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A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

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Ihefniction ^^'' or }g; and Compound Septuple Khj-thm. -^1 or rater greater than 5 denote Compound Times.
Tyios are sometimes taught the perfectly correct, though by no 1 2 See Time-beating.



posers have produced particularly happy effects
by the simultaneous employment of two or
more different kinds of Time. A very simple
instance will be found in Handel's so-called ' Har-
monious Blacksmith,' where one hand plays
in Four-Crotchet Time ( C ). and the other in
^f. A more ingenious combination is found in


the celebrated Movement in the Finale of the First
Act of 'II Don Giovanni,' in which three dis-
tinct Orchestras play simultaneously a Minuet in
I Time, a Gavotte in ^, and a Waltz in •^, as in
Ex. I on previous page; the complexity of the ar-
rangement being increased by the fact that each
three bars of the Waltz form, in their relation to
each single bar of the Minuet, one bar of Compound
Triple Time (§) ; while in relation to each single
bar of the Gavotte, each two bars of the Waltz
form one bar of Compound Common Time (^).

A still more complicated instance is found in
the Slow Movement of Spohr's Symphonj% ' Die
Weihe der Tone ' (Ex. 2 on previous page) ; and
here again the difficulty is increased by the con-
tinuance of the slow Tempo — Andantino — in the
part marked ^., while the part marked Allegro
starts in Doppio movimento, each Quaver being
equal to a Semiquaver in tbe Bass.

Yet these complications are simple indeed
when compared with those to be found in Pales-
trina's Mass 'L'hommearm^,' and in innumerable
Compositions by Josquin des Pres, and other
writers of the 15th and i6th centuries ; triumphs
of ingenuity so abstruse that it is doubtful
whether any Choristers of the present day could
master their difficulties, yet all capable of being
expressed with absolute certainty by the various
forms of Mode, Time, and Prolation, invented
in the Middle Ages, and based upon the same
firm principles as our own Time-Table, For,
all the mediaeval Composers had to do, for the
purpose of producing what we call Compound
Common Time, was to combine Imperfect Mode
with Perfect Time, or Imperfect Time with the
Greater Prolation ; and, for Compound Triple
Time, Perfect Mode with Perfect Time, or Perfect
Time with the Greater Prolation. [W.S.E.]

TIME, BEATING. Apart from what we know
of the manners and customs of Greek Musicians,
the practice of beating Time, as we beat it at the
present day, is proved, by the traditions of the
Sistine Choir, to be at least as old as the 15th
century, if not very much older. In fact, the
continual variations of Tempo which form so im-
portant an element in the interpretation of the
works of Palestrina and other mediaeval Masters,
must have rendered the ' Solfa ' — or, as we now
call it, the Baton — of a Conductor indispens-
able ; and in the Pontifical Chapel it has been
considered so from time immemorial. When
the Music of the Polyphonic School gave place
to Choruses accompanied by a full Orchestra,
or, at least, a Thoroughbass, a more uniform
Tempo became not only a desideratum, but al-
most a necessity. And because good Musicians
found no difficulty in keeping together, in Move-


ments played or sung at an uniform pace fro
beginning to end, the custom of beating tin
became less general ; the Conductor usually e:
changing his desk for a seat at the Harpsichor
whence he directed the general style of tl
performance, while the principal First Violin-
afterwards called the Leader — regulated tl
length of necessary pauses, or the pace of rita
dandi, etc., with his Violin-bow. Notwithstam
ing the e\'idence as to exceptional cases, affordt
by Handel's Harpsichord, now in the Soui
Kensington Museum,' we know that this custo
was almost universal in the i8th century, ar
the earlier years of the 19th— certainly as la
as the year 1829, when Mendelssohn conductf
his Symphony in C Minor from the Pianofort
at the Philharmonic Concert, then held at tl
Argyle Eooms.^ But the increasing demand ft
effect and expression in Music rendered by tl
full Orchestra, soon afterwards led to a pe
manent revival of the good old plan, with whic
it would now be impossible to dispense.

