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<<  -- 2 --  Jennifer Paull    REMINISCENT RETROSPECTIVES


So, on one side of this River Sarine, children sing E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E for the scale of E major, and on the other, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do, Re, Mi. This seems most confusing to those of us with an Anglo-Saxon musical heritage. We can easily relate to any tonic home-base being referred to as Do. The French, and those of French linear descent who also still use Ut (the Romandie part of Switzerland, Belgium, Quebec etc.), cannot! For them, Do is C and no sliding rule of relativity can apply!

Of course there are other variations on the theme. The Germans have the 'H' for B natural (Si) and call Bb (Si bémol) B. This and a few other German modifications have been most useful to musicians and composers who have wanted to sign their names in musical notation. Bach really had no problems there!

Having lived and worked as a musician and teacher in several continents, I have needed to adapt myself to these differences in musical language. There are some pitfalls that can be avoided by taking an international approach, which I admit I do. The French have a very poetic way of saying things, as one would expect! A crotchet (quarter note) rest is called a sigh (soupir). If you halve both note and rest values, you have a quaver ( 8th note or croche) equal to a 'half-sigh' (demi soupire). There is nothing very dramatic so far. The next step is also relatively painless, giving us a semi quaver ( 16th note or double croche) equal to a 'quarter of a sigh'. However, catastrophe is about to strike! When we divide what the French refer to as a 'black' ( noire, crotchet, or quarter note) into eight parts, the result is what they call a triple croche (demi semi quaver or 32nd note). Its corresponding rest is an 'eighth of a sigh' (huitième-de-soupir).

I have lost count of the students to whom I have been obliged to teach the French system, who have thought that triple croche implied an odd number of divisions. There had to be 3 triple croches in a double croche. 'Sorry, everybody, there are two!', I repeated time and again. Its rest being termed an 'eighth of a sigh', obviously implied an even division. 'Madame, how on earth can they represent the same value?' Good question! I changed languages and explained in American note values. The American system calls everything just exactly what it is, and when it isn't, it's rest is called what it would have been had it been there in the first place!

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Copyright © 25 January 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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