Cambridge Abstract Terence Charlston: Seen but not heard? Music notation and performance interpretation. Music is an aural experience closely connected to verbal communication and found in most human cultures. While modern western ‘classical’ music conveys musical ideas through written notation, it is important to remember that fundamentally, music exists only in sound. Music notation uses visual symbols to indicate pitch and to convey events in time. It has evolved over at least the last thousand years into a relatively sophisticated form which is widely used and understood today. As a means of conveying the more subtle nuances of performance, however, music notation is imprecise and often misleading. In the absence of a living aural tradition, as is the case in ‘classical’ repertoires from before the age of sound recording, the conversion of such notation symbols back into sound must remain open to question and re-interpretation. In earlier times performer/composers disseminated their works either within a closed circle of connoisseurs or wrote tutor books to enable others to better perform their music. With the advent of music printing a wider market could be reached but with an ever greater danger of misinterpretation. This paper will examine the reliability or otherwise of a number of notations from the 17th to 19th centuries and consider some of the problems which manuscript and printed book traditions pose for the modern interpreter.