Our present method of beating time is direct!
deiived from that practised by the Greeki
though with one very important difference. Tt
Greeks used an upward motion of the hand, whic
they called the apais {arsis), and a downwai
one, called 0e<xis {thesis). We use the same. Tl
difference is, that with us the Thesis, or dowi
beat, indicates the accented part of the Measur
and the Arsis, or up-beat, its unaccented portioi
while with the Greeks the custom was exactl
the reverse. In the Middle Ages, as now, tl
Semibreve was considered as the norm fipoi
which the proportionate duration of all oth«
notes was derived. This norm comprised t»
beats, a downward one and an upward on
each of which, of course, represented a Minin
The union of the Thesis and Arsis indicated t
these two beats was held to constitute a Measm
— called by Morley and other old English write
a 'Stroake.' This arrangement, however, ws
necessarily confined to Imperfect, or, as we no'
call it. Common Time. In Perfect, or Trip.
Time, the up-beats were omitted, and thrt
down-beats only were used in each Measure
the same action being employed whether it COI
tained three Semibreves or three Mimims.
When two beats only are needed in the ba
9 <, we beat them, now, i

Fig. 1. T they were beaten in th

time of Morley ; tl
down-beat representin |
the Thesis, or accente
part of the Measure, an
A. 1 o B 1 r; the up-beat, the Arsi

or unaccented portion, J
at (a) in the annexe
diagram.^ But it £om<
times happens that Prei
i i tissimo Movements ai

taken at a pace too rapid to admit the deliver

1 Sfe vol. ii. p. 564. tio/e. 2 See vol. ii. p. 263.

3 The diagrams indicate a downward motion towards 1, for 1
beginning of the bar. Tbe hand then passes through the oth
beats, in the order in which they are numbered, and, on reaching i
last, is supposed to descend thence perpendicularly, to 1, for the i.
gianing of tbe next bar.


even two beats in a bar ; and, in these eases,
single down-beat only is used, the upward
: jtion of the Conductor's hand passing unnoticed,
consequence of its rapidity, as at (b).
When three beats are needed in the bar, the
stom is, in England, to beat once downwards,
ce to the left, and once upwards, as at (a)
Fig. 2. In France, the same system is
isd in the Concert-room; but in the Theatre
is usual to direct the second beat to the right.



as at B, on the ground that the Conducftor's Baton
is thus rendered more easily visible to performers
seated behind him. Both plans have their advan-
tages and their disadvantages; but the fact that
motions directed downwards, or towards the
right, are always understood to indicate either
primary or secondary accents, weighs strongly in
favour of the English method.

But in very rapid Movements — such as we
find in some of Beethoven's Scherzos — it is better

indicate 3-4 or 3-S Time by a single down-
it, like those employed in very rapid 2-4 ; only
it, in this case, the upward motion which the
aductor necessarily makes in preparation for
1 downward beat which is to follow must be
de to correspond as nearly as possible vnth
third Crotchet or Quaver of the Measure,
in Ficr. _a.

When four beats are needed in the bar, the
first is directed downwards ; the second towards
the left ; the third towards the right ; and the
fourth upwards. (Fig. 4.)

It is not possible to indicate more than four
full beats in a bar, conveniently. But it is easy
to indicate eight in a bar, by supplementing each
full beat by a smaller one in the same direction,

Fig. 5.

at (a) in Fig. 5 ; or, by the same means, to
tt six Quavers in a bar of very slow 3-4 Time,
it (B), or (C).

Compound Times, whether Common or Triple,

y be beaten in two ways. In moderately

ck Movements, they may be indicated by the

" le number of beats as the Simple Times from

> ich they are derived : e. g. 6-8 Time may be

1 ,ten like 2-4; 6-4 like Alia Cappella ; 12-8

1 3 4-4; 9-8 like 3-4 ; 9-16 like 3-8, etc., etc.

- 1, in slower Movements, each constituent of

1 Compound Measure must be indicated by a

1 lie motion of the Baton ; that is to say, by

< fall beat, followed by two smaller ones, in

the same direction; 6-4 or 6-S being taken as
at (a) in Fig. 6 ; 9-4 or 9-8 as at (b) ; and
12-8 as at (c). The advantage of this plan is,
that in all cases the greater divisions of the bar
are indicated by full beats, and the subordinate
ones by half-beats.

For the anomalous rhythmic combinations
with five or seven beats in the bar, it is difficult
to lay down a law the authority of which is
sufliciently obvious to ensure its general accepta-
tion. Two very different methods have been re-
commended; and both have their strong and
their weak points.

