Advantages of Musical Notation
As a medium of transmission of musical thoughts,
notation is indisputably important in helping us recognize
many aspects of music. Historically, notation provides
us with a perspective on the music of the past, which
cannot be heard any more. Moreover, it helps to increase
our knowledge of musical structures, both melodic
and rhythmic, throughout history.
Particularly in western
music, different ages have become distinguishable,
thanks to notation. Also, harmonic development has
become easier to trace. It must be borne in mind,
at this point, that harmonic conventions have been
subject to considerable changes throughout history
- e.g. what had been admissible in the 12th
century was objectionable in the 14th.
Harmonic rules of the 16th
century differed from those in the 18th.
In the 20th century,
the tonal system changed completely. Any of these
developments may be followed through musical notation.
Besides, notation is a useful aid to the identification
of different compositional styles either across ages,
or across modes - i.e. vocal/instrumental. By means
of notation, it is even possible to identify different
musical schools within the same geographical region.
Before the invention of electrical recording devices,
notation served as the only means of access to the
various aspects of the music of past generations.
Additionally, notation has the ability to store any
musical work regardless of its acceptance or rejection
by contemporary audiences. The musical work is 'available
on paper' even if it is not present in the people's
minds. Prior to the use of notation, a song existed
only as long as people kept singing it. Now, thanks
to notation, popularity of a song is no longer of
consequence to its survival. The notation which is
used as a means of composition - i.e. the pre-script
notation - has no impact on the collective tastes
of the society; it does not influence what people
like and what they dislike. Therefore with regard
to the musical content, such a notation is neutral.
Notation enabled every composer to dictate his musical
thoughts to the performer over the ages and across
borders as well. The exact transmission of the composer's
musical thoughts has become possible, without any
aberration, in terms of melody, rhythm, speed, choice
of instruments and/or voices, and even feelings and
details of performance.
All these aspects refer to music which has been conceived
in written form from the very beginning - i.e. composed
in the literal sense of the word.
On the other hand, notation can be used for music
which was neither created nor historically transmitted
nor performed with the aid of notation. This can be
applied especially to folk music, whose notation will
serve another purpose - i.e. assisting academic research,
analysis or comparative studies. As this kind of notation
always follows the creation of the particular musical
work, it is a post-script notation, unlike the afore-mentioned
pre-script notation of western polyphonic compositions.
It enables us to examine the minute details of the
folk piece - to discuss it and highlight certain aspects
of it - as it is easier to deal with a written version
than with an oral one.
The notation's function, in this instance, is the
explanation of an objective that is already achieved,
or a written report on an event already completed
- contrary to compositional notation. Although each
of these two notations has its own aim and ultimately
achieves a different outcome as it is subject to different
expectations from the user, both are indisputably