home ' about ' albums ' the harp ' ap Huw pages ' contact
the manuscript ''' interpretation ''' tuning ''' historical context
interpretation/notation
advanced search

 

The notation of the manuscript is alphabetical, and the letters correspond both to the strings on the harp and to the pitches which they produce. The strings are divided into octaves from g to f, and the octave levels are distinguished by dashes, bars and dots beside or above the letters; the lowest three strings are denoted by double letters (CC, DD and FF); there is no E string in the lowest octave. The range of the notation is from the C below middle C to the G two and a half octaves above middle C; a total of 25 notes:
                    _ _ _ _ _ _ _               _  
cc dd ff g| a| b| c| d| e| f| g a b c d e f g. a. b. c. d. e. f. g.  

The letters in the tablature correspond to the white notes on the piano keyboard apart from B, which is tuned to B-flat throughout the manuscript. The music is notated in systems (generally six to a page) which present the parts for the upper and the lower hands above and below a central dividing line in each system. The alphabetical symbols for the notes are generally placed as close to this dividing line as possible, irrespective of their pitch.

At first sight, the most striking aspect of the notated music is that it proceeds in vertical columns of notes, some of which give as many as seven note-symbols one above the other. Above most of these columns are further symbols which turn out to be instructions about precisely how the notes below them are to be played. Peter Greenhill has given these symbols the name "movements", for reasons which will later become clear. Later in the manuscript, from p. 56 onwards, a further set of symbols can be seen from time to time above the "movement" symbols. These are apparently rhythm signs, which should be disregarded, however, since they seem to be a later addition to the text by someone who did not fully understand the metrical and rhythmical structure of the music. There are no key signatures, and no symbols for sharps or flats, since they were not necessary in this diatonic music which used only one tuning. It would also be advisable to disregard the occasional vertical strokes through the central line of the system, which look enticingly like bar-lines. They are not used consistently, and, as will be seen later, a much more reliable system has been developed to determine the barring of the music and the precise rhythm of the notes.

Before going into more detailed explanation of how the notation system works it should be mentioned that the text of the music is heavily abbreviated. This is because there is a great deal of repetition, and the scribe was able to save time and trouble by replacing sometimes lengthy repeated sections by verbal instructions. These have to be understood before the full text of the music can be recovered.

 

 
 

back to top

  ©pauldooley.com 2004
last updated 17/04/06