[Smt-talk] notation query

David Feurzeig mozojo at gmail.com
Sun May 6 17:10:38 PDT 2012

Collective Wisdom:

In thinking about conventions of metric notation and teaching students to write rhythms "properly," I've become interested in the history of the prolongation dot. Besides its origins, I'm curious to know of any scholarship that addresses when certain conventions became obsolete:

a) When/how did it stop being acceptable to dot across the barline?

b) Within a bar, when did "syncopated dotted notes" become incorrect (or very unusual)?

By a "syncopated dotted note" I don't mean an inverted dot  or "Scotch snap," but a dotted note of base value "n" that begins on a weak nth beat or subdivision--such as a dotted quarter in 4/4 that begins on the second quarter of the measure.

This is not unusual in Baroque music--for ex., the subject of the D-sharp minor fugue from book I of the WTC begins 

(4/4) Q   Q.    E E E       (Q = quarter, E = eighth)

It is also common in Mozart. A familiar example of dozens just from the piano sonatas is the C Major Sonata, K. 545, 1st mvt, m. 14:

(4/4) E E Q.     ss E E     (s = sixteenth)

But in post-Classical music, such rhythms are almost always notated with a Q tied to an E on the strong beat.

If anyone knows more about the evolution of common notation practice in this regard, I would appreciate pointers, on or off-list.


David Feurzeig
University of Vermont

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