[MEI-L] Beat in 6/8

Benjamin Wolff Bohl bohl at edirom.de
Thu Aug 27 16:06:38 CEST 2015

Dear Craig,
  many thanks for your always helpful advice!

Am 27.08.2015 um 11:08 schrieb Craig Sapp:

> The problem is the ambiguous/conflicting terminology in this sentence:
> On 27 August 2015 at 01:19, Benjamin Wolff Bohl <bohl at edirom.de 
> <mailto:bohl at edirom.de>> wrote:
>     meter.unit contains the number indicating the beat unit, that is,
>     the bottom number of the meter signature.

This is only ambiguous/conflicting if you are to smart and know too much 
about music! Regarding the term "beat" in the closed system of MEI 
everything is obvious an unambiguous.

> The problem is that in compound meters such as 6/8
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meter_(music)#Compound_meter 
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meter_%28music%29#Compound_meter>
> The "musical beat" is a dotted quarter note, while the MEI "beat unit" 
> is an eighth note. Using the word "beat" in such a way is unfortunate 
> as it can conflict with the musical definition of a beat, and this 
> will continue to cause mis-interpretation of what a beat is.

This then would promote using another term in MEI in order to avoid 
confusion, let's say "meter-unit-n".

> The duration of a beat is necessary for music analysis, since the 
> treatment of dissonance and consonance is tied to the location of a 
> note on or off of the beat.

This could be a beating argument, if it is the purpose and intention of 
MEI to do musical analysis.
Is it? I'd rather say it provides a basis for doing analysis, the logic 
of the analysis is not part of MEI, although the result of the analysis 
might be encoded in MEI.

> The musical beat is also needed to automatically beam notes.  Implicit 
> interpretation of the musical beat can be done with 6/8 by assigning 
> it to be a dotted quarter note, but there are exceptions to this 
> definition which would require a way of assigning an explicit duration 
> to the musical beat.

"Automatically" beaming notes is not part of the encoding but of the 
rendering logic an thus will not be reflected in (pure-logical-domain-)MEI.

> For example, the middle slow movements in a piano sonata may be 
> labeled as 6/8, with the beat actually assigned to the eighth note, in 
> which case the "musical beat" and the MEI "beat unit" are the same.
> Another more common corner case would be time signatures such as 3/8.  
> Is that a compound meter with one beat in a measure, or a simple meter 
> with three beats in the measure (a variant on a 3/4 meter also 
> possible in slow movements)?
> And of course in modern music with irregular meters such as 5/8, the 
> musical beats in the measure may may have two beats as 3+2 eighth 
> notes, or 2+3 or a mixture of both in different measures.

The two above are only a problem if we consider "beat" as being the 
"musical beat". If we consider it to be "meter-unit-n" instead, 
everything would work out fine.

> Compound meters resulted in a degeneration of mensural notation.  
> Since modern rhythms are always "imperfect", to emulate a perfect 
> mensuration dots are added to the notes (which would usually be 
> implicit the mensural metric equivalent).  These are represented as 
> compound meters in modern notation (who knows why they did not invent 
> "2/4." time signatures instead of "6/8" for such cases). The problem 
> is that modern time signatures are ambiguous, since 6/8 could be 
> considered like C-dot, or it could be considered as a non-compound 
> meter with 6 beat at the eighth-note level.

Ok, air is getting thin for me...
I've had a problem with modern transcription of mensural notation ever 
since I first encountered it, or more precisely I was whinig about 
modern notation being so restrictive due to having abandoned mensuration 
signs. I would prefer modern transcription sticking to mensuration signs 
and logic instead of adding dots, but I might not be able to change the 
world about this...

But to bang the drum for "meter-unit-n": Couldn't this problem also be 
solved by <mensur> or some additional attribute on <scoreDef> or 

Considering the case of a modern transcription of "perfect" mensural 
notation using <beatRpt> in terms of "meter-unit-n" would result in 
completely different applicable cases compared to using it in the sense 
of "musical beat". An there it is the again,
** ambiguous and conflicting**

Just for the sake ofplaying advocatus diavoli  3;-)

> I whine to Perry every once in a while about this, so we can wait for 
> his reply on how to disambiguate such cases...
> -=+Craig
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