I was reading a piece of music (a modern transcription of Begli Occhi by Barbara Strozzi, 1654), and came across a puzzling bit of notation: a pair of ceiling brackets (the upper halves of square brackets) above the staff around two pairs of notes. Here's a picture, with red arrows pointed at the puzzling notation) to illustrate: *Begli Occhi* excerpt

  • One possibility that comes to mind is that it might indicate that the minim and the semibreve together occupy half a measure, in contrast to some notational styles in which a semibreve can denote a whole measure in any time signature, or especially in unmetered music. Similarly, it might be merely a visual aid to help the performer parse the by now unusual note values. – Remy Jan 30 '18 at 6:51
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    The book I found the score in, The Norton Scores 9th edition, credits the sources Cantate, Ariete a una, due e tre voci, Opus 3 and the journal Recent Researches in Music of the Baroque Era. I left out the Continuo line to reduce the size of the picture, but I see that the same notation is present in the Continuo near the end of the piece. – Steve Jan 31 '18 at 7:33
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    The piece dates from the transition between Renaissance and Baroque Periods where a lot of what we write explicitly was then assumed to be common knowledge and not needing to be written down. When were slurs standardised? I think it might be early notation for a slur. I think it would sound right. Based on this small sample, the curved horizontal lines seem to be used solely to represent ties. Are there curved lines in the rest of the pieces by the same composer/book that are not ties? – Emma Feb 6 '18 at 18:02
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    Follow-up: I wrote to the credited author of the transcription I worked from, and she said she would look it up in her dissertation when she returns home; she's on tour playing the organ. – Steve Feb 11 '18 at 20:13
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    Many thanks, @Steve. I would be interested to know. – Greg Feb 19 '18 at 7:49

I believe the brackets indicate where colouration (a kind of rhythmic notation) was used in the original. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensural_notation#Proportions_and_colorations

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