I have another blog entry regarding notation:
Fixation on Bar Lines
Last night I was driving home from a concert. I had a passenger, one of my students, and we were talking about various aspects of music and my teaching. The subject of notation came up and we discussed for a while the concept of short notes leading to longer ones and how players can often be misled by the graphics of the notation. Then I started talking about bar lines.
Bar lines are essential in music printed for ensemble performance. This is for many reasons; one of the most important is “let’s run that from bar number x”. But the music should not be driven by the bar line.
As we drove down the Parkway I noticed the milestones on the edge of the road.
Hmmm. Milestone. I wonder if there can be a parallel with bar line?
Here is an extract from the Wikipedia entry on Milestones:
Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travelers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination.
I like the idea of reassurance; the bar line can give us that. We do not drive to a distant city by noting each milestone; we start on our way and check from time to time that we are proceeding accurately. Similarly we do not have to play our music with compulsive fixation on each bar line. Let the bar lines pass by in the same way as we let the road milestones pass by. If in doubt, of course consult the bar line, just as you would consult the milestone (or your GPS!).
I agree that bar lines are necessary - ensemble rehearsals would be anarchy without them. However music can and does sound much better when the performer is not fixated on them.