The first Spanish treatises referring to ornamentation – D.M. Durán's Súmula de canto de órgano (Salamanca, c1504) and the anonymous manuscript Arte de melodía sobre canto llano y canto d'órgano (early 16th century, E-Bbc 1325) – are concerned with vocal rather than instrumental music. Later, vihuelists (Milán, 1536) and other musicians (Ortiz, 1553; Bermudo, 1555; Santa María, 1565; Cerone, 1613) provided more extensive definition of instrumental ornamentation, combining the study of specific fingerings with attention to their execution. Correa de Arauxo (1626) alluded to the vocal ornaments recorded in the 17th century by such travellers as the Countess d'Aulnoy (see L. Jambou in Actes du Colloque musical franco-espagnol, Paris, 1999), and Martín y Coll introduced ornamented passages in his exercises for vocal training (2/1719). Nassarre (1723–4) considered both vocal and instrumental ornaments – the latter in connection with the keyboard – but observed that vocal music could sustain the execution of long ornamented passages only with difficulty. Thus the preponderance of attention paid to instrumental ornamentation partly obliterates a vocal practice of which little is known.
Theorists and practising musicians alike were concerned to define the ornamental procedures proper to their favourite string or keyboard instruments. This attitude entailed the use of terminology that evolved over the centuries and often had different meanings in different contexts. For example, vihuelists in the second third of the 16th century equated the redoble with the disminución or pasaje, whereas keyboard players of the period used redoble and quiebro interchangeably to mean trill. In the later 17th century guitarists such as Gaspar Sanz, Ruiz de Ribayaz and Francisco Guerau called the trill a trino; they also enriched the vocabulary of ornamentation with effects typical of the Baroque period: apoyamento, esmorsata, aleado, mordente, extrasino, temblor, arpeado. Organists called the redoble a glosa, a term also employed by Ortiz; for Nassarre, however, glosa was a generic term embracing such ornaments as the trino and aleado (mordent, although the term seems to have had a wider sense when applied to string instruments). Torres y Martínez Bravo employed glosas or figuras disminuidas as a general term for ornaments in his treatise on basso continuo (Reglas generales de acompañar, 1702, 2/1736).
From the first these musicians distinguished between ornamentation on an upper or lower neighbour note and ornamentation on a disjunct interval, or division. Santa María was the first to make systematic use of both division – a subject discussed and in part rejected by Bermudo – and ornamentation; the latter (ex.2) was restricted to the quiebro (mordent) and redoble, each of which comprised a number of forms (quiebro antiguo or nuevo reyterado, senzillo or de minimas, redoble antiguo or nuevo). His terminology thus distinguished between old practices and innovations in which the ornament typically began on an anacrusis. Correa de Arauxo applied this typology to new forms, while recognizing the use of quiebro by singers as synonymous with redoble; he himself used the term as a synonym for trinado and trino (ex.3). At the beginning of the 17th century players of plucked string instruments were more concerned to describe and codify the new rasgueado techniques of the Baroque guitar than to specify signs for ornaments; it was left to Sanz, in his Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra sobre la guitarra española (3/1674), to define and codify them according to a new system of nomenclature.
3. The English virginalists.
Oblique strokes indicating embellishment were introduced in England in the early 16th century. The most common symbol is the double stroke, which appears in virtually every source of English keyboard music in the period c1530–c1650. The single stroke occurs with much less frequency, and the triple stroke is confined to a small number of sources; a quadruple stroke is rare. Additional signs and what appear to be qualifying signs are given in a few sources. Sweelinck adopted the English usage of the double stroke and transmitted it to the north German school; the symbol is mentioned by Reincken in his Hortus musicus (1687). The signs are not discussed by any English theorist of the 16th or 17th century; their meanings must therefore be deduced largely from their application in the sources.
In the earliest surviving sources of English keyboard music (GB-Lbl Roy.App.56 and 58, both c1530), the application of single- and double-stroke signs is not related to embellishment. The single stroke is used in one of two ways: as a visual aid to clarify the movement of an inner part, or as a correction sign indicating that a note value has been given at a level too low. In these contexts the sign tends to be drawn horizontally rather than obliquely. The double stroke is used to effect cancellation. Signs consisting of two to four oblique strokes are used in the Mulliner Book (GB-Lbl Add.30513) to clarify part-writing when the parts cross. Furthermore, they are used to identify the merging of two voices in the Mulliner Book and in the 16th-century sections of GB-Lbl Add.29996. There is evidence that signs continued to be used occasionally as visual aids, sometimes to highlight particular rhythmic activity or to draw attention to an imitative entry. Cosyn's habit of drawing a single oblique stroke through the note head of each semibreve in a cantus firmus is simply a means of highlighting the line.
The earliest source in which single and double strokes appear to be associated with embellishment is the Matthew Bible of 1537 (Almonry Museum, Evesham). Both signs are used in music entered on three pages of the bible around 1540, possibly as an abbreviation for a division; the double stroke substitutes for an oscillation or a form of shake. Signs also appear to function occasionally as abbreviations for various divisions in the early sections of GB-Lbl Add.29996.
