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Coda: The Meaning of Musical Literacy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2021

James Grier
Affiliation:
University of Western Ontario
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Summary

From its inception in the medieval West, musical notation constituted a complex system of visual communication that required extensive and specialized knowledge of the musical practices it attempted to depict along with a fine visual discrimination and apprehension of the symbols, to translate them from symbol to sound. Consequently, musical literacy has remained, since its introduction, the exclusive product of professional training at a high level, and, in some areas of musical practice, an indispensable credential for achieving professional status. Yet, this system simultaneously exerts enabling and limiting forces on musical practice. Obviously, a musician separated by distance and time from the creation of a musical work is able to read, study and perform it through the efficacy of notation and literacy. The ability to execute these tasks depends on the musician’s competency in musical literacy as well as her or his knowledge of the notation and musical style of the work, strictly historical considerations.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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