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This 22 message thread spans 2 pages: [1]  2  > >  
  A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  Christopher Tin at 21:49 on 01 December 2007

I've been having this discussion a lot lately about the appropriateness of the ^ vs. the >.

First off, there seems to be the school of thought that says the ^ is a hard and short accent. This seems to come primarily from the jazz school.

However, you can find numerous examples of the ^ being used in concert music above half notes, whole notes, etc. Copland's Third Symphony, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and the Tannhauser Overture come to mind. These examples seem to use it as an even heavier accent than just a regular >.

My favorite articulation rebel, Thomas Ades, sometimes uses a ^ with TWO tenutos underneath! Seems pretty obvious that he doesn't belong to the first school.

So how do you people use it?

And moreover, what do you people CALL it? Do you call a > an 'accent,' and a ^ a 'marcato,'--or do you just call them all marcatos? All accents? Wedges vs. hats?

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  James McFadyen at 22:31 on 01 December 2007

^ is a marcato accent. On brass instruments it the use of heavier, more agressive tongue. On string instruments it's the use of a strong fast down bow.

In Jazz, when the ^ is applied to a crochet it means to play it short and accented.

The (in)-famous use of ^ and two - is a little confusing and would require further information from the composer to ensure the performers know *exactly* what is being asked. Two tenuto's could simply mean the the note is not to be cut short and that there is to be a small lean; the additional marcato accent would mean that the note would have an initial attack.

So a not with ^ - - over it could perhaps be interpreted into a note being played with a strong initial attack WITHOUT the bite and the not to be cut short.

Of course, there is the question of perhaps this more scoring of performance ATTRIBUTES. However, some composers are extremely fussy in the extreme. Some of the most beautiful music ever written has allowed the performers the freedom of expression within the performance; perhaps this is something to think about.

Perhaps composers can be clear in what he/she is wanting but also account for the freedom of the performer?

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  Christopher Tin at 23:26 on 01 December 2007

Yes, but what about the envelope of the sound? Many seem to interpret the > as a hard attack with an immediate dim off the initial impact (the way it looks, really), while some think of the ^ as a more sustained and powerful blow, without an immediate dim effect.

The passages I'm thinking of from Copland are, of course, from the climax of the Fanfare for the Common Man, as well as the very end of that fourth movement. When the brass gets high up, nobile, and triumphant, the ^'s start popping up and replacing the >'s.

What I find interesting, though, is the envelope interpretation--as well as the tonguing/bowing/playing technique interpretation--go out the window once this starts getting to instruments like the piano. In the same passage (the climax at the Allargando at the end), Copland uses both accents for the piano part. Here, really, the only possible difference can be one of degrees; the ^ is just simply a more forceful version of >.

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  mickfoster at 11:45 on 23 December 2007

The jazz use of this accent is not, in my experience, so much a hard and short accent than a hard and fat accent - shorter than a full length note but not as short as a dot, which would indicate a very short note. A series of them would be accented notes with "some daylight" in between them. I usually call it a hat accent.

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  ruska02 at 08:29 on 27 December 2007

I am always delighted of this "composer" groupies...I like the idea Thomas Ades is an articulation rbele because it is not nothing leas down here in old continent...anyway ...The the ^ accent articulation is a marcato one (another italian word frequently misused) frequently used with brass for short strong accent. A lot of people nowaday (esepecially in USA use Italian word with notunderstanding the meaning and the historical use...back to our roots please...
Roberto Rusconi composer

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  Christopher Tin at 15:48 on 27 December 2007


Here's my question: if the ^ in Italian is referred to as the marcato, then what is the Italian word for the > accent? Surely it's not 'accent'?

I've seen the ^ called a martelato and the > called a marcato before too. I rather like that distinction myself, since you don't have to use any English words to distinguish all the articulations.

