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THE PHONOGRAPHIC METHOD                         59
The review of these performances after the work of notation showed them all to consist of more or fewer periods repeated more or less often in various rhythms. In the present notations these periods are lettered, and the points of division between them are indicated by per­pendicular lines across the staff. These are, therefore, not bars in the ordinary sense, having no significance in accent or time. The accent of a note is here, as in the Zuni melodies, indicated by a stroke above it. The possibilities of error in the matter of the recognition of alterna­tions of intensity in a sequence of auditory sensations are as yet largely unexplored, although a beginning has been made at the inquiry. I am convinced they are considerable, and regard the accent marks of these notations as subject to much doubt in many places. The numbers fre­quently occurring in the notations denote the rate of revolution of the phonograph ascertained at that point in the work of writing down the performances.
The notation of a sequence of intervals by means of a system of signs for any fixed interval-order (as the common chromatic notation is a system of signs for a series of semitones, and the present notation is a system of signs for a series of fourteenths of a tone) must in general be more or less incorrect. It is like copying a tapestry with worsteds selected in advance without matching. The exceptional cases in which it may not present a garbled version of the sequence of inter­vals it aims to record will be those in which this happens to be such as might have been played on an instrument tuned to the series of inter­vals represented by the signs. When the system is a tempered one, such as the common chromatic notation or the present, the interval written may always be within a constant interval of the truth, viz., half of the unit interval of the system. The unit interval of the common chromatic symbolism being a semitone, the limit of error in the nota­tion of the individual notes of musical sequence thereby is a quarter tone. For purposes of the general investigation of musical practice the common notation is therefore far from a refined instrument; just as with the alphabet of any language, but rude attempts can be made at recording the sounds of human speech in general. Nor has either sys-
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III