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How should naturals be used with Sagittal?

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:28 am
by Dave Keenan
Hi George,

Do we have a policy on the use of naturals with Sagittals, and if so, what is it and why? Is it different for pure vs mixed? Is it affected by whether there are Sagittals in the key signature? Are Sagittals treated differently from conventional sharps and flats? What about pure Sagittal sharps and flats? Are Sagittals always non-sticky? We have nothing about this in the primary document on Sagittal. We show lots of naturals in that document, but is that only when there is no notehead, so you need _something_ to indicate the relative position of the zero alteration point in the sequence?

Here's are some useful discussions of the existing conventions regarding naturals, in conventional notation: ... rp-or-flat

Does anyone have any ideas on what the convention(s) should be for Sagittal?

Re: How should naturals be used with Sagittal?

Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:13 am
by George Secor
Hi Dave,

We don't have an official policy on the use of naturals with Sagittals, but if we did, I think that Sagittal symbols (both pure and mixed) should be treated the same as conventional sharps and flats. Therefore, Sagittal accidentals are always sticky for the remainder of the measure, and they may also be used in key signatures.

However, there is one issue to consider: in conventional music, if there is an F# in the key signature and an Fx accidental is required, I have seen a natural sign placed to the left of the double-sharp accidental to cancel the sharp in the key signature. I didn't think that this is really necessary, because I thought that a double-sharp by itself would be sufficient to cancel the sharp. Similarly, I would think that, if there were an F# in the key signature, a single-shaft Sagittal accidental placed to the left of a note positioned on "F" (or "F#") would be sufficient to cancel the sharp in the key signature, because had one desired instead to retain the sharp and add the Sagittal accidental, then it would have been simple (and unmistakably clear) in the mixed version to include the sharp beside the Sagittal accidental, or in the pure version to use the multi-shaft equivalent. Thus a natural sign would be used only to indicate a note without accidentals of any kind.

Others are invited to comment!

Re: How should naturals be used with Sagittal?

Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 11:29 am
by Dave Keenan
It seems that existing practice when changing between single and double flats would be more relevant than single and double sharps as a double sharp is still a single symbol while a double-flat can be seen as composed of two symbols which might be independently cancelled or added.

George, does Professor Gardner Read have anything to say about this in his book "20th century microtonal notation"?

I earlier suggested, to William Lynch I think, that Sagittals should be non-sticky. I now retract that and go along with George's suggestion above, because I see that it results in much simpler and easier-to-remember rules, which extend the existing conventions in a logical manner to any microtonal notation, no matter how many symbols it allows against a single note.

The rule is simply this: Any combination of symbols against a single note, is treated as a whole (i.e. as if it were a single accidental). It can only be cancelled or replaced as a whole. Parts cannot be removed or added individually. A natural cancels the lot. A new combination replaces the lot.

This then operates within the usual conventions regarding key signatures and other accidentals.

Re: How should naturals be used with Sagittal?

Posted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 7:54 pm
by cam.taylor
I agree with George, and with Dave's latest comment. Adhering closely with the most popular accidental practice makes a lot of sense, where (reasonably short) bars and some tonal relationships are maintained, having accidentals (or accidental groups) in effect for a whole bar seems logical. I have yet to see any Sagittal key signatures in practice but I'm sure they'd work just the same, and so when an accidental needs cancelling a natural is placed, when the accidental needs changing a new accidental is placed.

Some composers like to keep accidentals only applying to single notes, which is IMO better for more fluid pitch motion that doesn't conform well to traditional tonal logic. This can be used with Sagittal too (as I did when notating the 4th movement of Ben Johnston's String Quartet 10), but this shouldn't be the norm.