Maxima (music)

A maxima, duplex longa, larga (in British usage: large), or octuple whole note was a musical note used commonly in thirteenth and fourteenth century music and occasionally until the end of the sixteenth century. It was usually twice or, rarely, three times[1] as long as a longa, four or six or nine times as long as a breve, and 8, 12, 18, or 27 times as long as a semibreve (whole note). Like the stem of the longa, the stem of the maxima generally pointed downwards except occasionally when it appeared on the bottom line or space. Before around 1430, the maxima was written with a solid, black body. Over the course of the fifteenth century, like most other note values, the head of the maxima became void.[2]

A white-mensural maxima with stem facing down.
Notation for a rest of the value of a maxima. It has the width of a whole note or half note rest and the height of a longa rest.

In most early sources the duplex longa has twice the body of a longa, but before 1250 there is often no clear difference of shape and the presence of the duplex longa is instead merely suggested by a greater distance between the notes in the tenor (in score notation), caused by the greater number of notes in the upper parts.[3] See "Mensural notation" for examples.

Alternative notation for a rest of the value of a maxima, i.e., two adjacent longa rests.

The name for this note in European languages is derived from two of the three Latin names, either maxima or larga.[4]

In modern theoretical contexts, it is occasionally called an octuple whole note.[5]

See also


  • Apel, Willi. 1961. The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900–1600, fifth edition, revised and with commentary. The Medieval Academy of America Publication no. 38. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Medieval Academy of America.
  • Johannes Verulus de Anagnia. 1977. Liber de musica Iohannis Vetuli de Anagnia, edited by Frederick Hammond. Corpus Scriptorum de Musica 27, 26–97. Neuhausen-Stuttgart: American Institute of Musicology.


  1. Stoessel, Jason. 2009. "The Interpretation of Unusual Mensuration Signs in the Notation of the Ars subtilior". In A late Medieval Songbook and its Context: New Perspectives on the Chantilly Codex (Bibliothèque du Château de Chantilly, Ms. 564), edited by Yolanda Plumley and Anne Stone, 179–202. Turnhout: Brepols. p. 181.
  2. Apel 1961, p. 87.
  3. Apel 1961, pp. 224, 245.
  4. On "larga" as a term, see Johannes Verulus de Anagnia 1977, 30–31 : "Nomina vero ipsarum sunt haec, scilicet larga, longa, brevis, semibrevis et minima".
  5. Asooja, Kartik, Sindhu Kiranmai Ernala, and Paul Buitelaar. 2010. "UNLP at the [email protected] Task: Question Answering on Musical Scores ACM". Paper describing submission to the [email protected] task in MediaEval 2014 (accessed 10 June 2016).

Further reading

  • Morehen, John, and Richard Rastall. 2001. "Note Values". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.