NOTATION OF FOLK MELODIES


The process of recording does not end with the photographing of a melody on a roller, a record or a tape recorder, at all with its mechanical registration.

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Once mechanically recorded, the song must be notated in musical notation and presented in a form convenient for performance and analysis. The problem of manual notation, i.e. the notation of musical folklore, is one of the most important and at the same time one of the most difficult problems in musical ethnography.

"I sincerely thank you for sending the songs. I must tell you frankly, however, that they were recorded by an inexperienced hand and bear only traces of their primitive beauty. Their most important defect is that they have been artificially and forcibly inserted in the right size and rhythm. Only the Russian dance-songs have a rhythm with a regular evenly accented beat, and you know that bilins can have nothing in common with dance-songs. Besides, most of the these songs are also written down artificially in solemn Sol major, and this is contrary to the structure of a true Russian folk song, which almost always has an indefinite tonality much closer to the ancient church tunes. Altogether, the songs you have sent cannot be subjected to a correct and systematic( treatment, and a collection cannot be compiled from them, because for this it is necessary to record the song, at least as far as possible, as it is performed by the people themselves. And this is a very difficult work, requiring the finest musical feeling and great musical-historical erudition."

The notation of songs download should be done as accurately and faithfully as possible with the original. Yet it must be borne in mind that an absolutely correct and accurate notation of the songs is impossible because of the nature (imperfection) of the music notation, which lacks adequate signs for all pitches, timbres and durations.

But if the accurate notation of ordinary professional music presents certain difficulties, so much more difficult is the notation, or notation, of folk music. As Béla Bartók rightly points out, the only true and absolutely accurate recording is the sound groove produced by the phonograph needle on the wax roller or on the bakelite record. Of course, the needle trace can be enlarged, photographed and printed separately from the musical notation or alongside it; to aid it. But this complicated procedure will be of little use to the musical folklorist because of the over-complicated curves and swirls of the sound track on the roller or record. Therefore, the performer will not be able to decipher directly and instantaneously the visual cues (the visible needle marks on the record) and bring them into tones. In order to be able to quickly decipher, categorize, and study sound phenomena, our mind must have at its disposal, as visual impressions, a system of extremely simple conventional signs, visible symbols that correspond to the sound phenomena.

These conventional signs form the so-called musical-note letter. This system, however, proves quite inadequate for folk music, which turns out to be much more complex and varied, with many more pitches and many more rhythmic durations and relationships than the music of the pre-classical and classical eras for which these signs were created. For example, musical notation lacks signs for rhythmic values containing 5, 7, 9, and 11... times the unit of time. Therefore, when this notation system is used for the notation of folk music, it should be extended, supplemented with some special signs which will enable the notator to denote with greater precision some characteristic features of folk music. Robert Lachmann and Béla Bartók call these additional marks "diacritical marks", by analogy with the diacritical marks in the writing of some ancient languages, where they have a similar meaning.

And despite the use of these additional marks, musical notation has limited possibilities. It is not able to express and denote such subtle differences in pitch and durations as the senses or the musical consciousness of a recorder can barely detect. It can therefore be used only by the well-trained specialist in folk music. For an amateur, even for a professional musician educated in the traditions of Western music, musical notation with all its additional and other signs proves quite insufficient. In any case, one has to keep in mind the perceptual possibilities and limits of the human musical mind.

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