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#3062031 12/28/20 11:15 AM
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I'm learning Les Trois Mains by Rameau and the time signature just says "3" without the bottom number. I couldn't figure out how to attach a picture so here's the pdf of the music (the piece starts on page 8). Can anybody explain what this means?

https://ks.imslp.net/files/imglnks/...ME_1_Broude_03_Nouvelles_Suites_scan.pdf


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I think I've seen things like this in earlier baroque music, maybe in Couperin? Your example is obviously in 3/4 - as far as why it is only notated as "3" - that I'm not sure, maybe notation wasn't quite as standardized back then as it is today? Or maybe they just figured there's enough context for you to understand that "3" really refers to "3/4"?


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It looks like somebody used scoring software (maybe something free like Musescore) and either there was a glitch/problem/limitation with the software, or they didn't fully understand how to use it, or they just got lazy. But it's not valid to have a time signature like that.

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It is a legacy of the old medieval and renaissance mensural notation. Initially using these numbers allowed to indicate diminitions or augmentations. So 3 was called a tripla. Just like the C sign is in fact a legacy of the mensural notation standing for tempus inperfectum and prolatio inperfectum ie one breve is worth 2 semi breve and one semi breve is worth 2 half notes.

Practically in french baroque music, the notation evolved into a fixed value, so 3 stands for any triple meter piece, ie it indicate that 1 measure is worth 3 units of the reference note. It can be 3.2 or 3.4 or 3.8. The 3/4 is the most usual called triple simple time.

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You can see another legacy in the gigue of partita 6 by Bach, where he used a circle crossed by a vertical bar. The circle stand normally for one breve equals 2 semi breve, ie 2 whole notes. With the vertical bar, it is now worth 2 whole notes. The piece is therefore with one breve per measure = 2 whole notes or 4 half notes.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
You can see another legacy in the gigue of partita 6 by Bach, where he used a circle crossed by a vertical bar. The circle stand normally for one breve equals 2 semi breve, ie 2 whole notes. With the vertical bar, it is now worth 2 whole notes. The piece is therefore with one breve per measure = 2 whole notes or 4 half notes.

The circle stands for 3 semi breve ie 3 whole notes, modified into 2 semi breve with the vertical bar !

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Thank you so much Sidokar!


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It reminds me of when Chico and Harpo (of the Marx Brothers) were playing bridge against a couple of other people, and Chico bids "One."
One what?
"That's OK, you'll find out."


I guess in music like this, we find out soon enough too....

I've seen such scores once or twice and was initially puzzled, then figured that's just how it was sometimes notated and the units become clear from the score.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
You can see another legacy in the gigue of partita 6 by Bach, where he used a circle crossed by a vertical bar. The circle stand normally for one breve equals 2 semi breve, ie 2 whole notes. With the vertical bar, it is now worth 2 whole notes. The piece is therefore with one breve per measure = 2 whole notes or 4 half notes.

Arguably there's an additional issue about the rhythm of that gigue: some people play it as though the notation is meant to indicate TRIPLETS! (which after all is what gigues usually are)
I think I agree with that. If I played the piece, which I'd love to do, I'd play the gigue that way.

Let's see if I can easily find such an example on youtube....

YES
.....although I'm not sure I should really say "easily," because had to go through about 5 or 6 till I found one.

The gigue starts at 25:27.


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Yes you are right. In fact this piece was originally part of the klavierbuchlein of Anna.M Bach and notated in cut time. Bach changed the score and the time signature for the first edition. It is to my knowledge of the very few gigues of Bach which are notated in duple time at all levels. All others have triplets at first or second level.

There is no agreement as to how the piece should be played, but there are other examples of gigues in duple time, though not the majority. Experts are divided on the subject of whether it should be assimilated or played as written.

My take on it is that if Bach wanted to have it in triplets, he could have written it that way, since most of his other gigues are like that. Given that and the time signature, i would stay in duple time, but others might prefer a more rounded version.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
.....My take on it is that if Bach wanted to have it in triplets, he could have written it that way...