' = staccatissimo
. = staccato
- = tenuto
> = ACCENT (bleh....random English term)
^ = marcato

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  ruska02 at 17:28 on 27 December 2007

Are you joking or what ? ...accent is not an english word it comes from "accento" and is italian again peraphs there is some semester loss here , am I right?
back to the roots, if have any

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  Christopher Tin at 17:32 on 27 December 2007

Forgive me....I didn't realize 'accent' came from 'accento!' I don't speak Italian, after all.

All American musical textbooks just call it by the American version of the term: 'accent'.

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  ruska02 at 17:43 on 27 December 2007

Perfect just to be kind "accento" comes from latin and means "ad cantus" (near the singing part) (obv as articulation indication. To understand classical music , if is this we are talking about, please two suggestions both historicallyand technically : go back to where it was born and developed and leave new melting stuff away from it. May a wester musicians write a good kabuki or no theatre work? not at all ..the reverse applies. Too many good composer from Germany, Austria, Italy, French and Spain where classical musica was born and developed , are unknown nowaday and starve only because the accademy of USA and UK think they deserve more yes not.
tim will judge ...and stomach ake as well...
Rusconi Roberto Composer

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  James McFadyen at 00:02 on 28 December 2007

I don't think it's wise to poke fun at us Brits. There is a lot of good music coming out of the UK, and indeed, the USA.

Where the Italians may be standing on the shoulders of giants proclaiming of their past, the UK is the underdog you don't see coming... and wham!!

Anyhow... the marcato accent... ^ ...something so simple yet so (ironically) contraversial.

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  scott_good at 19:29 on 04 January 2008

"Too many good composer from Germany, Austria, Italy, French and Spain where classical musica was born and developed , are unknown nowaday and starve only because the accademy of USA and UK think they deserve more yes no"

Boo hoo :..(

This is nationalistic nonsense. Perhaps one of the most racially dividing comments I have ever heard on this forum. However, since it is a bigoted statement without substance, does more to harm the reputation of Italy. In other words, Roberto, you are doing a disservice to your countrymen.

Also, such comments do not seem to consider the cultural make-up and history of the migration of artists in places such as New York City or London - they are, in their own unique ways, meccas of artistic convergence, and populated with strong contingents from Germany, Italy etc. who teach in the universities as well.

And if composers from above said countries are starving, perhaps they should look to their own to put food on the table. I do not depend on the US, or UK for recognition and sustenance - I work and serve as a member of the community where I live.

Back to the marcato, hat, or ...

Language, and the meaning of symbols are always changing and evolving in semantical context. Perhaps knowing the Latin roots of words will help in their understanding, but not always. In the case of the ^ accent , there are vastly different ways it should be interpreted musically. In Bruckner or Bartok, for instance, notes with this marking should be played long, fully sustained, emphasized, and weighty. This marking commonly appears in a series of melodic notes. In Gill Evans, say, it's short, heavy, and hard, like Roberto's description, but in a jazz style, so also often emphasizing a syncopation or a hit, bringing notes outside of their melodic context, and emphasizing the rhythmic quality. Very different interpretation yet the same symbol.

For any of the more controversial markings, I think it wise for the composer to put a short explanatory note at the beginning of the score for clarity.


  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  ruska02 at 21:23 on 04 January 2008

