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<<  -- 3 --  Jennifer Paull    REMINISCENT RETROSPECTIVES


Last year, I found myself teaching in the United States for an academic year. It was then that I realised doing without Guido d'Arezzo and being purely logical was no longer so easy. I grew up in England and initially thought that I would have terrible problems driving on the right hand side of the road, or converting to Fa dièse for F sharp when I moved away. There I was again, back in a land of F# yet feeling quite homesick for my European musical heritage, or at least parts of it.

The American system does have one weak point. In Britain, our longest common note is the 'semi-breve'. The French equivalent is a ronde which means a 'round'. The Americans call this a whole note. Semi means half, and although rare and rather ancient, the British system includes the breve in its logic. In French, this is called a carée meaning a square, thereby underlining the disadvantages of the quill! As the American system has already played it's ace with a 'whole' note, they are obliged to invent a 'double whole note' to correspond to its value of eight quarter notes (crotchets, noires). I personally believe they could have been a trifle more poetic. How about updating to Kingsize, Stained Glass Windows, or Scorescape ll ?

I also feel that there is major flaw in the German/Anglo-Saxon system's logic. Our musical writing spans a clef grid which is based on C. Middle C is the common denominator for both treble and bass clefs. It is a two-way mirror. If we go up three spaces into the treble clef or down three into the bass, we will find C again. Continuing either up or down to the next octave, we have C as 2 ledger lines above the treble or below the bass clefs. Yet C is the third letter of the alphabet! We don't start an alphabet with its third letter in the language of words; doing so in music is not logical! The scale of C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C begins the alphabet six letters in. If we use the Guido d'Arezzo system, it kicks off with the first name on the first note! That makes so much more sense, particularly in learning the relationship of one clef to another, and one hand to another on a keyboard

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Copyright © 25 January 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland





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