Sure -- that's the easy argument.
(by which I don't mean it necessarily isn't right) grin

But there are counter-arguments.
I once wrote program notes for a recital that included this piece, for someone who was a student of a guy who believed in what I said about how the movement might be played (which is how I ever knew of this other way of seeing it), and so 'of course' she played it the way he thought it should go. grin

So, I got interested in the whole thing of what arguments there are for whichever approach, and noticed two other things in favor of the 'triplet' approach (and did a whole thing about this in the program notes, which of course her teacher didn't mind). ha

While it's easy to say that if Bach wanted it as triplets, he would have written it as triplets, there are some places where it would have been cumbersome to notate in as triplets but easy to do in duple -- and, one might feel (I did!) that Bach didn't worry about any resulting ambiguity because he figured, every idiot will know this is supposed to be triplets. ha

And, there's another thing:

THERE IS A SIMILAR RHYTHMIC ISSUE IN THE PRECEDING MOVEMENT (THE GAVOTTE), and IMO it's even clearer in that movement that the rhythm is to be played 'un-literally.'

The Gavotte is also played in the 'un-literal' way in the video that I showed.
It's at 23:19.



....and if that's the case for that movement, Bach was already in the mode of writing a rhythm unliterally, so why would he mind also doing it in the gigue?


BTW, need I say, I realize that what I'm saying is just opinion. I know that you could easily disagree with everything I'm saying, including about what is "clear."

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Actually, i dont disagree with you. There are also strong arguments for assimilating to triplets, that is why the decision is not straightforward. But none are actually conclusive so the issue remain a musical choice by the interpret. Hewitt for example prefer the more angular sound and other choose a smoother one.

There are a number of cases of baroque pieces notated in duple time but that we believe should be played in triple time. That indeed seems to prove that it was a notational practice in baroque music to notate in duple time but to be played in something closer to a triple. The famous example is that several Froberger gigues are notated in duple time by the composer hand, but in triple time in other sources. The question remains if that second notation is a rythmic transformation or the way the piece was supposed to be played.

Also all the various writers always refer to the gigue as a triple meter, but on the other hand we know that practice differ from theory.

The gavotte is indeed presents the same issue. In fact all other Bach gavotte are in straight duple time. This one is more in the rythmic form of a gigue and could have been notated also in 12/8. The question of whether or not the duple time should be assimilated to triplets is open. Some players assimilate and others dont.

You are right my rationale is an easy one. I used it because of all the gigues that Bach wrote, there are only 2 cases of full duple time, that i am aware of. It is not a conclusive fact, but then the question remain why only those 2. Of course it can be du to any circumstance. For example, maybe Bach started a piece in duple time and finally decided to make it a gigue but did not want to rewrite all of it. I take a personal choice that Bach liked breaking some rules occasionally and wanted to end his last partita (and also his first printed work) with something unusual. It is not a conclusive argument either, so eventually each player can choose, practically though, in most of the piece, played at fast tempo, the difference is not always audible.

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Sidokar: I much appreciate your openness, and such detailed good posts.

Just a small note: I don't agree that the difference between playing that gigue in duple or triplet wouldn't always be audible, no matter how fast it is played.
We would always be able to tell unless it was just being played sloppily.

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The lower number of a time signature usually is redundant and can be inferred from the other info in a score.

In the example that was the subject of the thread, it can be determined from the numerical note values in each measure that the time signature either is 3/4, 6/8, 12/26, or 24/32 etc. The 3 disambiguates it as 3/4 given the possibilities.

For some pieces, it might be clear that the rhythm was 3 (or 6 or whatever) rhythmic beats in a measure, but that can be ambiguous and/or subjective.

I suspect using two numbers in a time signature became the norm as pieces with the first measure not starting on the first beat became less uncommon, but I'm not sure if that was the motivation.


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Typo corrected.

Originally Posted by Sweelinck
The lower number of a time signature usually is redundant and can be inferred from the other info in a score.

In the example that was the subject of the thread, it can be determined from the numerical note values in each measure that the time signature either is 3/4, 6/8, 12/26 12/16, or 24/32 etc. The 3 disambiguates it as 3/4 given the possibilities.

For some pieces, it might be clear that the rhythm was 3 (or 6 or whatever) rhythmic beats in a measure, but that can be ambiguous and/or subjective.

I suspect using two numbers in a time signature became the norm as pieces with the first measure not starting on the first beat became less uncommon, but I'm not sure if that was the motivation.


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