In the fourteenth century composers and theorists invented mensuration and proportion signs that allowed them increased flexibility and precision in notating a very wide range of rhythmic and metric relationships. The origin and interpretation of these signs is one of the least understood and most complex issues in music history. This study represents the first attempt to see the origin of musical mensuration and proportion signs in the context of other measuring
systems of the fourteenth century. The author also traces the evolution of the mensural notational system to the threshold of the modern system of notation. In the process, the exact meaning of everyday mensuration and proportion sign encountered in music and theory from the fourteenth to the sixteenth
century is analysed and elucidated. The investigation results in a revision of many currently held views concerning the significance and development of early time signatures and will be indispensable to scholars and performers of late medieval and Renaissance music.
`excellent book ... performers and editors ... could do a lot worse than stay at home and read this important book'
`Busse Berger investigates a difficult subject in which she has already established herself as a virtuoso in both oral and written performance ... This book has assembled much useful material on the theoretical and musical use of mensuration and proportion signs. It presents several bold and interesting hypotheses that scholars and performers will need some time to digest.'
`excellent book...For the detail of her arguments Anna Berger has drawn on a wealth of musical, theoretical and academic material...this is not a narrow book, but one sprinkled with piquant remarks on a variety of topics'
'Anna Maria Busse Berger's book is a welcome guide to this complex and fascinating subject. The book is a model of careful organization ... an important contribution to the growing literature concerning durational and temporal issues in early music. Its careful organization and rigorous scholarship will satisfy the most demanding reader, yet its concern for clarity and its plentiful diagrams and tables, will attract even the novice to this fascinating
topic. It should be required reading for anyone who studies, performs, and enjoys this repertoire.'
Sally E. Norman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Fontes Artis Musicae 41/1
`...useful and provocative book...opens up as many avenues for further research...a useful reference work ... It is written with authority and the presentation is very clear - not an easy accomplishment for a book devoted so rigorously to one of the most daunting topics in European music history...an important book on music and culture.'
`Berger's ambitious study aims, first, to define major points of controversy within the mensural system and, second, to assemble statements made on these points by musical theorists active during the three centuries of the system's ascendancy. The book's flawless production (with musical examples in exquisite typeface specially designed by Jeffrey Dean) makes its convoluted subject matter surprisingly approachable ... a major achievement in the history of
discourse about music.'
Adelyn Peck Leverett, Harvard University, Speculum, Jan 1995
`one of its greatest strengths is her concentration on a fixed and well-defined body of material. Painstaking and wide-ranging work such as Berger's, grounded in the dialogue of theorists, helps us both to understand their ideas and concerns and to approach the musical sources of their eras with better questions to pose.'
Peter M. Lefferts, Music & Letters
Abbreviations; Introduction; The representation and interpretation of mensuration signs; The origins of the mensural system and mensuration signs; The relationship between perfect and imperfect time; The relationship between major and minor prolation; Diminution by stroke and by mode signs; Proportion signs; Conclusions; Appendix. Index of signs; Bibliography; Index of compositions; General index.