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Re: [xml-dev] RE: Seduced by Markup

On 11/19/2013 04:56 PM, Michael Sokolov wrote:
The idea these signatures are unnecessary is pure 21st century thinking.  When the music notation was invented, *key signatures were not equivalent*.

True, C# != Db thanks to the physics of the harmonics going on underneath. When the western world adopted Bach's model...that would have been a perfect time for a syntax re-factoring. But it never happened :-/ :-)

Sure its a hack, but it is a very useful one if you want to modulate a composition or play in a range of keys without constantly re-tuning. Compare computing. The notion that an electric signal is, say either +5 volts (a "1") or 0v (a "0") is never as clean as we pretend it is. Its all analog underneath:-) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_integrity). But it sure is convenient simplification.

My favourite example of how music syntax gets unnecessarily complicated to the detriment of cognition, is the aura of gravitas and mystery around how the B-C interval and the E-F interval as "special". They are only special in the C-major/piano biased notation. The semi-tone difference between B and C is in no way conceptually different than the semi-tone difference between, say, G and G#. So why does one have a "#" and the other not? G# is a completely different note from G. One semitone up. It is not "G with a twist". Same for B, C.

Humming a song in Bflat major is no more complicated than humming in C major. So why does one have more complicated notation than the other? Accidents of history, combined with physical aspects of different types of instruments.

The sad result is that many musicians - especially keen amateurs - end up feeling as if some keys, on the circle of fifths say, are more "advanced" than others. Or that a key signature with lots of sharps/flats is more complicated somehow....

I think its especially unfortunate for chordal string players where barre chords and capos make hopping between lots of keys a snap - once players get over the notion that playing in, say, Bflat, is "advanced" compares to playing in G.

I sometimes wonder how may budding musicians give up on music theory because it looks complicated when in fact, its really not, once you get past the hurdles that the notation puts in front of you.

And don't get me started on the Greek names for modes which have befuddled generations of string players especially, who when they finally get it, invariably think "Wow! That's all there is to it? Its that simple? But it *sounded so complicated*."

It was the notation that sounded complicated.



Sean McGrath
US Tel: +1 775 2976310
e-mail:sean.mcgrath@propylon.com web:www.propylon.com

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