One plan is, to beat each bar of Quintuple



Time in two distinct sections ; one containing
two beats, and the other, three: leaving the
question whether the duple section shall precede
the triple one, or the reverse, to be decided by
the nature of the ]\Iusic. For Compositions like
that by Brahms (Op. 21, No. 2), quoted in the
preceding article, this method is not only excel-
lent, but is manifestly in exact accordance with
the author's intention — which, after all, by divid-


ing each bar into two dissimilar members, t
one duple and the other triple, involves a coi
promise quite inconsistent with the character
strict Quintuple Rhythm, notwithstanding t.
use that has been made of it in almost all oth
attempts of like character. The only Compositi'
with which we are acquainted, wherein five i
dependent beats in the bar have been honesl
maintained throughout, without any comjjromi


whatever, is Reeve's well-known 'Gypsies' Glee ';^
and, for this, the plan we have mentioned would
be wholly unsuitable. So strictly impartial is
the use of the five beats in this Movement, that
it would be quite impossible to fix the position
of a second Accent. The bar must therefore be
expressed by five full beats ; and the two most
convenient ways of so expressing it are those
indicated at (a) and (b) in Fig. 7.

This is undoubtedly the best way of indicating
Quiutuple Rhythm, in all cases in which the Com-

poser himself has not divided the bar into t\
unequal members.

Seven beats in the bar are less easy to manag
In the first place, if a compromise be attempte
the bar may be divided in several different way
e. g. it may be made to consist of one bar
4-4, followed by one bar of 3-4 ; or, one bar
3-4, followed by one bar of 4-4 ; or, one bar
3-4, followed by two bars of 2-4; or, two ba
of 2-4, followed by one of 3-4 ; or, one bar of 2-
one of 3-4, and one of 2-4. But, in the absen

Fig. 7.

of any indication of such a division by the Com-
poser himself, it is much better to indicate seven
honest beats in the bar. (Fig. 8.)

Yet another complication arises, in cases in
which two or more species of Rhythm are em-
ployed simultaneously, as in the Minuet in 'Don
Giovanni,' and the Serenade in Spohr's 'Weihe
der Tone.' In all such cases, the safest rule is,
to select the shortest Measure as the norm, and
to indicate each bar of it by a single down-beat.
Thus, in 'Don Giovanni,' the Minuet, in 3-4
Time, proceeds simultaneously with a Gavotte in

! Seevol. iii.p. 616.

2-4, three bars of the latter being played agaiBi
two bars of the former ; and also with a Wall
in 3-8, thi-ee bars of whicli are played agaiBl
each single bar of the Minuet, and two againf
each bar of the Gavotte. We must, therefort
select the Time of the Waltz as our norm ; ii
dicating each bar of it by a single down-beat; i
which case each bar of the Minuet will be it
dicated by three down-beats, each bar of th
Gavotte by two, and each bar of the Waltz b
one — an arrangement which no orchestral playi^
can possibly misunderstand.

In like manner, Spohr's Symphony Avill h


jst easily made intelligible by the indication
a single down-beat for each Semiquaver of the
rt written in 9-16 Time — a method which
endelssohn always adopted in conducting this

This method of using down-beats only is also
great value in passages which, by means of
mplicated syncopations, or other similar ex-
.dients, are made to go against the time; that
to say, are made to sound as if they were



written in a different Time from that in which they
really stand. But, in these cases, the down-
beats must be employed with extreme caution,
and only by very experienced Conductors, since
nothing is easier than to throw a whole Orchestra
out of gear, by means used with the best possible
intention of simplifying its work. A. passage
near the conclusion of the Slow Movement of
Beethoven's ' Pastoral Sympliony ' will occur to
the reader as a case in point.

Fig. 8.

rhe rules we have given will ensure mechanical
rectuess in beating Time. But, the iron strict-
s of a Metronome, though admirable in its
>per place, is very far from being the only
ilification needed to form a good Conductor,

must not only know how to beat Time with
^cision, but must also learn to beat it easily

1 naturally, and with just so much action as
y suffice to make the motion of his Baton seen
I understood by every member of the Orches-
, and no more. For the antics once practised
a school of Conductors, now happily almost
inct, were only so many fatal hindrances to
artistic performance.

tfany Conductors beat Time with the whole
1, instead of from the wrist. This is a very
I habit, and almost always leads to a very
ch worse one — that of dancing the Baton,
bead of moving it steadily. Mendelssohn,

of the most accomplished Conductors on
3rd, was very much opposed to this habit,
I reprehended it strongly. His manner of
■ting was excessively strict ; and imparted
h extraordinary precision to the Orchestra,
t, having brought a long level passage — such,
instance, as a continued forte — into steady
ng, he was sometimes able to leave the per-
ners, for a considerable time, to themselves ;
i would often lay down his Baton upon the
k, and cease to beat Time for many bars
3ther, listening intently to the performance,

only resuming his active functions when his
met told him that his assistance would pre-
tlybe needed. With a less experienced chief,
il a proceeding would have been fatal : but,
Jn he did it — and it was his constant practice

