[SCA-Dance] Playford's black notes
alexbclark at pennswoods.net
Fri May 23 19:16:44 EDT 2008
Here's an interesting puzzle for anyone here who studies music history:
I've been taking a closer look at 1st edition Playford in facsimile, and I
notice that he seems to like black notes. For the tunes with major
prolation (each beat subdivided into three)--nearly two thirds of all the
tunes in the book--he uses black notation instead of white notation. For
the rest of the tunes, he always uses single-flagged notes (eighth notes,
in modern American usage), with the result that Cast a Bell and Glory of
the West apparently have a quarter note to the beat, and no actual white
notes in what I expect is supposed to be "white notation".
But when he's using black notation, apparently one beat is always equal to
a dotted stemless diagonal notehead (I prefer not to assume that I know
what value he assigned thereto), and sometimes there are no flagged notes
(as in Adson's Saraband, Boatman, Jack Pudding, and Lady Spellor). I have
read that the stemless notes are supposed to have the same values according
to their shapes in both black and white notation, but this would mean that
he has a dotted whole note to a beat in black notation, where he uses a
half or quarter note to a beat in white notation. Also, he sometimes uses
an orthogonal rectangular notehead in black notation (as in The Fine
Companion and A Health to Betty), which he never uses in the white notation.
There are two tunes where he uses both notation systems together. Gray's
Inn Mask begins in white notation, and changes to black notation for the
last strain. And in Jenny Pluck Pears he changes from major prolation to
minor prolation with three notes to the measure (perfect time), and changes
to white notation. In both of these cases the last strain, in a different
time, is signed with a "3", which he does not otherwise use as a time
signature. In the first example the rhythm of the last strain seems
identical to what he usually signs with a "c".
So, can anyone tell me:
- Why does he use black and white notations in this way?
- Why does he prefer black notes? (I could guess that it's because the
white notes are not always printed legibly, but I don't really know.)
- What values does he consider the notes to have in black notation?
- Does he consider notes in black and white notation to be in any way
equivalent in Jenny Pluck Pears?
- Why does he sign two different changes in rhythm with "3", even when
one of them is a rhythm that he has a different signature for?
BTW, I see from my facsimiles of Sellengers Round that by the third edition
he was using white notation for tunes with major prolation, with a dotted
half note to a beat.
Henry of Maldon/Alex Clark
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