Re: Square and lozenge notes -- Musical Notation 3.1 -- Mensural notation

From: Lukas Pietsch (
Date: Wed Mar 07 2001 - 04:28:57 EST

Patrick Andries enquired:

> 2) U+1D1C0 seems to have an incorrect names (e.g. "fusa black"). This is
> character (SEMIBREVIS BLACK + STEM + FLAG-2)

> I believe, this is black SEMI-FUSA. [snip]
> I believe the confusion may stem from the fact that some symbols have
> change names and values through time (see below). Unicode seems to have
> aligned itself on the pre-1420 names (the smaller set of symbols) and
> extrapolated from it the names of the black notes that appeared only
after 1420.

No, I think the Unicode terminology is correct. The name "fusa black" has
not been extrapolated anachronistically. It was indeed used like this
pre-1420 (although the dictionary table you quote doesn't show it.) The
Unicode terminology is consistent in so far as all white notes are given
post-1420 names, and all black notes are given pre-1420 names,
notwithstanding the fact that these black notes were also used with
*different* names and values post-1420.

I only have small dictionaries at hand at the moment ("Meyers
Taschenlexikon Musik", p. 265, and "DTV Atlas zur Musik", p.214, 233). They
show me the following:

Pre-1420 (when all noteheads were black:)

semibr. = (lozenge) head (=1d1ba "semibrevis black")
minima = head + stem (=1d1bc "minima black")
semimin.= head + stem + flag1 (=1d1be "semiminima black")
fusa = head + stem + flag2 (=1d1c0 "fusa black")

Post-1420 (when black vs white noteheads became distinctive:)

semibr. = white head (=1d1b9 "semibrevis white")*
minima = white head + stem (=1d1bb "minima white")**
semimin.= white head + stem + flag1 (=1d1bd "semiminima white"), or:
          black head + stem (=1d1bc "minima black")***
fusa = white head + stem + flag2 (=1d1bf "fusa white"), or:
          black head + stem + flag1 (=1d1be "semiminima black")****
semifusa= black head + stem + flag2 (=1d1c0 "fusa black")*****

*=> modern whole note
**=> modern half note / minim
***=> modern quarter note / crotchet
****=> modern 8th note / quaver
*****=> modern 16th note / semiquaver
(Note: My sources don't show the alternative semifusa (white head + stem +
flag3) which your source shows, and which is not in Unicode. Maybe that one
is an anachronistical extrapolation?)

You can see that the Unicode terminology is consistent with all of the
pre-1420 symbols, and at least with one of the two sets of post-1420
symbols. (Even if that is not the set of symbols that eventually came to

If people wish to know with more certainty, I'd have to read up. I'm afraid
I've forgotten most of what they taught us in notation class during my
musicology days at the university. ;-)


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