The Secret Life of Musical Notation

the-secret-life-of-music-notationAnother book that will open your eyes, ears and mind is Roberto Poli’s The Secret Life of Musical Notation, Defying Interpretive Traditions (Amadeus Press—an imprint of Hal Leonard). This remarkable book debunks, uncovers, corrects and illuminates. For pianists, especially, it’s revelatory.

From the back cover:
Every student learns conventions of musical notation that are generally taken for granted—for example, that an expanding hairpin indicates an increase in volume, or that a sforzando is a sharp accent. But can we be sure that such instructions meant the same in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they do now?

We can’t be sure and, furthermore, there’s solid evidence that Inigo Montoya’s corrective to Vizzini can apply to some of our current use of musical symbols and words:

“You keep saying that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

The book also refers to online recorded examples of the musical illustrations wherein you’ll also discover that Poli is a very accomplished pianist.