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RE: [viola] Question RE: Rule of accidentals

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  • Joel Jacklich
    You re getting this from a college music professor who taught theory for many years (now retired). I am writing this out off the top of my head without
    Message 1 of 28 , Mar 27 8:36 AM
      You're getting this from a college music professor who taught theory for many years (now retired).



      I am writing this out off the top of my head without footnotes and references. You can look up these things yourselves later, if you wish; but I think you'll get the general drift from this narrative of what went on.



      Historical background: Back in the days of "musica ficta," (later Medieval, Renaissance, and earliest Baroque), rules governing proper intervals meant that certain notes above the bass (or, in the earliest days the tenor, which used to be the lowest voice before the advent of the contratenor bassus or "bass") had to be altered to avoid the tritone (the augmented 4th or diminished 5th, the "so-called "devil's interval," which was considered so unstable as to be avoided at all costs) EVEN IF THOSE NOTES WERE NOT SO NOTATED. EVERY "good" musician knew these rules, so there was no need to notate them in the music. Also, in general, until Petrucci in 1501 and his first PUBLISHED music book for polyphonic music printed from moveable type, there wasn't much argument about what the notes were. The composer himself generally passed out the manuscript parts, rehearsed the musicians, and he would be the arbiter of correctness. After music began to be published, the music could be purchased by someone hundreds or thousands of miles from the composer. The composer was no longer there to "put things right." It became the responsibility of the publisher to make things clear to the performer (many times an amateur performer who didn't always know "the rules"). Each publisher set up his own essential "house rules" for where to include accidentals. There was no common agreement. Remember that in the days of Bach, key signatures would often be one accidental off from our current system. A piece in D major might have only one sharp (F#) with the C# (the "leading tone," most often the most prominent old musica ficta note in the old days) getting a written accidental. Key signatures, as we know them, weren't standardized until starting about 1750.



      Now to today's point of discussion: The idea of whether to put an accidental in ALL octaves of a chord, or just in one (and assume that the others were also thus affected), again, comes from INDIVIDUAL publishers. One will find some 18th century and even 19th century publications that include only one accidental. HOWEVER, as we get to the late 19th c. and into the 20th c., the Garner Reed quote (given in earlier posts) becomes the generally accepted norm for the music publishing industry. The accidental must appear in any (all) octave(s) in which the note must be altered. Once written, an accidental remains in effect (but only for the single line or space upon which it is written) for the rest of the measure until cancelled by the bar line. If such an altered note (whether it has an accidental attached to a note, or whether it is a later note in the measure on the same line or space as an altered note) is TIED across the bar line, then the accidental is ALSO tied across. In that case, the accidental will continue until the tie (or continuous UNBROKEN series of ties) ends, even if that is many measures later. And in such a case, no accidental is need on any of those later continuously-tied notes.



      The above rules generally cover TONAL music.



      With the advent of ATONAL (particularly dodecaphonic [12-tone, serial]) music, SOME (but not all) composers look at things a little differently. For SOME 20th c. composers, an accidental covers only the note to which it is attached. If it is followed by another note on the same line or space, then it, too, needs an accidental, IF it is to be altered. Otherwise, without the accidental, an unmodified note (even if it follows a modified note on the same line or space within the same measure) reverts back to its plain, white-note state. In the case of atonal music, it seems to make sense to notate each individual note requiring an accidental with an accidental even if it is in the same measure as a previous accidental on the same line or space. It does make the music easier to read for the performer. Again, not all 20th c. composers do this, only some. Many still follow the standard rules (i.e., Gardner Reed).



      A disclaimer: As I am an old fogey who tends to stay with tonal music, I don't follow the atonal composers too much.


      Joel Jacklich, M.F.A.
      Professor Emeritus of Music: Imperial Valley College
      Music Director: Imperial Valley Symphony
      Founder/Arranger: Imperial Valley String Quartet
      Composer/Arranger: http://stores.sibeliusmusic.com/jacklichmusic

      ________________________________

      From: viola@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Peter Crossley
      Sent: Tue 3/27/2007 6:45 AM
      To: viola@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [viola] Question RE: Rule of accidentals



      All you are observing is that rules are one thing and their observance
      another.