98 the examples of these two passages, in the foregoing article

— one always felt that everything was at its very

It may seem strange to claim, fur the me-
chanical process of time-beating, the rank of an
element — and a very important element — neces-
sary to the attainment of ideal perfection in art :
yet Mendelssohn's method of managing the
Baton proved it to be one. He held 'Tempo
rubato ' in abhorrence ; yet he indicated nuances
of emphasis and expression — as opposed to the
inevitable Accents described in the foregoing
article — with a precision which no educated
musician ever failed to understand; and this
with an effect so marked, that, when even Ferdi-
nand David — a Conductor of no ordinary ability
— took up the baton after him at the Gewand-
haus, as he frequently did, the soul of the Orches-
tra seemed to have departed.^ The secret of this
may be explained in a very few words. He
knew how to beat strict Time with expression ;
and his gestures were so full of meaning, that he
enabled, and compelled, the meanest Eipieno to
assist in interpreting his reading. In other words,
he united, in their fullest degree, the two quali-
fications which alone are indispensable in a great
Conductor — the noble intention, and the power
of compelling the Orchestra to express it. No
doubt, the work of a great Conductor is immea-
surably facilitated by his familiarity with the
Orchestra he directs. Its members learn to
understand and obey him, with a certainty
which saves an immensity of labour. Sir Michael
Costa, for instance, attained a position so eminent,
that for very many years there was not, in all
England, an orchestral player of any reputation

2 We do not make this assertion on ourown unsupported authority.
The circumstance has been noticed, over and over again; and all
who carefully studied Mendelssohn's method will hear witness tw
the fact.



who did not comprehend the meaning of the
slightest motion of his hand. And hence it was
that, during the course of his long career, he
was able to modify and almost revolutionise
the method of procedure to which he owed his
earliest successes. Beginning with the com-
paratively small Orchestra of Her Majesty's
Theatre, as it existed years ago, he gradually
extended his sway, until he brought under
command the vast body of 4000 performers as-
sembled at the Handel Festivals at the Crystal
Palace. As the number of performers increased,
he found it necessary to invent new methods of
beating Time for them ; and, for a long period,
used an uninterrupted succession of consecutive
down-beats with a freedom which no previous
Conductor had ever attempted. By using down-
beats with one hand, simultaneously with the
orthodox form in the other, he once succeeded,
at the Crystal Palace, in keeping under command
the two sides of a Double Chorus, when every one
])resent capable of understanding the gravity of
the situation believed an ignoble crash to be
inevitable. And, at the Festival of 1883, his
talented successor, Mr. Manns, succeeded, by
nearly similar means, in maintaining order under
circumstances of unexampled difficulty, caused
by the sudden illness of the veteran chief whose
place he was called upon to occupy without due
time for preparation. In such cases as these the
Conductor's left hand is an engine of almost un-
limited power, and, even in ordinary conducting,
it may be made extremely useful. It may beat
four in a bar, or, in unequal combinations, even
three, while the right hand beats two ; or the
reverse. For the purpose of emphasising the
meaning of the right hand, its action is invaluable.
And it may be made the index of a hundred
shades of delicate expression. Experienced players
display a wonderful instinct for the interpretation
of the slightest action on the part of an experienced
Conductor. An intelligent wave of the baton will
often ensure an effective sforzando, even if it be
not marked in the copies. A succession of beats,
beginning quietly, and gradually extending to
the broadest sweeps the baton can execute, wiU
ensure a powerful crescendo, and the opposite pro-
cess, an equally effective diminuendo, unnoticed
by the transcriber. Even a glance of the eye
will enable a careless player to take up a point
correctly, after he has accidentally lost his place
-^a very common incident, since too many players
trust to each other for counting silent bars, and
consequently re-enter with an indecision which
energy on the part of the Conductor can alone

It still remains to speak of one of the most
important duties of a Conductor — that of start-
ing his Orchestra. And here an old-fashioned
scruple frequently causes great uncertainty.
Many Conductors think it beneath their dignity
to start with a preliminary beat : and many more
players think themselves insulted when such a
beat is given for their assistance. Yet the
value of the expedient is so great, that it is mad-
ness to sacrifice it for the saKe of idle prejudice.


