Early modern English musical notation bears a fleeting resemblance to that of its modern counterpart. This superficial similarity conceals the markedly different manner in which early music notation functioned and the clues that it offers for an older and more dynamic way of reading music. This form of notation was not a transcription for future performance but rather a provocation to performance. As a result, musical notation frequently “leaked” into decorative margins. The musical pages of this period display evident delight in melding, blending, and blurring the distinction between decorative and notational elements in an effort to forge musical meaning. This article explores how far the curled lines of musical notation and ornamentation can be thought of as visual prompts to think about music and its continuation beyond the space of the page, testament to an older, more playful understanding of how to read music.

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