Vox Humana Posted March 12, 2015 Share Posted March 12, 2015 In another thread, jnong9497 asked: I once learned that notes inegales for certain French music was mainly for slurred notes and/or descending seconds, but I now cannot find any good sources for his. Did anybody else learn this too? It seems that certain sources, on the other hand, claim that slurs mean the opposite, that the notes should be played evenly. Rather than pursue an off-topic tangent on that thread I thought it would be better to open a new one. I don't claim any scholarly expertise in notes inégales, but, from what I have gathered from reading around, it seems that slurs have little or nothing to do with the technique. They are not instructions to apply either inequality or equality; they are just articulation marks that may be consistent with either mode, depending on the context. There were various ways of cancelling notes inégales, but there can be confusion since some terms had different meanings for different authors. The clearest instructions are "notes égales", "croches égales", a series of dots over the notes, or dashes over them (the latter meaning equal and staccato). Notes inégales were an aid to playing elegantly: those who see them as a licence to make the music bouncy are missing the point entirely. The most recent word on notes inégales (and also the most practical explanation of the topic I have seen) is Beverly Jerold's article, "Notes inégales: a definitive new parameter" in last May's issue of Early Music. There is a useful abstract of the article here. She doesn't mention slurs, but her purpose is not so much to explain the system comprehensively, as to dispose of the notion that notes inégales were practised outside France. She tells us that nearly 70 sources mention notes inégales, but none of them offers more than scraps of information. Occasionally the information is contradictory, partly because not all the authors were adept writers, but also because of changes in outlook over the decades. Notes inégales were essentially a pedagogical tool in elementary French music instruction. The main purpose of the technique was to develop in the student a sense of rhythm in an age when there was no metronome.One of the more complete instructions is also one of the earliest, by Étienne Loulié (1696): In any signature whatever, particularly the one of three beats, the half-beats are executed in two different ways, although written in the same manner. 1o Sometimes they are performed equally. This is called détachez les Nottes, and is used for melodies with notes in disjunct motion. 2o The first half-beats are sometimes made a little longer. This is called Lourer [connecting the notes], and is used for melodies with notes in conjunct motion. There is yet a third manner [for executing two notes comprising a beat], in which the first half-beat is made much longer than the second, but the first half-beat must have a dot. This is called Piquer or Pointer. It is Loulié's second manner that equates to notes inégales: the notes are played slightly unequally, long-short.From other writers we learn that the note value carrying the inequality depends on the time signature: 3/2: crotchets2, 3, 6/4, C-barré: quavers (but the sources disagree about applying inequality in the latter)C, 2/4, 3/4, compound time: semiquaversSeveral agree that inequality is cancelled by (i) predominantly disjunct motion and/or (ii) the presence of a note value smaller than the one carrying the inequality. Thus the presence of semiquavers in 2, 3 or 6/4 will mean that the quavers are played equally. By the second half of the eighteenth century, notes inégales were on the wane. In 1772 the Parisian violinist J.-B. Labadens considered mild inequality to be only a study process that was not to be made apparent to the listener. Jerold writes: "As standards improved over the course of the 18th century, it [notes inégales] was less necessary and finally abandoned. This is not to deny that it was used to lend interest to a long series of equal conjunct notes, but such passages were fewer as composition became more complex." François Couperin didn't much like inequality and said so in 1717. For Jerold's demolition of the notion that notes inégales were practised outside France you need to read her article. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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