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Fermata.svg

A fermata (or hold or pause, or colloquially a birdseye or before the 20th century a corona) is an element of musical notation indicating that the note should be sustained for longer than its note value would indicate. Exactly how much longer it is held is up to the discretion of the performer or conductor, but twice as long is not unusual. It is usually printed above, but occasionally below (upside down), the note that is to be held longer. Occasionally holds are also printed above rests or barlines, indicating a pause of indefinite duration.

This symbol appears as early as the 14th century, and is quite common in the works of Dufay and Josquin.

A fermata can occur at the end of a piece (or movement), or it can occur in the middle of a piece, and be followed by either a brief rest or more notes.[1]

In chorale arrangements by Johann Sebastian Bach and other composers of the Baroque, the fermata often only signifies the end of a phrase, where a breath is to be taken. In a few organ compositions, the fermatas occur in different measures for the right and left hand, and for the feet, which would make holding them impractical.

Gustav Mahler sometimes added the word "lunga" (Italian for "long") to some fermatas, to indicate an even longer duration. Some modern composers (including Francis Poulenc, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Luigi Nono) have expanded the symbol's usage to indicate approximate duration, incorporating fermatas of different sizes, square- and triangle-shaped fermatas, and so on, to indicate holds of different lengths. None of these has become standard usage, however.

The Brahmi diacritical mark called chandrabindu is identical in appearance to the upside-down fermata.

In Literature

Novelist Nicholson Baker used the idea of a sustained pause in The Fermata, which explored the (mostly sexual) desires of a young man who could stop time.

References

  1. ^ Brock McElheran, Chapter XVII, "Fermatas" Conducting Technique. New York: Oxford University Press (1989): 85. The author classifies them into three types: a) fermatas followed by uninterrrupted sound, b) fermatas followed "by a short period of silence," and c) fermatas "followed by a long period of silence." After this classification, the author gives detailed advice for conducting each of these types.
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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to fermata article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

WOTD - 13 September 2006    

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

Etymology

From Italian fermata, from fermare (to stop).

Diagram of a note shown with a fermata.

Pronunciation

Noun

Singular
fermata

Plural
fermatas or fermate

fermata (plural fermatas or fermate)

  1. (music) The holding of a note or rest for longer than its usual duration; also the notation of such a prolongation, usually represented as a dot with a semi-circle above it, written above the clef.

Synonyms

Translations


Esperanto

Verb

fermata (plural fermataj, accusative singular fermatan, accusative plural fermatajn)

  1. singular present passive participle of fermi

Icelandic

Etymology

From Italian fermata, from fermare ‘to stop’.

Noun

fermata f.

  1. (music) fermata

Italian

Etymology

From fermare ‘to stop’.

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ferˈmata/

Noun

fermata f. (plural fermate)

  1. stop during travel.
  2. (music) fermata

Verb

fermata

  1. feminine singular past participle of fermare

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