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MENC: The National Association for Music Education

New Notation for New Music Author(s): Kurt Stone Reviewed work(s): Source: Music Educators Journal, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Oct., 1976), pp. 48-56 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of MENC: The National Association for Music Education Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3395118 . Accessed: 21/03/2012 11:56
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Page 10 from SONGS,DRONES AND REFRAINS OF DEATh (P66463) hyGeorge crumb Copyright 1971 by C. F. Peters Corporation 373 ParkAvenue South,, New York.New York10016. .permission grantedby the publisher.



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since new notation began to appear in the 1950s. The-first question is answeredquite easily with the thumbnailhistoryof notation that follows. The answerto the second question is "yes,"somethingis beingdone, so that at least the prospectbeforeus may be a little easier and pleasurable.What is being done will also be examinedhere, as well as in a second articlenext month.As for the past, it, unfortunately,cannot be altered, and two and a half decades of new music will still notation. haveto be readfromtroublesome

indicate steady rates of speed with great exactitude,we had no equallyefficientmeans for indicatinggradual tempo changes (and have none to this day). Instructionssuch as ritardando,accelerando,and rubato cannot comparein precisionwith, say, J = 92. Similarly,we could notatevibratoandnonvibratoas verbalindications,but we had no exact meansby whichto indicatethe vibrato's width,norwhetherthis widthwas microtonal to remainconstantor change. Nor could we notatea vibrato'sspeed, whetherconstantor changing. How it all happened These two examplesalone show that tradiFrom the medieval neumes on, notation tionalnotationwas not equippedto cope with grewsteadilyin precisionandcomprehensive- the greaterexactitudesdemandedby at least ness until, around1600,it becameset and did some of the new, post-1950,music. And in for 350 years-that not changefundamentally notationmanyareas,evenourtradition-based is, all the way to the early 1950s. Musicians al innovationsstill cannotcope with some of tra- the new musicaldemands. adaptable seldomrealizehow remarkably ditionalnotationhas actuallybeen. Afterall, Conversely, traditional notation did not throughall valid andpractical it has remained lend itself to the notation of deliberateinthe drastic stylistic changes that have come exactitudeseither. We had no way, for exabout during its long reign from Early ample, to signify diSerent frameworksfor Either Baroque through the Classical period to moreor less controlledimprovisation. and we wrote out what we wantedor we drew a and then to Impressionism Romanticism, even to the music of Schoenberg/Webern, fermataand left practicallyeverythingto the andothers. Carter, Varese, Stravinsky, ingenuity. performer's Those innovationsand additions to notaFor some time now, music has operated tion thatdid occurduringthis timespanwere with variously controlled improvisation: secondary in character "cosmetics" con- Pitches may be given while durations or sisting chiefly of interpretiveinstructions: rhythm patterns must be improvised, or has to tempoindications,dynamics,phrasing,orna- rhythmsare given while the performer ments, articulation,and so on. By the early supply the pitches, or given pitches or l900s, these detailed interpretivefinepoints rhythmsare to be used either in the order to such an extent that they given or in randomsuccession,and so forth. had proliferated often all but crowdedout the actualnotes. For such innovationswe now do have new Even so, the essentials of the system re- notation but it often looks quite differentin mainedthe same all along. The systembegan different scores. to breakup only a quarterof a centuryago there is the challengeof how Furthermore, when all music elements were scrutinized to handle sounds and instrumentmanipulaof the tions thatformerly mercilessly,resultingin the overthrow had been absentaltogether of music com- from music had, in fact, been considered entire traditionalhlierarchy ponents a reorientationthe like of which alien to the art.In our era, with its new attihad not happenedsince 1600andperhapsnot tude towardsounds, these "aliens"are given of polyphonyinto potentially even since the introduction equalstatuswith othermusiccomWesternmusic. ponents and thus have to be notated,too, in upheav- properfashion. As is usualin times of fundamental considered al, the formerrulerswere deposed while the In the past,timbrewas generally elements. former serfs and subordinatescame to the a mere vehicle for more important notationcould serve the old Consequently, fore. Traditional no one had seen any need to rulers-melody, rhythm,harmony,and syn- worry about timbralnotation as such, or to timbralrechronization to perfection,but it was not add significantly to the traditional equipped to deal adequately(if at all) with sources. The 1 950s changed all that, too. elements that formerlyhad been mere side Timbrebecame a sonic element in its own issues. For example, while we were able to right,and with its increasein status,the pal-


