Is there a notational term for a drowsy tempo / feel?

How to notate a yawn?

How to indicate the breathy release at the end of a yawn? (Not just a comma-indicated “breath” of a pause.)

An Italian friend suggested assonnato or sonnolento for drowsy or sleepy. Sure enough, those terms are in Dolmetsch's music dictionary, which seems to include just about every word known to German, Italian and Spanish speakers, but not at Wikipedia's Glossary of musical terminology.

The Italian word for a yawn seems to be sbadiglio, while Dolmetsch's music dictionary seems to suggest sbadigliare for to yawn.

This came up in arranging, for bassoon and euphoniums, an overly dramatic version of Mendelssohn's Nocturne from Midsummer Night's Dream with an emphasis on the characters' yawning and falling asleep. The original tranquillo is too sweet and dignified for our purpose. For starters, we've worked out a nice introductory chord-like yawn for which we haven't found or thought of any conventional way to begin to transcribe beyond pitches, durations, dynamics and ligatures.

As enthusiasts without formal schooling, we're making do with “sonnolento sostenuto” for the tempo / mood and “alla yawn” for the intro.

YouTube – Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61: Nocturne: Con moto tranquillo

  • 4
    There's no reason I can think why you couldn't use the English words. "Drowsy feel" instead of a tempo or next to MM number and "yawn" over the note in question. Or a footnote next to the note with a brief phrase about making a yawn sound. Feb 4 '16 at 11:27

I suggest the same direction as @ToddWilcox. But why not take it further and use Erik Satie as a model for humorous direction or narrative in a score? See this example in Sonatine Bureaucratique http://imslp.org/wiki/File:Sonatine.pdf This text is not performance direction, but is makes clear Satie's humorous intentions. The important point is don't worry about sticking to convention if it doesn't serve your purpose.

Playing around with text in the score in this way opens things up. Like, who is yawning? The performer, the audience, the composer?

  • Nice example, yes, why not include stage-like directions for musicians? And, YES, might as well try to infect everyone, including the audience, with a desire to yawn (and not just because they're bored). To warm up, we already try to make each other yawn to the extent of making it a challenge to play.
    – lauir
    Feb 4 '16 at 16:52
  • Wish I could see the show, sounds like it will be fun! Feb 4 '16 at 17:25
  • Quite fun! Just for the record, not because of any perceived misunderstanding, I'm not out to mock this delicately gorgeous nocturne, which I love to try and play deservedly.
    – lauir
    Feb 5 '16 at 6:02

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