In the pieces added to the Mulliner Book around 1570 the single stroke is used as a grace sign but only in combination, either with two other single-stroke signs or with one single stroke and one double stroke. Clearly, single strokes in combination avoid confusion with correction. A parallel can be drawn with application in the Dublin Virginal Manuscript (c1570; EIRE-Dtc 410/2); in this source the single stroke is also used only in combination. In the Mulliner Book the combined signs grace triads and suggest some form of elaborate spread, possibly involving an element of oscillation. In the Dublin Virginal Manuscript pairs of single strokes grace notated 3rds, 5ths and 6ths; some form of oscillation seems to be the most likely meaning. The pairs of double strokes which also feature in this source suggest that a more rapid variety of oscillation is required. Active oscillating patterns are notated occasionally in keyboard music by Redford, Tallis and Blitheman. Double-stroke pairs, gracing mainly right-hand 3rds, are given in later sources, notably Clement Matchett's Book (1612, GB-En 9448). Triad gracing also occurs in later sources. This may involve one sign, occasionally two, exceptionally three; it tends to occur at the beginning or end of a strain, the probable implication being elaborate arpeggiation of the triad.
Throughout the virginalist era (c1570–c1650) a convention was observed with regard to the positioning of grace signs: the strokes are drawn through or placed at the ends of stems of minims and shorter note values; signs gracing semibreves and breves are normally placed above the note if it is in the higher or highest part on the staff, or below the note if it is in the lower or lowest part; however, some copyists drew the strokes through the note heads. Positioning at variance with this convention can often be attributed to careless copying or lack of space. Sometimes, however, it is applied in a way or with a degree of consistency which suggests that some special meaning may attach to it. In My Ladye Nevells Booke (1591), for instance, there is unusual positioning of several single- and double-stroke signs in The Carman's Whistle: the signs are drawn below blackened semibreves where one would expect superscript positioning (ex.4). A form of lower-note embellishment would seem to be implied, the subscript positioning indicating that the grace should begin on a note below the graced note. This application is of considerable interest in view of the fact that correction of the manuscript may have been undertaken by the composer of the pieces, Byrd, who tended to express improvised embellishment by using mainly the all-purpose double-stroke sign.
A written-out shake provided in one source for a given piece may be replaced by a double stroke in another; and it is clear that the sign and the notated division were considered analogous. Furthermore, some analogy existed between the signs: in Duncan Burnett's Book (c1600, GB-En 9447), for instance, the single stroke is often given in contexts in which realization as a shake seems to be required, the single stroke probably implying an upper-note start. An additional sign is used in this source (a slur-like curve directly under or over the note), possibly to distinguish a specific grace (perhaps a mordent).
Fingering indications are provided in a number of sources, and where these are given on graced notes they offer some help in determining appropriate realization of the implied graces. Such fingering usually confirms that improvised embellishment implied by grace signs would normally be accommodated within the line (as described by Santa María and Ammerbach). Other symbols which qualify the meaning of grace signs occur in the Weelkes Manuscript (GB-Lbl Add.30485). In this source, in pieces by Byrd, there are a number of instances in which a double stroke is accompanied by either a semiquaver or a sign which bears some resemblance to that used for the beat in the later decades of the 17th century (ex.5). The semiquaver seems to relate to speed of execution, the beat-like sign to shape and duration. In each context a cadential shake would be appropriate. If this is the meaning of the combined signs it suggests that the double stroke on its own normally implies a shorter grace. Indeed, on occasions both the single stroke and the double stroke appear to indicate very short, crisp graces. Furthermore, notational restrictions may affect the form or duration of realization; in ex.6, for instance, any form of lower-note realization of the single stroke is ruled out by the high tenor part. In the often cited table attributed to Edward Bevin (ex.7) the single stroke is expressed as a slide, and indeed realization as a lower-note grace is occasionally suggested by fingering indications; support for Bevin's interpretation is provided in Prendcourt's treatise on harpsichord playing and thoroughbass (c1700), transcribed by Roger North (GB-Lbl Add.32531). Although Bevin and Prendcourt may have identified one meaning of the single stroke, it is clear that the sign was also associated with upper-note realization.
The triple stroke functions as a grace sign in the Mulliner Book but only in one piece, a setting of Gloria tibi Trinitas by Blitheman. In this context the application seems to imply a short, crisp grace. There is some evidence in a later source connecting the strokes with speed of execution: in A Ground by Tomkins, recorded in the 17th-century section of GB-Lbl Add.29996, double-, triple- and quadruple-stroke signs occur in quick succession, and it would seem logical to realize the implied embellishments in a way that provides increased activity through this passage (ex.8). Triple-stroke signs are given in other 17th-century sources, in particular those associated with Cosyn. The sign appears to have more than one meaning. One interpretation is that it is a compound of a single stroke and a double stroke, and as such is possibly an ancestor of Locke's forefall and shake (Melothesia, 1673; see §6 below).
In summary, when oblique strokes were associated with embellishment they were probably used initially as abbreviations for various divisions. From about 1550 the signs seem to have acquired a freer association with embellishment. Only from the second half of the 17th century is there any real evidence of grace signs being associated with specific formulae. Nevertheless, it seems likely that by the mid-16th century the double-stroke sign in particular had developed an association with a form of shake.