Capturing Music: The Story of Notation – Thomas Forrest Kelly
Thoughts: I got Capturing Music for Christmas from a relative in 2016 or 2017, and evidently I thought highly enough of the book to re-read and take notes on it in 2018 once I had started taking notes on other books. It’s a beautiful book, filled with photos of the manuscripts it discusses, and I remember listening to the accompanying CD multiple times.
(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)
Forrest Kelly, Thomas. 2015. Capturing Music: The Story of Notation. W. W. Norton.
- 15: at the dawn of music notation, the “space represents time” metaphor already understood by all readers.
- 35: words can act as musical notation if we already know the tune - e.g. “take me out to the ball game”
- 43: accent markers as precursors to neumes - “grave, acute, circumflex used… for centuries to indicate direction, accent, and change of inflection.” “The use of directionality… was already built into these accent signs long before they were used for music.”
- 57: to look up: relative weights in St. Gall notation
- 59: “there is a lot of disagreement [about whether wait meant a change in volume or in duration], and it is interesting and instructive to listen to the same piece of chant interpreted by a variety of performers using a variety of approaches.”
- 75: look up system of notation by William of Volpiano - included extra info about microtones, movement, etc.
- 90: manuscript to look up, with Great Book of Organum: Biblioteca Medicea Laurenzeana Plut. 29.1
- 99: another: Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel Cod. Guelf. 628 Helmst.
- 106: another: Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel Cod. Guelf. 1099 Helmst.
- 118: substitute clausulae, or rhythmic versions of motets?
- 139: “There are only 8 motets (in the style of Petrus de Cruce)” - look them up!
- 147: “…the pecia system” for making multiple copies of manuscripts, like an assembly line - sometime in the 1300s
- 150: Roman de Fauvel ms. with 169 items of music - look up these pieces
- 157: punctum additionis vs. punctum divisionis. The former is inherited in our dotted half notes etc.
- 162: motets of Philippe de Vitry: “technically complex… In their notation system [and] their… structure” - learn about!
- 185: ms. to look up: Squarcialupi codex. Biblioteca Medicea Lorenziana MS Pal. 87
- 186: Ars subtilior: learn more about!
- 187: compositions of Jacopinus Selesses (Senleches) - learn about
- 194: “Willi Apel, whose book The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900-1600…”
- 200-201: change in timekeeping from flow of time (e.g. hourglass) to successive units/divisions of time (e.g. clock)
- 202: “reverse inflation of… short notes”
- 207: “Written music is always partly memory, though. You have to remember what the sign means in order to play or sing the right note of the right length.”
Posted: Nov 13, 2022. Last updated: Aug 31, 2023.