iPhoneOgraphy – 28 Jun 2016 (Day 180/366)
Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instruments or sung by the human voice through the use of written, printed, or otherwise-produced symbols, including ancient symbols or modern musical symbols and including ancient symbols cut into stone, made in clay tablets or made using a pen on papyrus, parchment or manuscript paper; printed using a printing press (ca. 1400)s, a computer printer (ca. 1980s) or other printing or modern copying technology. Types and methods of notation have varied between cultures and throughout history, and much information about ancient music notation is fragmentary. Even in the same time period, such as in the 2010s, different styles of music and different cultures use different music notation methods; for example, for professional classical music performers, sheet music using staves and note heads is the most common way of notating music, but for professional country music session musicians, the Nashville Number System is the main method.
Although many ancient cultures used symbols to represent melodies and rhythms, none of them were nearly as comprehensive as written languages such as English or Arabic, limiting our modern understanding of the surviving notation. Comprehensive music notation began to be developed in Europe in the Middle Ages, starting with the Catholic Church’s goal to unite its vast empire by notating Plainchant melodies so that the same chants could be used across the empire. Music notation developed in the Renaissance and Baroque music eras. The introduction of figured bass or (“throughbass”) notation in the Baroque era was the beginning of composers writing pieces based around chord progressions (a key method for popular music songwriters in the 20th and 21st century). In the classical period (1750–1820) and the Romantic music era (1820–1900), notation continued to develop as new musical instrument technologies were developed. In contemporary classical music of the 20th and 21st century, music notation has continued to develop, with the introduction of graphical notation by some modern composers and the use, since the 1980s, of computer-based score writer programs for notating music. Music notation has been adapted to many kinds of music, including classical music, popular music and traditional music.
The earliest form of musical notation can be found in a cuneiform tablet that was created at Nippur, in Sumer (today’s Iraq), in about 2000 BC. The tablet represents fragmentary instructions for performing music, that the music was composed in harmonies of thirds, and that it was written using a diatonic scale. A tablet from about 1250 BC shows a more developed form of notation. Although the interpretation of the notation system is still controversial, it is clear that the notation indicates the names of strings on a lyre, the tuning of which is described in other tablets. Although they are fragmentary, these tablets represent the earliest notated melodies found anywhere in the world.
Ancient Greek musical notation was in use from at least the 6th century BC until approximately the 4th century AD; several complete compositions and fragments of compositions using this notation survive. The notation consists of symbols placed above text syllables. An example of a complete composition is the Seikilos epitaph, which has been variously dated between the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD.
Three hymns by Mesomedes of Crete exist in manuscript. The Delphic Hymns, dated to the 2nd century BC, also use this notation, but they are not completely preserved. Ancient Greek notation appears to have fallen out of use around the time of the Decline of the Roman Empire.