Musical Notation

Musical notation is an indispensable instrument in dealing with music, which was not originally conceived in notational terms from the scientific point of view. This applies to folk music which was, and still is, performed and transmitted from generation to generation without notation. On the other hand, there has been music, which was dependant on notation from its very beginning, which, due to its mostly polyphonic structure, could not even be conceived without the help of notation. Therefore, notation in this case is an integral part of the music itself.

Notation can accordingly be defined as a mode of transmitting tonal and rhythmic musical thoughts through a set of written codes. In the course of history, notational systems have developed which vary according to time and place. In some cases even instrument-specific forms of notation can be found. Finally in the 19th century these divergent systems and notational styles converged to a more or less international universal musical script.

Like human languages, notation has letter, one group of which makes up a musical sentence. However, the musical letters are time-specific and therefore prescribe the rhythm. The two notational approaches must be set in perspective:

1. Conceptional notation: with whose help a piece of music is created - this process is called composition.

2. Transcriptional notation which is written to recreate a musical work, which was created, transmitted and performed through musical practice only - without the use of notation.

Goals and outcomes are reflected in terms of their association with either of the two approaches above. It is found in the former approach that musical composition is associated, from the outset, with notation. Thus the music can be performed or played - without difficulty or disparity - through notation alone. For example: a symphony composed with the help of notation can be played anywhere in the world, through notation. Hardly any disparity will be noticed. A composer can be any nationality and there will be no language barrier to prevent communication of the music anywhere in the world.

In the second approach, mostly used in the field of folk music research, musical notation is primarily used as a postscript, either for analytical purposes or in instructional contexts. In this case, notation succeeds, rather than precedes, the musical work, so its link with the work itself is weaker than in the case of compositional notation. The live performance does not depend on notation at all. If a performer, inexperienced and unfamiliar with that kind of music wanted to perform from postscript notation alone, the musical result would be poor.

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