enter image description hereWhat are this notes about? I had to learn this piece in 8-27-1963 in my first year at the music conservatory in Bern.

The notes look like square notation, but the music was written in 20th. century.

It’s nr. 102 of Bela Bartok’s “mikrokosmos”.

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    At least post a pic of the sheet music. – ggcg Jan 25 '19 at 19:14
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    How do you keep that l.h. chord sounding? Even pedalling it won't last that long. And why is it written with no key sig., when the B chord is a clue? – Tim Jan 25 '19 at 20:09
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    @ Tim, good thought, that’s the question. The title will tell you. But concerning the key: in many pieces Bartok doesn’t set a key, however tonality is clear. – Albrecht Hügli Jan 25 '19 at 20:28
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    I neither knew that diamonds are used in string instruments as notation of dinamics: this is actually the title of mikroksmos 102. And the instruction “press down without sounding” is written at the left bottom of the page. Above the first trade of B in the beginning you can read the hint 1) – Albrecht Hügli Jan 25 '19 at 20:46
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    @AlbrechtHügli, doesn't help. On an instrument like guitar these would be harmonics. Don't know how to play these on a piano. – ggcg Jan 25 '19 at 22:04

I believe the square notes (usually called diamonds) indicate keys that are silently depressed and held down. This technique allows those notes to ring sympathetically when the right hand notes are played. This specific piece is mentioned in this Wikipedia entry:


The relevant passage:

Composers such as Béla Bartók started to look at the piano as a more percussive instrument and explored various techniques to achieve percussive effects. His Bagatelles and Mikrokosmos (the series of works for the instruction of young pianists) both contain unusual instructions to the pianist. He even used special notation for certain of them: "hold keys silently" is indicated by square note heads rather than the usual round ones.

Lastly, the "1)" above first chord probably indicates a composer's note somewhere in the score, so that will give you the definitive answer.

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    Oh, Brilliant! I'd accept this if it were possible! Bravo, Peter! – user45266 Jan 25 '19 at 20:32
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    @user45266 Yes, this answer is correct. Just a note, although I see why you describe them as squares, these noteheads are generally referred to as diamonds. The same diamond noteheads are often used for harmonics on string instruments. – Pat Muchmore Jan 25 '19 at 20:39
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    @PatMuchmore Yes, I've usually heard them referred to as diamonds as well, but both the OP and the Wikipedia article used the term "square." Truly square noteheads (basically like what's shown but rotated 45 degrees) also exist. – Peter Jan 25 '19 at 20:59
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    So, that would be a way to excite harmonics on a piano. Very cool. – ggcg Jan 25 '19 at 22:05
  • Yes, you know what happens if you press the keys slowly down without playing. “Hold the keys silently”. The strings of the piano are open. The sff in the first bar effects them to vibrate and they still resonate to the soft piano tune. That’s what Tim was wondering how pedaling could be hold so long. – Albrecht Hügli Jan 25 '19 at 22:49

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