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ette of tone colorsand othersounds soon was expanded to include any imaginablenoise, pitched or unpitched, natural or generated artificially. Howwas one to notatethese new phenomena?Since theirpitch qualitiesweretheirmost elusive character traits,and since manyof the new soundsweren'tpercussion soundseither, a trenddevelopedto notatethemanipulations ,thatwould producethe sounds,insteadof the sounds themselves a kind of tablature.But this was only one of the notationalmethods, and to this day thereis considerable notational overproduction and general confusion in this area. And what about the largeraestheticlsocial conceptson which variousnew music trends are based that is, the whole range fromthe uncompromising, almost inhumanprecision and complexityof totalserialism(nowlargely passe)to the deliberate ambiguity and unpredictabilityof aleatorymusic, or even chance music,1a trend designed to liberatethe performerfromthe dictatesof the composerand spreadthe joy of inventionto all participants in a musical"happening." (Thistrend,by the way,is also beginningto recede.) Why,if total serialismand music of chance are fading out, should we botherabouttheir respective notational specialties ? Because these two seemingly irreconcilable aesthetic philosophieshave lately begun to meet on a middleground.Thisis perhaps the mostinterestingrecentmusic development, combining, as it does (atleast potentially), the best of two worlds, each of which by itself had run into the dangerof limitingprinciplesand of eventual monotony.Thus, we now find, in many recent compositions,some or all of our era's stylistic approaches,from super control to superfreedom, presented eitherin crasslycontrastingsections or in gradualtransition,or even superimposed upon one another, or again as no more than an occasionalteasing deviation from a given composition's predominantstyle. Whatthis means for musicians,including music educators,is that they can no longer affordto ignore music trendsthey dislike or do not considervalid. Todayevelyone activetln view of inconsistent usage in the field, the distinctionhere, which follows MEI style policy, is a worthwhile one: "Aleatory," is a type of music in which chance is used as a compositional technique, whereas "chance music" involves choice by the performerin determininK the ultimateformthe music takes.Aleatory music, then, is not changedby the performer exceptinterpretively.

ly involved with contemporary music had betterbe familiarwith the completespectrum of music trendsand philosophiesand, therefore,with all the diSerentnotationalmethods (or nonmethods) that go with them. So, what exactlyare these notationalmethods? Whatis "new notation"if almostevery recent compositionfollows a differentnotational system or a mixtureof several,and if the same signs often mean different things in different compositions, just as the same music phenomena are often notated differentlyfromworkto work? First,let's not blamethe composersfor this confusingsituation.They have had no guidelines, no models, nothing to go by but their own graphicinventiveness.Neitherdid they have time to look for precedentsor to consult their colleagues.They had to invent signs on the spot, as the need arose.And invent they did! Formorethantwentyyearsnow, everybody has been experimenting and inventingeverywhere,with Europe and NorthAmericain the forefront. No wonder,therefore, thatthe number of new signs and othernotationaldevices has becomeastronomical, andthatwith it has come general notational chaos. No wonder either that less and less contemporary music has been performed as a result,and that amateur musicianshave been lost to new music altogether. Whathas been done Somethinghad to be done, even if it meant only a reductionof unnecessaryduplications and a weeding-outof unwantedambiguities. A handfulof music publisherstried. They developed relativelyuniformnotationalsystems, based primarilyon the works of their mostimportant composers in thenew-notation field,andthen transcribed newly acceptedbut diSerentlynotated works accordingly.Most successful was Ars Polona,the Polish music publishingcenterin Krakow so muchso that a good many composersoutside Polandhave since adoptedmuch of the Polishnotationfor theirown compositions. Evenso, music publishersare not the ideal vehicle fornotational reform becausethey can apply their guidelines only to the scores by composersthey themselves happen to publish. If, as in the Polish case, othersjoin in, it is little morethan a lucky coincidence.What is needed is a more neutral,universal,and cosmopolitan base that can act as a clearing-

