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Re: Shape notes

From: Laura Conrad
Subject: Re: Shape notes
Date: 20 Feb 2002 11:07:03 -0500
User-agent: Gnus/5.0808 (Gnus v5.8.8) XEmacs/21.4 (Artificial Intelligence)

>>>>> "Martin" == Martin Sander <Sander> writes:

    Martin> Now back to the originial question: Singing all my life
    Martin> out of 'normal' notes I personally (like Amelie?) see no
    Martin> advantage in shape notes. Maybe if I was used to them? I
    Martin> know of methods for teaching instruments to children using
    Martin> colours and so. But I am asking myself (my children learnt
    Martin> notes the usual way) wether this is really a help and not
    Martin> something you get addicted to? Will you ever (without
    Martin> major problems, i.e. with less effort than learning it
    Martin> 'the hard way') get 'free' from the shapes?

I'm not advocating that lily support shape notes because I'd actually
teach anyone to read music that way.  I would use them because I
sometimes sing music that was originally published that way, and one
of the things I use lily for is to publish music the way the original
composers did it.  So if lily had a shape note font, I would use it
when I transcribed the music of William Billings, the way I use the
options to make the barlines invisible when I transcribe the music of
John Dowland and Thomas Morley.  The music of Dowland and Morley does
actually become much easier to sing when presented without barlines,
and I'm told by people who sing a lot of shape note music that it's
easier with the shapes, too.  

The singing schools that taught music reading via sol-fa and shape
notes weren't trying to train people who would then go on to
conservatory and get jobs in symphony orchestras; they were trying to
train people who wanted to get together and sing once a week.  A
problem these people faced that your children probably don't 
is that the words and the tunes were often printed in different
books.  So you had to memorize one or the other to sing at all.  

The Sunday schools worked hard at getting children to memorize the
metrical psalms which were the most frequent words for the church
hymns.  The shape notes were a way to speed up memorization of the
tunes, because people would sing the sol-fa syllables, which is
easier with the shapes, from the book without the words.  Then they
would turn to the book with the words, having memorized the tune.

Because the people I sing with generally don't have this sort of
musical education (as you and your children probably also don't), one
of the things I use lily for is to underlay the words in music like
this the way a modern hymnal does.  But I do think it would be good to
also have the shapes.  

Laura (mailto:address@hidden , )
(617) 661-8097  fax: (801) 365-6574 
233 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

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