Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 17 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Henrik Sinding-Larsen analyzes how new tools for the visual description of sound revolutionized the way music was conceived, performed, and disseminated. Early on, the ancient Greeks had described pitches and intervals in mathematically precise ways. However, their complex system had few consequences until it was combined with the practical minds of Roman Catholic choirmasters around 1000 ce. Now, melodies became depicted as note-heads on lines with precise pitch meanings and with note names based on octaves. This graphical and conceptual externalization of patterns in sound paved the way for a polyphonic complexity unimaginable in a purely oral/aural tradition. However, this higher complexity also entailed strictly standardized/homogenized scales and less room for improvisation in much of notation-based music. Through the concept of externalization, lessons from the history of musical notation are generalized to other tools of description, and Sinding-Larsen ends with a reflection on what future practices might become imaginable and unimaginable as a result of computer programming.

Keywords: notation, music theory, tuning systems, polyphony, cultural evolution, externalization, standardization, complexity, control

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.