Dear Scott,

I am glad to see you have taken time to send a feedback to my "racial" post.
I do not know if you are really aware of which is the real situation in Europe nowaday
and especially how many countries have the kind of support canadian artists have from their wise gov. I , like other "emigrants" are part of the london comunity and I know very weel the situation in and out CLASSICAL CONTEMPORARY WORLD at the moment aand I know even better how many "student from outside" get too easy diplomas and no infos at all. Full stop.
I have no fear to put a very strong marcato accent on the fact that too many newcomers both in the academic or business world have taken what has always been an european art and have destroyed its values and its correct understanding leading to the artistic power people who do not deserve it at all. I have no fear of raising my voice and telling that if we talk about classical music
1) we should know more what we are about and not simply " I took a semester of Palestrina" in Italy we study 10 years to have a composition degree here with 8 years of piano, organ etc and after we find big mouth talking about thing they do not even know ...
2) we must take complete power on our art and not just because the more powerfull
and rich countries say so sell our millenial values to the best offer
3) I really do not like these : everything is beautifull and fine and everything passes.
Jazz has its roots , the same is for african music and gregorian chant and please lets do not mix up what is not simply "learnable" on books but must be lived first to be understood after. I do not pretend to write kabuki or do feng shui after four years the opposite works as well.
4) If you think that behind my statements there is racism or bigottism I put even more on it and say that I know that it means to live for what has been passed down by generations and when I meet someone that wants simply to make everythign plain and simple I fight for what i belive
5) anyway who taught you to play in this way Bartok and Bruchner?
poor Solti, Abbado and Karaian...!!!
it's a mess...when you do everything you excell in nothing

Roberto Rusconi Composer

Too many composers write too long legendas (another latin word) and no music after that..."bach" to our roots I repeat,,,and the earth where they were planted in...

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  lawes at 22:00 on 04 January 2008

The only living British composer I am interested in is Ferneyhough. (and he lives in America now)

Anyone recommend some good pieces to look for by other post war Brits? (Ive not liked anything I have heard so far by Ades, Briars, Turnage, Harvey, Macmillan, Britten, Birtwistle, Maxell Davis, Colin Davis, and so on, not sure about Dillon and Barrett, need to hear more, could be something there, prefer....Xenakis, Nono, Ligeti, Lachenmann, Scelsi, Gubaidulina, Stockhausen, Boulez, Webern, Bartok, Lutoslawski, Penderecki, Kagel, Berio, that sort of stuff)

I gave up trying to find good British music as my time is better spent elsewhere, didnt have the motivation to keep searching when the first stuff I heard was so uninspiring.

I am willing to try again though as I only heard one or two things by some of those listed above (recommendations please, perhaps from those who think our contemporary music culture is healthy and worthwhile and not a poor relation to our continental counterparts as I do, and perhaps as Roberto does though I will not speak for him. You cant call me xenophobic though, im English, on both sides, for generations)

One thing worth noting about our ignorant commerical/corporate culture, who is the only person here who is not speaking in his native language and is willing to reach out and communicate beyond his own borders/culture? (the Italian/continental)

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  ruska02 at 23:56 on 04 January 2008

Thanks lawes ,
you said in a few word what I tried and I am trying to say and do with a little
provocation sometime...there is too much power in the hands of few "cultures" in europe and in the world at the moment...and all they slaves that came to learn how to behave properly in their universities...I respect and love UK , but I love Europe and I think we must talk about Dante only if we are able to read it in Italian and listen to the real good products of our history otherwise we keep on lowering down the level of our EUROPEAN Culture...and I underline EUROPEAN...I find peole trying to melt with that abrouptely, a rape, do you think you can admire Nono if you do not know Gabrieli?
Stop contest giving prizes to easy to read scores..the worst is the one given to Teofanidis I think...or we will starve and people minds will get dumber and dumber
I say in reinassance there was a cross countries relationship and everyone was respected for his own mastery and tradition and only the best were tell me I have not to be sad because people like Ades are Gods on earth or Dudamel is recording another 7th of Behetoven or Tan Dun is a classical composer ..(or do you think really old europe is nor able of having new directors, composers, plyers?).lets bring our art in our own handsand at least keep the intruders away...Go to the shara nomads and try to teach them to play the flute they will laught at you...the opposite works and who is not able to listen and recognise the difference ...let him swim in his own mud.

  Re: A survey: what does the ^ accent mean to you?  lawes at 03:36 on 05 January 2008

I love the music I listed above because my favourite works of those composers explain themselves, if you listen carefully you can hear a pattern, a system, a rationale. This is why nature is beautiful to us...(to those who look/feel). It connects us to something larger than ourselves, we are in this way, immortal.[im getting a bit "continental" for a British audience perhaps, more comfortable with the "everyday" certainties of our "analytic" philosophical tradition].

