs formed the basis of the modern. note writing systems. Already in the 15th century. often used rounded notation of notes, in the 16th century. she also moved into music printing. By the end of the 16th century the subordination of durations in relation to l : 2 prevailed everywhere; it marked the rejection of M. n. and the transition to modern notation system.

References: Saketti L. A., Essay on the general history of music, St. Petersburg, 1912; Gruber R. I., History of musical culture, vol. 1, part 2, M.-L., 1941; Bellermann H., Die Mensuralnoten und Takteeichen des XV. and XVI. Jahrhunderts, W., 1858, 1963; Jacobsthal G., Die Mensuralnotenschrift des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts, B., 1871; Riemann, H. Studien zur Geschichte der Notenschrift, Lpz., 1878; Wolf J., Geschichte der Mensuralnotation von 1250-1460, Bd 1-3, Lpz., 1904, Hildesheim-Wiesbaden, 1965; same, Handbuch der Notationskunde, Bd 1, Lpz., 1913; his, Die Tonschriften, Breslau, 1924; Chybinski A., Teoria mensuralna…, Kr., 1910; Michalitschke AM, Studien zur Entstehung und Fhrhentwicklung der Mensuralnotation, “ZfMw”, 1930, Jahrg. 12, H. 5; Rarrish C., The notation of polyphonie music, NY, 1958; Fischer K. v., Zur Entwicklung der italienischen Trecento-Notation, “AfMw”, 1959, Jahrg. 16; Apel W., Die Notation der polyphonen Musik, 900-1600, Lpz., 1962; Genther R., Die Mensuralnotation des Ars nova, “AfMw”, 1962-63. (Jahrg. 20), H. 1.

V. A. Vakhromeev

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