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African Music and Dance in Print
Part 2 of 7: Greenotation
By Doris Green
(more articles from this author)
2003-06-03
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Greenotation and Labanotation are enjoined so both music and dance can be viewed in a single integrated score. The Greenotation system is based upon a symbol and a sound for each stroke. Labanotation is based upon a directional symbol for each movement. The rectangle is the basic symbol of both systems.

The three basic shadings within the rectangle indicate the level of movement in dance notation.

In high level movement, the weight is on the balls of the feet as the dancer releves. In middle level, the legs are straight with weight on the entire foot. In low level movement, the knees are bent with the weight on the entire foot.

In music notation, the same three symbols indicate sound as it applies to different instrument.

The high level symbol indicates the half hand strikes the drumhead.

The middle level symbol indicates strike the drum in the center with a stick. This is the medium tone on the drum.

The total shaded symbol indicates the lowest tone on the drum, and the rattle when it is played in the low position.

There are different shadings and designs within the rectangle that compose the symbols of other instruments. Each group of instruments has its own symbol or symbols to represent it. The symbols of each category are too numerous for the length of this paper. Therefore, only the basic symbols necessary to read the sample notations will be represented.


Labanotation is a system of recording and analyzing dance movements. It was created by Rudolf Von Laban in the late 1920's. This system was disseminated throughout the United States by Ann Hutchinson who wrote the textbook Labanotation -The System of Analyzing and Recording movement. Dance Notation Bureau located in New York City is the headquarters of this system. Ohio State University houses the DNB Extension for education and research. Under the aegis of Lucy Venable, they developed the LabanWriter software program for writing dance scores on the computer. Greenotation is an innovative musical system specifically designed for writing music of African percussion instruments. It was created by Doris Green in 1962. For more information, please refer to web site www.brooklynx.org/neighborhoods/panafrican


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