Musicians are tearing apart this Christmas decoration with deeply confusing music notation

25 November 2020, 18:02 | Updated: 25 November 2020, 18:04

Have yourself a merry little Christmas?
Have yourself a merry little Christmas? Picture: Reddit / jimmynudetron69

By Kyle Macdonald

Public Service Announcement for all manufacturing companies: if you try to make up musical notation, musicians will see it, they will analyse it, and they will make memes.

Designers beware, there's no such thing as generic musical notation, as one Christmas decoration producer is finding out the hard way.

It all started when Reddit user jimmynudetron69 spotted some festive ornaments in his local store.

He accompanied his photo with a pithy rant: “I hate when companies try and turn notation into a decoration. How do the manufacturers never once think, ‘let's look online and copy down the right notes’?!”

The 12 Improvisations of Christmas

The post immediately attracted the ire of a number of music geeks, who called out the all-too-nonchalant notation. “Ah yes, Christmas, my favorite one-syllable word,” one responded.

Internet-savvy music truth-seeker Scottioioio, then stepped in to transcribe it on the composition tool NoteFlight, so we can all listen to it note-for-note while following a score.

Read more: This restaurant wanted to put some beautiful music on their menu… and made a really bad choice >

Another Redditor, Zarlinosuke, points out one of the most perplexing aspects: that this is not fake notation, but rather just objectively bad music.

“I think this is even worse than most fake notation because it's in that uncanny valley area where it's still all real notation, it's just wrong and the text is horribly set, but it's still performable. A lot of fake decorative notation is absolutely nonsensical...” Zarlinosuke observes, concluding, “this just seems like the whole point was to get on musicians' nerves.”

Over on Twitter, Hidde Roorda also transcribed and analysed the piece. “I really don't understand this. Obviously, it's not a Christmas song. It is well written. No ugly parallel fifths, nice inversion, but no Christmas song. Then what is it?”

Soprano Helena Dix then termed it “the Carol that sums up 2020...”

And because musos not only theorise and analyse, but also perform, of course, there was a swift musical performance of the notation. First up, an expert vocal reading from tweeter Kristennnnn...

And also bravo to John E. Elliott for lending his chops for and instrumental adaptation.

Posted by John E. Elliott on Monday, November 23, 2020

After a few days of extensive music theory analysis and pondering, we don't feel any closer to solving this mystery. Musicologists may well ponder this one for decades to come.