The Joys of Early Notation

Singing and Playing from Rennaisance notation has been a central part of Amherst Early Music for many years.  Every summer festival we offer numerous classes to give musicians of all levels the tools and pleasure of this experience.  This year at BEMF, Amherst Early Music presents an hour of sight-singing from facsimiles of Renaissance manuscripts and prints, directed by the incomparable Valerie Horst.  As we have been getting ready for the summer we've started to think about how and why early notation can be such a joy and valuable tool.

early notation

Mary Leonard wrote this paragraph about her experience with early notation at Amherst.

For me, the notation classes are the major draw of every AEM workshop. It’s not just the visual beauty of the facsimiles; early music actually sounds better when played from original notation. Each new manuscript is its own puzzle. Deciphering the rhythms and clefs is intellectually stimulating, and finally hearing the piece as it was meant to be played is a thrill. I usually attend one or two weekend workshops a year so I often feel rusty when I arrive, but this should not deter any potential notation enthusiasts. Classes are generally grouped according to ability and comfort zone, but also, the AEM notation teachers are wizards at teaching classes of mixed-level students. They respect your current proficiency and always push you to the next level. Although I am not particularly religious, I suspect that getting hooked on notation is a little like being "born again". Once it becomes part of your life you wonder how you lived without it! 

More to come soon!