PRESENTATION OF THE FIRST ITALIAN EDITION
by Editrice Europea, Rome 1990
Is the Pentagram still valid as the common denominator of musical culture?
Raising the question is the Chinese musician Wu Dao-Gong, whose
Treatise on the Hexagram
proposes the addition of one line to the traditional Pentagram, in an attempt to provide music notation with increased rigor, a greater purity and immediacy, whether for composition, reading, or at the learning phase.
In the age of informatics and the most extraordinary development of models of communication since the time of Gutenberg, musical language can no longer be excluded from the process which the various systems of communication have undergone. No wonder, then, that critical examination should have affected also the more solid monument of the graphic representation of musical notes, which has gained the universal consensus of cultures, while respecting individual traditions, and diverse melodic genres and styles. The supposition that the Pentagram has reached a certain degree of obsolescence, rather than being considered a sacrilegious or iconoclastic notion, should be seen as an act of homage to the system of musical expression that flourished in the West about one thousand years ago and has been refined through continuous improvement. The innovative proposal in fact constitutes a subsequent contribution to improving the model, just as has happened so many times in the past, without altering the essential prototype.
Of the three fundamental systems of musical representation: i.e. the alphabetical system that was used originally and was common to the Chinese, Indian, and Greek traditions; the numerical system that flourished between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, but whose use was limited to stringed instruments such as the viola, lute, and guitar; and, finally, the system constructed with conventional signs that asserted itself at the beginning of the second millenium of the Christian era, it is the latter that ended up prevailing and being used by all civilized peoples. Before the definitive consecration of the Pentagram, which took shape in the eleventh century with Guido d’Arezzo’s invention of the staff, of music notation, and of solfeggio, the conventional typology changed time and again the number of lines, the shape of the characters from square to rectangular to round, and for a time even the color of the notes. Precisely this long history of variations and alterations authorizes us to cultivate confidently the hypothesis that the international music community might wish to take the theory of the Hexagram into benevolent consideration.
Mr. Wu Dao-Gong, professor of violin and traditional Chinese violin, who graduated from the Anhui Academy of Arts and subsequently performed there as a concert artist, has lived since 1983 in Rome, where he has pursued further advanced and specialized study with the eminent violinist Maestro Arrigo Pelliccia of the National Academy of «Santa Cecilia», and carried out extensive research into the ideographic aspect of music notation. The innovative model is the result of a felicitous encounter between those elements of tradition and rationality, typical of Western musical culture, and several themes that originate in Chinese culture and that act as a catalyst, while respecting the basic framework of universally diffused music notation.
In fact, the formal structure of the Hexagram incorporates all the virtues of the Pentagram, in particular the nucleus of its formal and mathematical logic, enriched by the philosophical deductive modality of the Yi Jing and of the “Ba Gua”, which introduces principles such as: the concept of the whole, the temporal- rhythmic concept, the concepts of versatility and of the unity of opposites; systematic thought, the idea of graduality, and the idea of the periodic cycle; the theory of the center, the symmetrical figure, the principle of equilibrium, of equivocality, of reciprocal complement, etc. The advantages of the Hexagram could affect the entire range of contemporary musical civilization both in the educational and professional fields, as in that of music publishing, including the use of computerized techniques, which are greatly facilitated. By eliminating or reducing the addition of ledger lines, the Hexagram notation in fact simplifies the
earning of music and rationalizes the printed transcription of scores, reducing the amount of time spent on graphic composition. Moreover, its structure can be applied to all the real registers, including those of the piano, organ, harmonium, harp, celesta, xylophone, bells, etc. The appearance of Hexagram notation is not the product of a passing fashion, nor the symbol of a current ephemera, but when adopted at the right moment, it aspires to be a valid contribution to the development of universal musical culture.