Capturing Music: The Story of Notation

Capturing Music: The Story of Notation

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This book by Thomas Forrest Kelly is an entertaining history of how musicians learned to record music for all time, filled with art that sings. In today’s digital landscape, music can be experienced anytime, anywhere. But before this instant accessibility and dizzying array of formats, there was only one recording technology: music notation. It allowed singers and soloists to travel across great distances and perform their work with stunning fidelity, a feat that we now very much take for granted.

Kelly transports us to the lively and complex world of monks and monasteries, of a dove singing holy chants into the ear of a saint, and of bustling activity in the Cathedral of Notre Dame—an era when the only way to share even the simplest song was to learn it by rote, church to church and person to person. Telling a story that spans five hundred years, the author leads us on a journey through medieval Europe and shows how we learned to keep track of rhythm, melody, and precise pitch with a degree of accuracy previously unimagined.

The author reveals the technological advances that led us to the system of notation we use today, placing each step of its evolution in its cultural and intellectual context. Companion recordings by the renowned Blue Heron ensemble are paired with vibrant illuminated manuscripts, bringing the art to life and allowing readers to experience something of the marvel that medieval writers must have felt when they figured out how to capture music for all time.

256 pages; 6.5 x 9.6 inches ; hardcover

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