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Dairyland and the baroque cross sign,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

I am writing for a shy keyboard player in NY and she has the following questions: 1) What do the upside-down 'v', and 2) the cross above notes in baroque music notation mean? 3) Where may she find a book explaining baroque and pre-baroque musical notation? I know you have worked extensively in this field and your expertise is greatly appreciated.

From J9, newly of America's Dairyland

Dear J9,
Very good question.
Thousands of musicians have wondered in vain!!!!

Normally, the cross sign implies that a trill (or appogiatura) would have been expected, though not overtly decreed, while the upside-down v-thingie was used to suggest a shorter and/or crisper stroke (though musicologists can argue for years about how long is long and how short is short etc etc etc.)

Can depend upon the dating (and, naturally, composer) of the manuscript as well, I believe.

But this is nothing!!!!!! Absolutely nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Early music players can also argue about:

  1. whether eating red meat makes gut strings die quicker (no, I am not joking!!!)
  2. whether two drops of echinacea (which is a herb never proven even to cure the common cold) taken at the full moon can cure cancer
  3. whether the earth is really flat and its supposed roundness a capitalist, US-led conspiracy
  4. whether a mark in a Bach manuscript that LOOKS like a sharp and SOUNDS as if it ought to be a sharp, is actually a place where he once put his coffee mug down
  5. all sorts of other zany ideas I'm only too grateful (over the last decade) to have forgotten about

So, bung in a few trills where you see plus-signs and slightly shorten the stroke for the upside-down v's is my advice, but my real advice is that life's too short.

Yours, free, free, free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (from fussing about such details)

Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Wonderful 2007 to BOTH my readers

Copyright © 29 December 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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