On a Suggested Simplification of the Established Pitch-Notation

Sedley Taylor
1874 Proceedings of the Musical Association  
B T way of introduction to the more distinctly practical portion of this paper, I propose to examine concisely the following question :-' What are the essential requisites of a good notation for musical pitch. P' I shall then enquire how far the system in common use satisfies the conditions which an answer to this question must embody. Before submitting to the Association some suggestions of my own for remedying the defects which will thus be brought to light, I shall make a few observations on
more » ... the loading methods by which others have sought to attain the same object. This will be done with no desire to disparage the merits of these schemes, but merely in order to show that their success has not been so complete as to render further efforts superfluous and uncalled for. Music has, of course, an existence absolutely independent of, and prior to, all notation whatever. Volkslieder are handed down from generation to generation by oral tradition alone. If our language contains no recognised equivalent for the German word just used, our country none the less possesses the thing, and a distinguished member of our Association has earned the gratitude of every patriotic English musician by endowing us with a permanent record of these homely and home-recalling strains. Now what is the feature in the notes of one of these simple airs which enables us instantly to recognise it, whether we hear it whistled by a shepherd o'er the lea, or ground on a barrel-organ in a foreign land p Most certainly it is not what we call the absolute pitch of the different sounds heard. Whether these be the deep tones of a manly bass, or the ringing notes of a childish treble, the recognition is equally unhesitating. In fact, we no more think of calling for a ' Standard A' tuning-fork to settle the point, than we do of asking for a foot-rule to enable us to recognise the portrait of an absent friend. That the tune begins on c, or g, or g$, as little influences our power of recognition in the one case, as the fact of our friend's face in the picture being 10, 11, or 12 inches long does in the other. It is, then, the relations of pitch among the notes of a melody which fix its character, just as it is the relations of size and form among the parts of a portrait which constitute its likeness to the person whom it represents. Of
doi:10.1093/jrma/1.1.18 fatcat:wkpkykonmfa3tm5nv3qntqbewe