[MEI-L] What is a cautionary accidental?

Anna Plaksin annplaksin at gmx.net
Fri Apr 8 09:29:58 CEST 2016

Hello Erik, Eleanor and Richard, 


you all gave me a lot to think about and some clues how to deal with my special case.

So, thank you very much for answering my question(s).


Best wishes,



Von: mei-l [mailto:mei-l-bounces at lists.uni-paderborn.de] Im Auftrag von Richard Freedman
Gesendet: Dienstag, 5. April 2016 03:27
An: Music Encoding Initiative <mei-l at lists.uni-paderborn.de>
Betreff: Re: [MEI-L] What is a cautionary accidental?


For the Renaissance tradition of the cautionary accidental, I would suggest looking at the work of Don Harran:


Harrán, Don, (Author). "New evidence for musica ficta: the cautionary sign." Journal Of The American Musicological Society 29, no. 1 (Spring 1976): 77-98. 







If you


On Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 6:03 PM, Eleanor Selfridge-Field <esfield at stanford.edu <mailto:esfield at stanford.edu> > wrote:



“Behind Bars” does not give the whole story.  The musica ficta track (Renaissance and early baroque music) involves providing (usually in parentheses above the affected note) an alteration that may be introduced by a performer to respect the movement within a particular hexachord.  It is not a hard-wired part of the score or the encoding, but of course it is unavailable to the performer unless it is indicated in some way.  It is not cautionary; it is optional.  


The later-music track usually uses cautionary accidents to warn the performer of something that is ingrained in the score might be missed in the visual environment, especially return to the key indicated in th4 signature after a modulation or an alteration that carries over a page-turn.  


At the encoding level, no special provision is required for the second.  The accommodation is in the rendering, which is up to the editor.  


Regards to all,





Eleanor Selfridge-Field

Consulting Professor, Music

541 Lasuen Mall

Braun Music Center #129

Stanford University

Stanford, CA 94305-3076, USA

esfield at stanford.edu <mailto:esfield at stanford.edu> 

Profile: https://profiles.stanford.edu/eleanor-selfridge-field 



From: mei-l [mailto:mei-l-bounces at lists.uni-paderborn.de <mailto:mei-l-bounces at lists.uni-paderborn.de> ] On Behalf Of Erik Ronström
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2016 5:54 AM
To: Music Encoding Initiative <mei-l at lists.uni-paderborn.de <mailto:mei-l at lists.uni-paderborn.de> >
Subject: Re: [MEI-L] What is a cautionary accidental?


Quoting ”Behind Bars” :


”An accidental that is repeated later in a bar, even though it is not strictly necessary, is called a ’cautionary’ (or ’reminder’ or ’courtesy’) accidental. Cautionary accidentals confirm the pitch of a note that might otherwise be questioned […] Atonal and highly chromatic idioms should include cautionary accidentals to assist accurate reading.”






4 apr 2016 kl. 14:40 skrev Anna Plaksin <annplaksin at gmx.net <mailto:annplaksin at gmx.net> >:


Dear list,


while I was looking for a way to deal with musica ficta signs, I came across the @func attribute. Whereas the definition of an editorial accidental is clear to me, I’m wondering how a cautionary accidental can be understood. I didn’t find any further explanations for this particular attribute.

Or I try it the other way round: Does someone know a way to encode musica ficta accidentals? How could they be distinguished from other explicit accidentals without declaring them as editorial – because they are written in the source.


Thanks in advance for sharing your wisdom with me. :-)


Best wishes,





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Richard Freedman
John C. Whitehead Professor of Music

Associate Provost for Curricular Development
Haverford College
Haverford, PA 19041

610-896-4902 (fax)



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