Association for Research into an
Alternative and Universal Music Notation
easy to play
All beginnings are difficult – as anyone taking up a musical instrument knows. Our music notation is the first hurdle. The originally logical form has been distorted by later changes. Yet musical
notes could be so easy to read.
Our chromatic scale has twelve notes. These are repeated over all octaves. In the traditional notation, however, they are found in different locations. Clefs and accidentals further complicate reading.
Is our traditional music notation the only way, to write and preserve music? Definitely not! This is the way it has developed. It is a convention – nothing more.
Composers have already reached the limits of the old system. New music needs a new form of notation. The well-known composer Arnold Schoenberg realized this. The time has now come for music notation to follow the developments of modern music.
for new music
With ARAUMUS, the Association for Research into an Alternative and Universal Music Notation, we plan to carry out a thorough investigation. We are a group of musicians, music fans and amateurs based in Muenster, Germany. The development of an alternative and universal music notation is to be carried out scientifically. For this undertaking we need help and support.
ARAUMUS, a registered association, which pursues charitable aims. In this way we can add authority to our cause. Scientific institutions and international research centers are becoming aware of
our efforts. We are applying for public funds and international support. With these resources we intend to carry out our own research and publish the results internationally.
We would welcome active membership and support for ARAUMUS e.V. in order to create a better basis for modern music. The time has now come for music notation to follow the developments of modern music.
Music Notation to follow the developments of modern music.
Our music has developed from the Middle Ages to the 21st century in giant steps. It is the development from the church modes of the Gregorian Chant to more modern modes and atonality, or from seven notes to twelve notes in the octave. Our music notation is still lagging slightly behind this rapid development.
Therefore the ARAUMUS Association has set itself the task of finding or developing an alternative notation for more modern music. To this end, the already known proposals for alternative
notations will first be tested. Secondly, after an evaluation, the best notations will be compared. And thirdly, one dodecaphonic music notation will be provided for future use as an alternative to traditional notation.
Before we enter this subject thoroughly, we show a few amazing examples of a comparison between the old music notation and a new one. In each example the traditional notation comes first.
An obvious disadvantage in the five-line system is the fact that the octaves are not equal. So, for instance, the note middle-C is on a line, its higher octave, however, is in a space. In the new notation with four lines all octaves are equal.
The old system is even more complicated by the use of different clefs. In the new notation there is only one clef, a Grand-Staff.
Many accidentals inside a measure make playing at sight difficult. [ J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Part I, Fugue 24. A theme in which all 12 semitones of the octave are present.]
If there are many ledger-lines, it becomes illegible. [ C. Yves: Concord Sonata.]
In front of every note there is at least one accidental, with the exception of the note F in measure 2.
[ P. Hindemith: Ludus Tonalis, Fuga Prima, measure 24.]
Even in classical music the structure or grammar of the diatonic system can create a multitude of accidentals, which makes playing at sight impossible.
[ L. van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 12, Marcia Funebre, measure 9.]
Again many accidentals. The change of clef distorts the visual flow of music. The left hand has to go up, not down. [ L. Brahms: Fantasia Op. 116, No.1, Cappriccio, measure 90.]
Once more many accidentals and changes of clef in both hands plus an octave sign, which interrupts the visual flow of the music. This example makes clear what is meant by a graphical representation of music, or with the slogan: Make music visible!
[ C. Debussy: Préludes pour piano, No. 1, Brouillards, measure 29.]
In traditional notation some chords can be shown only in a makeshift way (right above).
[ B. Bartok: Im Freien, No 4, Klänge der Nacht, measure 39.]
47 accidentals in one single measure. Please, play at sight!
[ A. Schoenberg: Klavierstücke, Op. 11, No. 3, measure 27.]
Development of Music Notation
Research into the history of European music notation has long since been accomplished. Therefore in this review we will only go back as far as attempts at alternative notations have been published. Through the centuries music notation has developed in both theory and practical use, not only positively but, unfortunately, also negatively. Therefore it is not surprising that active musicians suggested improvements as early as the eighteenth century.
The system of a horizontal staff of four lines with the note symbols, called neumes, developed during the late Middle Ages and worked well for the church modes that were used in Gregorian Chants. It is based on the system of a graph, in which pitch is shown on the vertical and duration on the horizontal extension.
