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The myth of Pope Gregory I taking melodic dictation from a magical singing bird is the imaginative starting point of Western musicʼs love-hate relationship with the music notation systems it later developed. This essay traces that development through Thomas Tallis and J. S. Bach to the dichotomous modern examples of Brian Ferneyhough and Arvo Pärt. In it, I suggest that Western musicʼs eventual development hinged upon that earliest desire to document and codify melodies, answering Gregoryʼs contemporary Isidore of Seville, who lamented that “unless sounds are held by the memory of man, they perish, because they cannot be written down.”