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The following account of the method of the present notations was written immediately after their completion. Their subsequent study has brought to light coincidences of form evidencing an accuracy of reproduction by the phonograph even greater than could at that time be inferred.
The largest variation in the speed of the instrument observed during the process of notation — a ratio equivalent to a tenth of a tone on eleven occasions—does not affect the interpretation of any song; and several exact repetitions of notes within the regions involved indicate that the aberrations may sometimes have been narrowly ephemeral. A correction is definitely indicated in one instance only. In Sumyacoli a fall in the phonograph rate equivalent to a twentieth of a tone (following another of an equal interval) is registered between the two slides of A"; and had the instrument remained as constant here as between the two slides of A', the pair in A" would doubtless have been judged as nearly identical in pitch as that in A'.
It is remarked in the sequel that the chief motive of the unusual effort there described to note these songs accurately was not a love of accuracy for its own sake, but a hope that some proportion of the resulting close determinations of pitch might prove significant. The study of the first song fulfilled this hope by bringing to light the novel habitude of performance for which the name mutation has been chosen, and which proved characteristic of the series. The discovery trans­ferred the focus of the inquiry from the intervals used, on which light had been awaited, to the use made of them, — a new and widely differ­ent topic. Undertaken in the interest of a view of this music still largely harmonic, the notations proved to indicate that not harmony but melody was its basis, not individual intervals but larger form its essence. This discovery of a musical method important both in theory
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III