A table for instance is an example of craft, it serves a simple purpose, it is for putting things on [like dance music is for dancing to]. The finest Art contains its own DNA, its code, it is complete, it lasts through the ages. This is the tradition we have inherited from the ancient world, this is why their art and their architecture still resonates with us, we are still involved with them at that level, it is part of our very being. However we dont all walk around wearing togas or consider women the property of their husbands, thats craft/fashion/culture/politics.

[6.1] One of the issues running submerged through this essay has been the question of perception. Can a rhythm be "illusory?" Do Chopin's complex polyrhythms really produce a rubato effect? The question is subjective, as any issue about perception must be to some extent.{14} Hofstadter, though, writing about Chopin, suggests a solution which seems to ring true to Ligeti's spirit:

"...phenomena perceived to be magical are always the outcome of complex patterns of nonmagical activities taking place at a level below perception. More succinctly: the magic behind magic is pattern."


I am not saying this is the only route to beauty in music [which God among us can say?], but its hard to ignore the conclusion of Hofstadter above. Even when composers write only "by ear" (as I used to believe in once, because it was fun/easy) they are searching for a pattern, a unity, a truth. Not a big mess of all sorts of things, to pull that off is very difficult, this is not interesting to me, it wont explain itself, its pastiche/craft. [useful, nice perhaps, but not fine Art]

This is the "po-mo junk" British ideology, semiotic music without knowing what semiotics is (its too "continental" or "intellectual"). Its the play of tired or lapsed cultural signs, not the search for universals, its music about music, mongrel music, which might be more interesting if those composers were aware of it, rather than deluding themselves into thinking their work goes to the source, which it does not.

Each age has its paradigms which condition these truths/universals, even if many choose to live by those of another era. Great composers tap into them, influence them, shape them, find a way to express our time in a positive way, to find beauty and truth even after a vile industrial war which killed 55 million people [WW2, our "break"].

Don`t pretend Europe is not a post apocalyptic culture, we are scarred by the world wars of the 20th century, still paying for them, still suffering, as is the rest of the world. If we turn away we learn nothing, we bring down upon others that which we claim to hate about our enemies, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Indonesia, Chile, El Salvador, Iran, Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, Grenada, East Timor, I could go on, the list is long and miserable.["Those who have put out the people`s eyes, reproach them of their blindness" Milton]

Sometimes the truth seems "ugly" or "difficult", but it is still the truth and in that way it is beautiful, serene, essential, that which sets us free. To paraphrase Orwell, when telling the truth becomes a radical act you know something is very wrong, that is where we are today.

In the British press Stockhausen and Xenakis were "mystics" (read.."nutters"), Lachenmann is a "high modernist" (read.."ivory tower"), Boulez is a big mouth who should shut up and mind his own business. Nono and our own Cardew were "political" and "toxic". Ades is safe, chatty, wears jeans and a "hoodie".


Lampert : 'Does art then offer an alternative view of reality?'

Dunn: 'Not really. I operate under the assumption that these things aren`t separate . For me the aesthetic response is what Gregory Bateson referred to when he said "beauty is the pattern that connects". I intepret that to mean the aesthetic response, the perception and apprehension of beauty, becomes a sort of resonance : we see and feel our own individuated mind expand to include something that we didn`t assume to be part of us'.

Source: Enviroment, Consciousness and Magic : an interview with David Dunn.........Michael R. Lampert/Perspectives On Musical Aesthetics.


p.s. Christopher Tin.. "Accent" is not the American version of an Italian word, its the French version of the Latin Accentus which we English speakers adopted, that is how it ended up in your text books, which are written in English by the way, not American ["American" is not a language, its an English dialect]Dont forget you are on the internet and can look this stuff up :-)

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