No doubt good Conductors and good Orchestr; '*'
can start well enough without it, in all ordinal "'
cases ; but it is never safe to despise legitima '''
help, and never disgraceful to accept it. . "
very fine Orchestra, playing Beethoven's Syn ,.^
phony in C minor for the first time under
Conductor with whose ' reading ' of the woj ^
they were unacquainted, would probably escaj z
a vulgar crash at starting, even without a pri
liminary beat ; but they would certainly pk |S
the first bar very badly : whereas, with such _
beat to guide them, they would run no risk at al E
For one preliminary beat suffices to indicate i "
a cultivated Musician the exact rate of speed i H
which the Conductor intends to take the Movi ^a
ment he is starting, and enables him to fulfil h j
chief's intention with absolute certainty. [W.S.E k

TIME -SIGNATURE (Lat. Signum Mod a
vel TemporiSfVcl Prolationis; Germ. i'aJctzeichen "
A Sign placed after the Clef and the Sharps < t«
Flats which determine the Signature of the Ke^ fe
in order to give notice of the Rhythm in whic
a Composition is written. '

Our present Time-signatures are directly d( z
scended from forms invented in the Middle Age ~
Mediaeval Composers used the Circle — the moij
perfect of figures — to denote Perfect (or, as w ;
should now say, Triple) Rhythm ; and the Sem :
circle for Imperfect or Duple forms. The Sig "
natures used to distinguish the Greater and Lease 1
Modes,^ Perfect or Imperfect — Signa Modi 6
Modal Signs — were usually pi-eceded by a grou i
of Rests,'' showing the number of Longs t "
which a Large was equal in the Greater ]\Iod« I
and the number of Breves which equalled th ii
Long in the Lesser one^that is to say, thie< t
for the Perfect forms, and two for the Imperfed i
Sometimes these Rests were figured once only
sometimes they were twice repeated. The fol
lowing forms were most commonly used : — : ;

Greater Blode Perfect.


Greater Mode Imperfect. 1

Lesser Mode Perfect.

| sHeeb :


Lesser Mode Imperfect.






Combinations of the Greater and Lesser Modes
when both were Perfect, were indicated by f
Point of Perfection, placed in the centre of thi
Circle, as at (a) in the following example. Whei
the Greater Mode was Perfect, and the Lessei
Imperfect, the Point was omitted, as at (4)

1 See Mode.

2 The reader must be careful to obserre the position of the*
Rests ; because it is only when they precede the Circle or Semiclrele
that they are used as signs. When they follow it, they must fr
counted as marks of silence.


hen both Modes were Imperfect, or the
eater Imperfect and the Lesser Perfect, the
ference was indicated by the groups of Kests,
at (e) and {d).


2) Both Modes Perfect.

(6) Greater Mode Perfect,
and Lesser Imperfect.


Both Modes Imperfect. ^ ^'■«^*" Modes Imperfect,
and Lesser Perfect.


The Circle and the Semicircle, were also used
ler alone or in combination with the figures
ir 2, as Signatures of Time, in the limited
se in which that term was used in the Middle
:a;^ i.e. as applied to the proportions existing
ween the Breve and the Semibreve only —
ie to one in Perfect, and two to one in Im-
fect forms.

Perfect Time.


^='' i



Imperfect Time,



Tie same signs were used to indicate the pro-
iion between the Semibreve and the Minim,
he Greater and Lesser Prolation ; ^ but gener-
with a bar drawn perpendicularly through
Circle or Semicircle, to indicate that the
;s were to be represented by Minims ; and
etimes, in the case of the Greater Prolation,
1 the addition of a Point of Perfection.

The Greater Prolation.


8=$= "^ fefcl

The Lesser Prolation,



)mbinations of Mode, Time, and Prolation
itimes give rise to very complicated forms,
!h varied so much at different epochs, that

Ornitoparchus, writrng in 15x7, complains
16 difficulty of understanding them.' Some
2rs used two Circles or Semicircles, one
in the other, with or without a Point of
3ction in the centre of the smaller one. The
'sion of the Semicircle ( D) always denoted
ainution in the value of the beats, to the ex-
of one-half; but it was only at a compara-
Y late period that the doubled figure (C D)
ated an analogous change in the opposite
tion. Again, the barred Circle or Semi-

always indicated Minim beats ; but the
rred forms, while indicating Semibreves, in
3, and Time, were used, by the Madrigal
irs, to indicate Crotchet beats, in Prolation.
e application of these principles to modern

2 Bee Peolation,

3 gee vol. iii. p. 12.


Time-signatures is exceedingly simple, and may
be explained in a very few words. At present

Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 28 of 194)