From ancient times humanity has felt the desire to transcribe music. In the history of
Chinese music, a primitive form of notation dates back more than four thousand years. In
Europe the method of music transcription on lines develops around the ninth century.
The Notation of the pentagram in its present form was already defined in the
eighteenth century. However, as is well known, this system of transcription is still
imperfect. Music scholars all over the world continue to conduct an incessant search for
the reform of music notation, resulting in the elaboration of various projects.
Music transcription on six horizontal lines appeared in a rudimentary form even
before the development of the medieval tetragram of the Canto gregoriano. Following
the emergence of the Pentagram, the horizontal six lines were to be found in the early
"tablature". Over the last two hundred years, there have been more than 220 proposals of
linear music notation reform, from those of one line to those of sixteen lines, among
which more than 30 of six lines. The first proposal of six-line notation reform was
published in 1789, and the most recent in 1984. In China also, at the end of the 1950s, an
analogous project was elaborated by Fang Jisheng and Zhao Songguang. However, the
principal scope of these proposals was simply that of unifying the reading of the notes.
Prof. Wu Dao-Gong, a Chinese musician with Italian citizenship, proposes in his
Treatise on the Hexagram — published in Italian, Chinese, and other languages — a
project of reform which, by means of the formal logic and the mathematical logic of the
2:1 ratio, and the principle of the binary system, is based principally on the Hexagram of
4 levels with 27 lines that form the "Complete staff" of 8 octaves, made up
systematically of the "Double treble staff", the "Treble staff", the "Bass staff", and the
"Double bass staff"; among these are inserted also the "Middle staff" (comprising the
Alto and Tenor staves) and the two "Transitional staves" of the treble and bass registers.
In this way, the numerous additional ledger lines are reduced or completely avoided, and
the reading of the notes unified, which results in a simple and unitary rule, and above all
eliminates the difficulty of displacement of the "Middle staff". The Hexagram's structure
of eight octaves and four levels grouped together in a single and divisible form, can
embrace all the ranges of executable tones, from those of the grand piano to those of
vocal and orchestral composition.
The advantages of this reform reside particularly in the fact that all the notes of C
(Do) in the different registers and four levels are to be found uniformly in a central and
symmetrical position. The Hexagram's extremely rigorous and concise logical structure
unquestionably opens up broad prospects to the computerization of music notation.
However, in spite of the fact that the necessity of a reform is felt by many, it is
difficult to change a practice that has been in use for so long.
The creative project of the Daogong system must be fully recognized, but in order for
the rational method of his proposed Hexagram to become widespread, it is necessary that
the international community take an interest in it, to the end of developing a program for
its application and popularization. Ample discussion and the well-deserved attention will
give rise to an auspicious general consensus.
Thus far the publication in several languages of the text Treatise on the Hexagram and its
diffusion on an international scale are already indicative of an initial success achieved by
the efforts engaged in this praiseworthy initiative.
* Maestro Zhao Feng: Well-known most distinguished Chinese music educator, commentator and theoretician, whose work
China Supplementary Volume I Instruments (The Universe of Music — A History) is known throughout the world. Pres.
Emeritus of the Chinese Central Conservatory of Music, and Chairman of the Chinese Association of Musicians; Chairman,
Committee of Art Education, National Education Committee P.R.C.; Chairman, Committee of Arts, Ministry of Culture; Hon.
Prof., Xiamen, Nankai, and Henan Universities; Member C.N.P.P.C.C.P.R.C.; Asian Region Coordinator of the