Mood

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A term employed in medieval music to indicate the relative duration of the Large, the Long, and the Breve.

Mood is of two kinds – the Greater and the Lesser.

The former regulates the proportions of the Large (maxima) to the Long; the latter that of the Long to the Breve. Both kinds may be either Perfect or Imperfect.

In the Great Mood Perfect the Large is equal to three Longs. In the Great Mood Imperfect it is equal to two only.

In the Lesser Mood Perfect the Long is equal to three Breves. In the Lesser Mood Imperfect it is equal to two.

The Modal Sign is usually placed after the Clef, like the time signature in modern music. Innumerable varieties are found in music of different periods. Even as early as 1597 we find Morely bitterly lamenting the absence of a rule of universal application; and a little attention to the complaint was not an unreasonable one. The following forms are given in Zacconi:

mood1

Combinations of the Greater and Lesser Moods are frequently indicated thus:

mood2

In these examples the Circle is used as the sign of Perfection, and the Semicircle as that of Imperfection. The rests denote the proportion between the two notes – not always accurately, but in a vague way which accorded well enough with the conventional signification of the figures, when they were in general use, though it fails to explain their real meaning.

In Zacconi’s formula the groups of rests are doubled – probably for the sake of symmetry. Allowing for this, we shall find that the sign for the Great Mood Perfect exhibits, in every case, the exact number of rests required; viz. three Perfect Long Rests, as the equivalent of a Perfect Large.

The same accuracy is observable in the signs for the combined Moods exhibited in the last four examples.

But in the other cases, so great a discrepancy exists between the number of rests indicated, and the true proportion of the notes to which they refer, that the figures can only be regarded as arbitrary signs, sufficiently intelligible to the initiated, but formed upon no fixed or self-explanatory principle.

It will be observed that in all the above examples the rests are placed before the circle or semicircle; in which case it is always understood that they are not to be counted. Sometimes indeed they are altogether omitted, and a figure only given in conjunction with the circle or semicircle.

During the latter half of the 15th century, and the first of the 16th century, composers delighted in combining Mood, Time, and Prolation,  in proportions of frightful complexity; but after the time of Palestrina the practice fell into disuse.

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