      Peter

      I posted this query all over the planet, and it looks to be about 50/50 in
      terms of the answer, with nearly everyone being quite sure they're right.

      Looks like the wiser choice would be to always include an accidental on the
      other octave(s), just to clear up any guesswork. If we go by the responses
      on the listservs, USENET, etc., it would seem that no certain answer is
      available.

      If there is a certain answer, _who would be the final authority?_ Groves?
      (Certainly not Wikipedia) Music theory teachers at universities?

      Connie






      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • lynne_richter
      ... also carries ... This is a more specific link to notation sources: http://www.npcimaging.com/books/Books.htm
      Message 2 of 28 , Mar 27 9:04 AM
        --- In viola@yahoogroups.com, Lhrichter@... wrote:


        > Although the book is technically out of print, it can be ordered from
        > _www.npcimaging.com/books_ (http://www.npcimaging.com/books) , which
        also carries
        > other notational books.


        This is a more specific link to notation sources:

        http://www.npcimaging.com/books/Books.htm
      • John Harding
        My personal practice is belt and braces. I would NOT expect the player to assume that an accidental carried over into another octave, nor would I expect them
        Message 3 of 28 , Mar 27 9:19 AM
          My personal practice is belt and braces. I would NOT expect the player to assume that an accidental carried over into another octave, nor would I expect them to assume that it didn't. So a C# an octave over a C# will get its own accidental, and a C natural an octave over a C# will get a cautionary natural. (If I remember).

          You can have a lot of fun with the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, where there is a presumption in some quarters that an accidental was expected to apply not only to the note it precedes, but also to what came just before it. (Now he tells me).

          The Urtext spirit can tie itself up in knots over things like this. I've had debates over a jolly little piece of Jacobean consort music which trundles along as bland as anything with just one tooth-vibrating clash. And not even justifiable by the musica ficta cross-relation tradition. It gets played that way because all the manuscripts agree. The manuscripts, of course, all being copied from each other ...

          john h

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • ecsaba@bgnet.bgsu.edu
          Dear Joel Jacklich, Thank you so much for such a comprehensive clarification on the subject. I have saved it in my professional files. With best regards, Csaba
          Message 4 of 28 , Mar 27 10:01 AM
            Dear Joel Jacklich,

            Thank you so much for such a comprehensive clarification on the subject. I have saved it in
            my professional files.