In the church modes the octave had only seven notes and organs had only the white keys on the keyboard. In this article we cannot pursue the whys and wherefores of musical developments. But four hundred years later we have 12 notes in the octave and there are five new black keys on the organ keyboard. Yet there have been no great changes to the essence of notation; a fifth line was added to the staff and the accidentals were invented for the black keys on the keyboard.
It seems to have taken a long time for the world of music to realize that this is a poor, makeshift solution. After all, musical performances were becoming more and more magnificent. Today, however, after having advanced from diatonic to atonal music, and since pianos and organs are tuned not only to be well-tempered, but also to be in equal temperament, we have come to the point where a new dodecaphonic or twelve-tone notation is urgently needed.
The notation proposals primarily target the representation of the black keys on the keyboard. What we need is a notational system in which there is a fixed place for every one of the 12 notes of the octave, i.e. a staff system for the chromatic scale.
With note symbols moving from a line into a space between two lines, we will need six lines and six spaces for 12 notes. The result is a staff with six lines. However, this is not enough, because music can move further, maybe to the next octave and on the grand piano keyboard there are up to seven octaves. This example already shows how complicated music can be.
The first known musician to publish an alternative notation with a staff and note symbols was Roualle de Boisgelou in 1764 in Paris. He used a staff with seven lines. We will not go into more detail here. It is sufficient to know that mainly during the 19th and 20th century new proposals were made continuously. In 1985, an association was founded in the USA* to conduct research into this particular subject and in 1997 a Directory of Notation Proposals was published with 548 notation proposals. This number indicates the importance of searching for a better solution.
Fortunately, there have always been committed individuals who have carried out intensive research work in this field on their own initiative. However, so far the official world of music has not heeded the current situation. And the music publishers are guarding their storerooms filled with music books, as if someone was planning to commit burglary.
One pioneer of a new world, Arnold Schoenberg, showed the way when he said and wrote that in the same way as in his time children had to learn two alphabets, the German and the Latin handwriting,
similarly in future musicians would have to learn two music notations. In view of the efforts of many individuals with a similar vision who have invented new notations, these ideas should no
longer simply be rejected. Instead it is necessary to cooperate to find a satisfactory solution.
Here we would like to point out that the new music notation was initially developed for the age of the dodecaphonic scale, the equal temperament 12-tone scale. We should also remember that in China, for example, the temple bells represent exactly this scale. The application of the two whole-tone scales Feng and Huang, which when played alternately result in the 12-tone scale also originated in China. This is also known as the semi-tone scale. The chromatic scale, which was introduced into European music in the nineteenth century (Wagner), apparently already existed in other parts of the globe in prehistoric times. Therefore it is possible to speak of a new global or universal music notation.
If in future it becomes obvious in future that music of earlier centuries can be played from sight more easily when it is printed in the new notation – and not only by beginners, but also by more advanced musicians – some music publishers might enter the scene and start publishing new editions of masterpieces from the early times of equal temperament to modern times. We are convinced that with this initiative we are providing a valuable service to the world of music and we hope that future generations will be able to benefit from the advantages of the new music notation.
Time has not been idle during the last fifty years and today we are in a position to offer alternative music notations as complete ready to work with systems. For a first new notational system we are showing the ABC-Notation by Albert Brennink. The author, after thirty years in Canada, is back in Europe and is a member of our Association.
* Music Notation Modernization Association
P.O. Box 241, Kirksville, Missouri, 63501 USA
ARAUMUS, a registered association, which pursues charitable aims. In this way we can add authority to our cause. Scientific institutions and international research centers are becoming aware of our efforts. We are applying for public funds and international support. With these resources we intend to carry out our own research and publish the results internationally. We would welcome active membership and support for ARAUMUS e.V. in order to create a better basis for modern music. The time has now come for music notation to follow the developments of modern music.
Charter and Bylaws
Members (individual persons)
Annual subscription 100,- €
Students and trainees
Annual subscription 30,- €
Companies, institutions, organisations
Annual subscription 200,- €
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Association for research into
an alternative universal music notation
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