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house forgreater standardization of new notation (or at least of that kind of new notation selected;they are listed here in the orderin thatwould benefitfromstandardization; alea- which the mailmandeliveredthem: tory notation,such as that of implicit graphics, naturallycannot be included in such a project). In 1970, with funds from the Rockefeller (1) Foundation,an Index of New MusicalNotation was establishedunder my direction in the Music Division of The New YorkPublic Libraryat Lincoln Center. Later, the Ford Foundationjoined in the funding, with the (2) MusicLibrary Associationactingas the sponsoring organization.After a thoroughinternationalsurveyto find out if potentiallysimiP $ 8 ><}Y $ 1 lar endeavorsmight alreadybe in existence (none were found), and afterthe additionto the projectof GeraldWarSeld fromPrinceton (3) University(who later was promotedto associatedirector), we beganourwork. Ps Y;._X(;,-nYs 11 We analyzedand tabulatedthe new notation in a very large numberof representative compositions datingfromthe early1950s,and (4) before,to the most recent scores, printedor ,J still in manuscript. We thus coveredboth the pastand presentmanifestations of new notation,tracingits gradual reSnement andnoting theincreasingly generalacceptance of someof thenew devices,as well as the disappearance, (5) overthe years,of others. P \Ve then developedan extensiveand quite ; A;' $ 1 detailed notation questionnaire that we sent out internationally (it was available in three languages). As the answerscame in, we (6) analyzed and tabulatedthem, thus covering thepossiblefuture trendsof new notation.A senseof the confusionthat prevailscan perPs Y. Ya 1 haps be realizedby examiningjust one of the fifty-nine itemsthatappeared on this questionnairc and this was a question that did not (7) ( jJ , evendeal with new music! It read:"On the staffbelow, notatea downward glissandostartingon the second half of the second beat. It shouldbe a continuous glissando lasting exactly three full beats. Begin on the thirdspace C and end on middle C."The question (8) was followed by this staffsegment: r@^^.X (_,Y 1

$ Yl,

bYs 11

$ Yj.A-("Y$


$ Yt

Ys 11


$ Y

$ Y



Hereare some of the answers.They arenot



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(1 1) P

$ Yr- - L - }S s 11



(3 beats)





($ )


$ YC

S $ 11


aS $ 11

Notice that only half these answers (which constitute the first fifteen answers received from American respondents) show a glissando lasting all the way to the end of the three beats that is, throughthe third eighth of the second measure(Numbers 4, 5, 7, 9, 14, and 15). Observe,too, that in two of8, the answers the requested "downward glissando" goes up (Numbers3 and 4). Finally, that no two solutions are alike. Now notice try to imagine the confusion created by the total number of answers:approximately 300 filledout questionnaires were returned! After tabulating the resultsof the question-

naire, we singled out those signs and proceduresthatalreadyhad becomewidely accepted, and in cases of ties we either chose the device that seemedto be the most perceptive and practical,or we reservedall versionsfor laterevaluation. Next,thanksto the collaboration of the University of Ghentin Belgium,we arranged to hold an International Conference on New Musical Notationat the universityin the fall of 1974. We took a selection of about400 signs and proceduresto the conference for discussions and decisions by the active participants,who comprisedclose to eighty professionalmusicians,musiceducators, musiceditors,and composersfrom eighteen different countries a truly cosmopolitanconglomerationof practicalexperienceand know-how. All participants agreedthat the emphasisin their deliberations shouldbe on clarity,practicability, and necessity trom the pedormer's pointof view. Thus, we abstainedfrom inventing any new signs at the conference, so as notto compoundthe already existing overabundance and confusion. A concisebutcompletereport of the policy, Sndings, and recommendations of the Ghent Conference was published, in both English and German, in the November1975 issue of the periodical Intedace,a jointpublication by the universitiesof Ghentand Utrecht.A considerably morecomprehensive version,which will combinethe GhentSndingswith the Index' recommendations on matters thatforlack of time could not be dealt with during the conference, is presently being prepared by me for publicationby W. W. Norton & Company. Meanwhile, an annotated international bibliography of some 500 entries has been prepared by GeraldWarfield and the staff the Index of New Musical Notation,and of is about to be released by the Music Library Association. Lastly,IndianaUniversityPress will publisha collectionof aboutfiftytypical notational analysesof representative compositions from the period under discussion, as prepared by the Indexproject. New notationfor vocal music Thefollowingnotationalsigns and devices for vocal music represent a samplingof those selected by the Index projectand later discussed, modified if deemed desirable, and endorsed by the GhentConference.

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(1) The notationof rhythmin vocal music should be identicalwith that in instrumental music. This:

t >
Ky - ri - e e le- i- son, e - le -

I 2
i - son.

Not this:


e le - i - son, e - le i - son.


