In Debussy's preludes for piano, there is the number 5 entitled "les collines d'anacapri". It comprises the following Time Signature. One that I have never seen before, and was wondering what it meant?

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1 Answer 1


A bar of 12/16, a bar of 2/4, a bar of 12/16, a bar of 2/4... '+' would be more usual. I imagine '=' indicates the bars are of equal duration.

However, I've seen it stated that "The "critical notes" to the Wiener Urtext publication of this prelude pretty much acknowledge that Debussy's notation for this piece is an inconsistent mess."


  • 2
    Actually, in bar 3 you have 12/16 and 2/4 simultaneously on the same (top) staff, so it's not just "alternating bars". The strange time signature could be interpreted simply as "Sorry folks, I can't be bothered to write all the triplets I really need to notate this clearly - just figure it out for yourselves" ;)
    – user19146
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 10:22
  • Not to get too nit picky here but a “+” would most likely indicate both those signatures occurring in the same bar. Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 10:59
  • And both DO occur in bar 3!
    – Laurence
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 11:47
  • Not convinced that the bars themselves are of equal duration. There are 6 quavers in the odd numbered and four in the even numbered bars. This would presume, since quaver is 184 bpm, that the odd bars are of 1.5x duration than the evens.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 12:43
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci - not really up for debate. Claude specified at the top.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 16:57

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