I've been studying The Unanswered Question By Charles Ives and found a peculiarity in the trumpet part. When the trumpet comes in, it has the phrase "actual notes" written above as seen below.

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I'm pretty sure it means play what's written, but is there anything more to the marking then saying these are the actual notes?

3 Answers 3


The 'actual notes' marking appears in two places in the score. The first, as you've flagged, is the first entrance of the trumpet part. The same marking then appears at a section marked specifically for clarinet (where the remainder of the part is clarinet or flute).

As this marking consistently appears at the first entrances of the only parts marked specifically for transposing instruments, and the score in written with all parts in C - I would assume the "actual notes" marking is clarification for the conductor that the notation is written in concert pitch, rather than in Bb, as the instruments would be fingering.

The full score, for anyone interested: Score


It's the kind of instruction I would expect in "scordatura" situations where an instrument is retuned or modified or stuffed beyond pitch accuracy.

In that case, "actual notes" would mean that the given notes are the sounding notes rather than what one should be fingering on the instrument if it were unmodified.

Another, probably less likely, option would be for a short passage with a different instrument than the preceding passage to indicate that this passage is not written in this instrument's typical transposing notation but in concert pitch.

And, even more unlikely, it might be an English rendition of "loco", meaning that a previously written octave shift is to be abandoned here.


This sort of question relies so much on context! Was the trumpet previously playing in some modified transposition? Was it previously instructed to extemporize?

Fortunately, in this case we can consult the full score.


In this case I think it's clear that Ives is reminding us the score is non-transposed. We normally perform that part on trumpet, but he offers the choice of trumpet, english horn, oboe or clarinet. He is also non-specific about the woodwind choir.

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