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

From: Patrick Andries (
Date: Wed Mar 07 2001 - 11:16:55 EST

----- Message d'origine -----
De : "Lukas Pietsch" <>

> > All notes could have been given post-1420 names given the fact that the
> > white notes appear only after 1420...
> Well, not really, because there are quite a few symbols (black notes of
> semibreve and above) which occur only in the pre-1420 notation. So the
> series of "black" note names would have a confusing gap:

Maybe not. As I mentioned in my first message, I believe these are font
variants (they
have the same names and values). If you have a pre-1420 font they are
whites, after they are black (they do
not usually appear simultaneously) . I may be wrong on this, please feel
free to correct me.

> That's what your proposal boils down to, isn't it?

No, IMHO, the black pre-1420 variants should not be coded and named.

> Well, certainly
> historically correct, but I find it even slightly more confusing than the
> other way. I do think that the terminology Unicode has chosen is the more
> consistent one.

I see, siding with authority...

>Confusing, yes, but it *will* be confusing to
> non-specialist users either way, won't it?

I don't think so, this is the practice adopted in most (short) musical
dictionary, like the one you quoted :

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")*****

I would suggest (and I was wondering about using it for ISO 10646 1st Amdt
of Part 1 French translation) to use the first column names with their
post-1420 form, all lay books seem to use them. My problems are the
superfluous (pre-1420) black forms (the historical glyph variants) which
would still have to be named. Note that I fully accept that I may err and,
in fact, do not want to push my point too hard here, not being a specialist.

> > P.S. Incidentally, do your sources also show consistently the nominal
> form
> > of the MAXIMA and LONGA with stems pointing downwards contrarily to the
> > Unicode reference glyph ?
> >
> Oops, indeed, they do, and I hadn't noticed. (As I said, my musicology
> at university are way back...) -- This might very well be significant.
> I think mensural notation did not have the modern convention that the
> orientation of the noteheads depends on the position on the stave.

As far as the stave position is concerned, it may well well vary; but are
the reference glyph stems in musical books not predominantly down for those
two notes? (see,

> Hold on, I'll check.

> I also notice that the "black maxima" seems to be missing. Since we have
> the "black" and "white" series, we ought to have them both complete,
> "black longa" can be thougt of as unified with Gregorian 1d1d3 "virga",
> "black brevis" with generic 1d147 "square notehead black", but the "black
> maxima" isn't there.

Not missing, if the black variety is simply an historical glyph variant.

P. Andries
(who will be offline for two days).

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