            With best regards,

            Csaba Erdelyi

            ---------Included Message----------
            >Date: 27-Mar-2007 11:39:56 -0400
            >From: "Joel Jacklich" <joel.jacklich@...>
            >To: "Peter Crossley" <mail@...>, <viola@yahoogroups.com>
            >Subject: RE: [viola] Question RE: Rule of accidentals
            >
            >You're getting this from a college music professor who taught theory for many years (now
            retired).
            >
            >I am writing this out off the top of my head without footnotes and references. You can look
            up these things yourselves later, if you wish; but I think you'll get the general drift from this
            narrative of what went on.
            >
            >Historical background: Back in the days of "musica ficta," (later Medieval, Renaissance, and
            earliest Baroque), rules governing proper intervals meant that certain notes above the bass
            (or, in the earliest days the tenor, which used to be the lowest voice before the advent of the
            contratenor bassus or "bass") had to be altered to avoid the tritone (the augmented 4th or
            diminished 5th, the "so-called "devil's interval," which was considered so unstable as to be
            avoided at all costs) EVEN IF THOSE NOTES WERE NOT SO NOTATED. EVERY "good" musician
            knew these rules, so there was no need to notate them in the music. Also, in general, until
            Petrucci in 1501 and his first PUBLISHED music book for polyphonic music printed from
            moveable type, there wasn't much argument about what the notes were. The composer
            himself generally passed out the manuscript parts, rehearsed the musicians, and he would be
            the arbiter of correctness. After music began to be published, the music could be purchased
            by someone hundreds or thousands of miles from the composer. The composer was no
            longer there to "put things right." It became the responsibility of the publisher to make
            things clear to the performer (many times an amateur performer who didn't always know "the
            rules"). Each publisher set up his own essential "house rules" for where to include
            accidentals. There was no common agreement. Remember that in the days of Bach, key
            signatures would often be one accidental off from our current system. A piece in D major
            might have only one sharp (F#) with the C# (the "leading tone," most often the most
            prominent old musica ficta note in the old days) getting a written accidental. Key signatures,
            as we know them, weren't standardized until starting about 1750.
            >
            >Now to today's point of discussion: The idea of whether to put an accidental in ALL octaves
            of a chord, or just in one (and assume that the others were also thus affected), again, comes
            from INDIVIDUAL publishers. One will find some 18th century and even 19th century
            publications that include only one accidental. HOWEVER, as we get to the late 19th c. and
            into the 20th c., the Garner Reed quote (given in earlier posts) becomes the generally
            accepted norm for the music publishing industry. The accidental must appear in any (all)
            octave(s) in which the note must be altered. Once written, an accidental remains in effect
            (but only for the single line or space upon which it is written) for the rest of the measure until
            cancelled by the bar line. If such an altered note (whether it has an accidental attached to a
            note, or whether it is a later note in the measure on the same line or space as an altered
            note) is TIED across the bar line, then the accidental is ALSO tied across. In that case, the
            accidental will continue until the tie (or continuous UNBROKEN series of ties) ends, even if
            that is many measures later. And in such a case, no accidental is need on any of those later
            continuously-tied notes.
            >
            >The above rules generally cover TONAL music.
            >
            >With the advent of ATONAL (particularly dodecaphonic [12-tone, serial]) music, SOME (but
            not all) composers look at things a little differently. For SOME 20th c. composers, an
            accidental covers only the note to which it is attached. If it is followed by another note on
            the same line or space, then it, too, needs an accidental, IF it is to be altered. Otherwise,
            without the accidental, an unmodified note (even if it follows a modified note on the same
            line or space within the same measure) reverts back to its plain, white-note state. In the
            case of atonal music, it seems to make sense to notate each individual note requiring an
            accidental with an accidental even if it is in the same measure as a previous accidental on the
            same line or space. It does make the music easier to read for the performer. Again, not all
            20th c. composers do this, only some. Many still follow the standard rules (i.e., Gardner
            Reed).
            >
            >A disclaimer: As I am an old fogey who tends to stay with tonal music, I don't follow the
            atonal composers too much.
            >
            >Joel Jacklich, M.F.A.
            >Professor Emeritus of Music: Imperial Valley College
            >Music Director: Imperial Valley Symphony
            >Founder/Arranger: Imperial Valley String Quartet
            >Composer/Arranger: http://stores.sibeliusmusic.com/jacklichmusic
            ---------End of Included Message----------

            Csaba Erdelyi
            Professor of Viola
            Moore Musical Arts Center, Room 2173
            Bowling Green State University
            Bowling Green, OH 43403
            Tel: 419) 372-2428
            ecsaba@...
          • bsv.com
            Best answers: http://beststudentviolins.com/PedagogyTech.html#21
            Message 5 of 28 , Mar 27 11:01 AM
            • John Howell
              ... I meant, of course a lowered subtonic, found in the old Dorian and Mixolydian modes. Sorry! John -- John & Susie Howell Virginia Tech Department of
              Message 6 of 28 , Mar 28 8:18 PM
                >I wrote:
                >
                >A good editor (or a good conductor) has to
                >understand the rules of ficta when doing that music, but there are
                >still many, many choices to make. And in many cases I prefer an
                >unmodified lowered supertonic, which reinforces the modal effect, to
                >a raised leading tone, all other things being equal (which they never
                >are!!).

                I meant, of course a lowered "subtonic," found in the old Dorian and
                Mixolydian modes. Sorry!

                John


                --
                John & Susie Howell
                Virginia Tech Department of Music
                Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A 24061-0240
                Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034
                (mailto:John.Howell@...)
                http://www.music.vt.edu/faculty/howell/howell.html
              • Lhrichter@aol.com
                In a message dated 3/29/2007 6:34:18 PM Eastern Daylight Time, John.Howell@vt.edu writes: I meant, of course a lowered subtonic, found in the old Dorian and
                Message 7 of 28 , Mar 29 3:38 PM
                  In a message dated 3/29/2007 6:34:18 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
                  John.Howell@... writes:

                  I meant, of course a lowered "subtonic," found in the old Dorian and
                  Mixolydian modes


                  Omigod! So that's why I couldn't sleep last night. :)



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