Ky - ri - e

by an asteriskin FigThe "stemlet"(marked ure la above) is optional in simple rhythm texturessuch as these,but it shouldbe used if the rhythm is complex. It is recommended thatnotationwith andwithoutstemletsnot be mixed within the same piece or movement. (2) Different types of voice production shouldbe notatedas follows: Voicc as in Figurela above. (a) Normal (b) Sprechgesang normalnotation,but with an "x"addedto the stem:

Ky -

ri - e

le - i - son, e - 1e -

i - son.

speaking to ordinary Voice(closer (c) Speaking whichin literaltranslation thanSprechgesang, means speech-song) with the "x" now replacingthe notehead.Thereare severaltypes notation: of speaking-voice (i) speechon fairlycontrolledpitches:


ri- e e


le i son.


up-and-down (ii) speech with approximate inflections-noted with a centralpitchline: reference

l X |

Ky - ri e





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or, notatedwith outsidepitch-reference lines:


Ky ri- e


le- i


(d) Spoken (ordinaryspeech), with rhythm given but no inflection notated without a lines: stafforreference

Ky ri - e e le - i - son, e - le

i - son.

(e) Whispering notatedas in "Spoken," but withbrokenstems:

4 8 , A. Ky ,
k k

-I it



, ,


ri- e

le - i - son, e

le-son. i-

If it is considered desirable to retain the normalstaffduringspokenor whisperedpassages, the x-shaped noteheads should be placedon an extrastaffline drawntwo spaces below the staff: m,f

. >

>4 v , etc.


n - e

le - i-son

Occasionally, one finds spokenor whispered text notatedwith headless stems. This is not recommended because with stems only it is impossible to distinguish between quarter notes and half notes. (3) MouthPositions could logically be indicatedby the followingsymbols,fromclosed to wide open: - o o These symbols were rejected, however, because "-" could be mistakenfor a tenutoline and "o" (being identical to the sign for har-

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as a symbol monics)mightbe misinterpreted falsetto.As a result,a heavierand slightly f;or and a squarewere longerline, two rectangles, adopted,in the following order: closed: _ slightly open: E open: o wide open: O (4) Tongueclicks (orclucks)shouldbe nosingle line below the staff, tatedon a separate may or on a line thatreplacesthe staff.Letters vowel be added to indicate the approximate sounds:

The stem appearsat the end of the inhale wedge because it is there that the breathis most audibleand that it can be discontinued and precisely.(Thismaywell mostnoticeably be the only note device in which the sound of the note.) precedesthe beat-part For most otherindications,the GhentConference recommendedthe use of verbal instructionsratherthan symbols. obviously The precedingrecommendations notation do not includethe moreadventurous we sometimesencounterin scores.However, one cannot and should not attemptto standardizewhat is, by definition,antistandard. of relatively features Evenso, a few notational free vocal notationhave been used so often close to bethat they have come dangerously devices in spite of it all. coming standard One of the most frequentlyencounteredis that of dynamics"builtinto" the text, either in the size of the letters by way of differences or words, or throughdifferentthicknessesof the letters.

tonglle ,1

o a clicks o with in connection used be Clicks may also regu ar slnglng: clicks tongue
. .







(The grace-note"x" was endorsedin Ghent even though one also encountersthe following signs for grace notes fairly frequently:1 1 and ; i. However, since tongue clicks are not used very often, so that they would haveto be identifiedverballyanyit was decidway, at least on firstoccurrence, ed to reservethese two distinctive signs for effects.) moreimportant





KY- Rl - E

E - LE- I - SON

Occasionally,these two methods are combined. Anotherpracticeis to indicateapproximate pitch inflectionsof the voice by moving the withdiamond- text up and down as it progresses: shouldbe notated (5) Falsetto shapednoteheads:

lei - son e

lei - son


A):1 J I I
e -


e -

lei - son

(6) Audible inhaling and exhaling are notated with wedge-like signs on stems. Althoughone does findthe sign C forinhaling, it was rejectedin favorof the followingsigns, with "IN" and "EX >"addedon firstoccurEX , rence:

This notation can easily be combined with of course, thatof built-indynamics.(Actually, all this can be notatedjust as effectivelyby more conventional means-only then it M1 would not look as "advanced.")
Editor's Note: Next month, Kurt Stone will continue his discussion of new notation with an explanation of signs that are not confined to vocal music exclusively and of innovations that are specifically applicable to the notation of instrumental music.




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