A fermata (also known as a hold, pause, colloquially a birdseye, or as a grand pause when placed on a note or a rest) is an element of musical notation indicating that the note should be sustained for longer than its note value would indicate. Exactly how much longer it is held is up to the discretion of the performer or conductor, but twice as long is not unusual. It is usually printed above, but occasionally below (upside down), the note that is to be held longer. Occasionally holds are also printed above rests or barlines, indicating a pause of indefinite duration.
This symbol appears as early as the 15th century, and is quite common in the works of Dufay and Josquin.
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