Aural Images of Lost Traditions: Sharps and Flats in the Sixteenth Century
Twentieth-century musicians endeavouring to re-create the music of earlier periods face a variety of challenges. Robert Toft addresses one of these: in the sixteenth century, sharps and flats were rarely notated in the sources of vocal music. Singers were expected to be familiar with the principles governing the application of these signs and to make the appropriate alterations themselves. Through a comparative study of vocal sources, intabulations of vocal music (instrumental transliterations which specify all pitches unambiguously), and theoretical treatises, Toft documents the range of theoretical possibilities open to the performer and indicates which sharps and flats practising musicians actually incorporated in their performances. Thus, one of the thorniest problems performers and editors of Renaissance vocal music face is discussed in the widest context possible, allowing oral traditions which sixteenth-century vocal notation only partly records to be revealed.
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