Woven bookmark in red and yellow, with musical notes, a treble clef and a pine treeLast year,  a music competition featured in the schedules of two kingdom events. I started wondering “can musical notes be depicted in tablet weaving?”  Knowing nothing of how notes were drawn in extant manuscripts, I experimented with a familiar style of notation. I created the designs in GTT, then made two bookmarks in double face tablet weaving, showing quavers etc and a treble clef. Oh, and I added a pine tree too  🙂

Of course, having made the bookmarks, I then started looking for manuscripts containing music. These are a small selection of what I looked at, with very basic observations on the shapes of the musical notes:

  • 11th century: A University College of Dublin news article mentions a page from an 11th-century Italian manuscript that was discovered as part of the binding of an early book. The page is regarded as a very rare survival of musical notation. To me, the notes are unrecognisable as music, even though I can see that there are two distinct styles of notation or writing in the image.
  • 14th century: A leaf from the Wettinger Gradual appears to show musical notes that are diamond or square shaped, not oval.
  • 15th century:  The  Eton choir book and  Chansonier de Montchenu (Montchenu songbook) both appear to show ‘d’-shaped musical notes  alongside diamond/square notes. The ‘d-shapes’ may in some cases be half-diamonds that are not drawn accurately. The Montchenu book has heart shaped pages – not something I’d seen before in pre-1800 material.
  • 16th century: The Manfred Barbarini Lupus, shows almost exclusively diamond shaped notes.

In fact, of the manuscripts I viewed, most contained square and/or diamond shaped notes. This may be related to where they were made as well as when. If I design a piece with a different style of notation, I’ll probably try emulating these first.

But back to my initial wondering – can musical notes be depicted in tablet weaving? Yes, they can!

2 replies on “Musical notes

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