You Have to Sing Them Correctly!” Notation and Performance in Cunțană Chant

Costin Moisil


The most widespread variant of Orthodox Church music in Transylvania is the so-called cunțană chant. Its name comes from Dimitrie Cunțan, who was the first one to notate and print a collection of chants then prevailing in Transylvania (Cântări bisericești, 1890). Cunțan’s volume quickly became authoritative and is still today regarded with high respect by Transylvanian cantors.
Despite their declared attachment to the scores of Cunțan, cantors often distance themselves from the written musical text. What are the differences between the notated and the performed variants of a chant? What role does the score play in the performance? Can present-day performance help in the understanding of the church music of the past? My paper is a work-in-progress which tries to answer these questions.

“With the Ear” or “With the note”: Orality and Notation among the Fiddlers of Cyprus

Nicoletta Demetriou


This paper discusses how the fiddlers of Cyprus – folk musicians of a professional class that has now all but died out – learned music in the first half of the twentieth century. These musicians’ apprenticeship usually lasted between six months and a year. Within that space of time, men (this was an exclusively male professional class) with no prior knowledge of music had to learn the entire repertoire that accompanied the rituals connected with the traditional Cypriot wedding, as well as several entertainment pieces. Some teachers taught “with the ear” (i.e. by ear, or aurally), while others preferred to teach “with the note” (i.e. by note, using staff notation). Drawing on material from interviews with fiddlers, this paper discusses both these teaching methods, their advantages and disadvantages, and also looks at the effect of notation on the musicians’ practice, after learning “with the note” became the norm.

Orality, Writing and Music in South Asia

Richard Widdess


Although writing has been used in the Indian Subcontinent for some 4,000 years, to a very large extent cultural knowledge has been transmitted orally. This remains the case especially with music and dance. Oral transmission does not, however, preclude the use of notation. Syllabic systems of oral notation for music or dance are often integral to oral pedagogy, especially in the case of percussion instruments. In many such oral systems, musical contrasts of pitch and sonority are encoded in analogous phonological contrasts, while other information such as duration is left unspecified.
In the art-music tradition (śāstrīya sangīta), a set of seven solmization syllables, denoting degrees of a heptatonic scale, provide an oral notation for melody. These can be articulated orally while singing, and can also be written down in locally available syllabic writing-systems. The earliest surviving example, the Music Inscription at Kuḍumiyāmalai, Tamil Nadu (7th century), is exceptionally complex, exploiting vowel-pitch iconicity of both sound and script to denote direction of melodic movement. Later examples in theoretical texts (13th century) present a series of scale-degree names only, leaving much to be inferred (or learned through oral tradition), but revealing formal schemas that suggest techniques of melodic improvisation or variation.
In modern times both percussion and solmization oral notations were exploited by musical reformers as part of their standardization and institutionalization of classical music pedagogy. But printed anthologies of melodic or percussion compositions vary in the degree to which they can be understood independently of oral transmission.

Sa ri gamaka. Notation et pratique de l’ornementation dans la tradition karnatique

William Tallotte


The sargam notation is a syllabic notation used in south Indian art-music (i.e. karnatic) to write down melodies – from the simplest didactic exercises to the most complex compositions. As a solmization system of melodic notation, it lacks (in its written form at least) of information relating to performative issues, especially to micro-melodic movements, that is, ornaments (gamaka). Hence, a pupil cannot sing or play correctly a piece from a score without the help of his teacher (guru); the result, due to the absence of ornamentation, would simply sound ‘flat’, ‘tasteless’, ‘without dynamism’. This article, with references to history, performance practice and schema theory, discusses the relation between notation and ornamentation in present-day apprenticeship.

Movement, Emotion and Speech. The Influence of Stage Performance on the Rhythmical Interpretation of French Baroque Opera

Jaakko Olkinuora


This presentation discusses the rhythmical interpretation of French Baroque opera. Modern performance practices have been dominated by a well-regulated rhythmical approach. However, according to the written testimonies from the Baroque period (e.g. Bénigne de Bacilly and Jean-Léonard Le Gallois de Grimarest), rhythmical interpretation was rather free and the use of rubato was encouraged to emphasize the different emotions expressed by text and acting.
The interest of studying an operatic scène from this perspective is demonstrated with practical examples from Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera Isis (1st act, 1st scène) from 1676. The composition, indeed, is interpreted through acting, declamation, gesture, and with a more elastic and less notation-bound rhythmical performance.

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