I saw this answer and I thought the guy was absolutely crazy for assuming that a whole note automatically equaled one measure regardless of time signature. However, there does appear to be more than one person who believes this. On a comment to this question, Matthew Read states:
Personally I would use a whole rest, which ought to be understood thanks to the fact that it is already variable (used to represent the length of a bar irrespective of the time signature in most cases), but I don't think that's common practice.
Now my biggest issue with this idea stems more from a logical standpoint than a musical standpoint since most of the other notes/rests are defined as a fraction of the whole note. For example, the half note is generally defined as:
noun, Music. 1. a note equivalent in time value to one half of a whole note; minim. Dictionary.com
a musical note equal in time to half of a whole note merriam-webster
In music, a half note (American) or minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of a whole note (or semibreve) and twice the duration of a quarter note (or crotchet). Wikipedia
Now for example in 2/4 time that would somehow make all of the following true:
- The half note is equal to a full measure
- The whole note is equal to a full measure
- The half note is equal to 1/2 of the whole note (even though they are both equal to a full measure).
So my question is: Is the whole note/rest really used as a note of variable length? If so, how common of a practice is it and how could this possibly be justified?
NOTE: I specifically mention notes in the question, but I am asking about the standpoint on both notes and rests since I normally think of individual rests as having a specific note that they are equal to in terms of length (if this is an incorrect way of thinking please correct me).