X marks the stop

Another crazy musical marking.

I’ve been working on Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Dances from The Two Fiddlers” (in The Boosey & Hawkes Violin Anthology) with my violin teacher and we came across this line:

Before this line the time signature is set to 3/8, though clearly the line starts in 2/4; but what does the X mean? I was going to pose the question on the Musical Practise and Performance Stack Exchange site but first I reached for a birthday present. My sister got me the bible of musical notation, Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars. And sure enough Gould has the answer. On page 611 she starts a section on unmeasured bars, or music without metre, and tells us that “An ‘X’ placed on the stave cancels an existing time signature” though Gould goes on to note that one should “Indicate whether the performer takes a new speed […] or continues at the same speed as the previous metre.”

There – now I know though it looks like it’ll take a lot of practise to master this line!


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