What precisely does this notation mean in the first bar treble clef? From ear, the note appears to be held until it’s sounded again - is that the intention, and wouldn’t a dotted eight be a reasonable alternative? Besides that, why are the two tenuto notes beamed?

It’s from Michael Nyman’s ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First’.

tenuto marks

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    just incase you where wondering sempre cantabile ma marcato il melodia means singingly in both voices but detached in the melody
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 11, 2021 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


The two tenuto notes constitute a separate "voice" from the sixteenth notes. It's as if two instruments are playing: the melody instrument plays the two dotted eighths; an accompaniment instrument plays the sixteenths. The tenuto notes are barred together for clarity that they are "connected".

Tenuto means as you say: give each tenuto note its full value. The marking is technically redundant; it's just there to reinforce that the note should not be released early.

Tenuto also often serves as a "soft accent", which is appropriate in this context to "bring out" the melody.

This post may also be of use: How does one maintain voice integrity when longer and shorter notes of the same pitch occur in two voices

  • Take a look at the bass clef. There's a tenuto sign there, which along with the 't b' as written, makes the whole thing quite tricky (fussy?) to play with correct emphasies, in my view.
    – Tim
    Feb 11, 2021 at 10:45

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