notes inégales is a common practice in the performance of French baroque music. It indicates that the first of a pair of equally notated notes is played longer, similar to the use of swing eighths in jazz. The performance of that inequality is an ongoing source of debate, but the actual performance has not been studied yet. In an experiment, eight harpsichordists and eight baroque violinists performed six melodies of French baroque gavottes in three tempo conditions. The mean ratio of inequality was 1.63, with mean ratios of individual performers varying between 1.89 and 1.33. Another significant source of variance was the metric structure, with larger inequality found at metrically important points. Tempo also had an important influence, but individual interpretation varied greatly. For example, while most performers played more evenly while tempo increased, some performers chose the opposite strategy. Pitch interval had only a minor impact on the execution of the notes inégales, but also showed differences between performers. The results show the importance of personal style in music performance: although the music played is highly standardized, we show how the timing of different performers can be influenced by different aspects of the musical structure.
- Received February 2, 2010.
- Accepted October 14, 2010.
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