Eleanor Selfridge-Field and Edmund Correia, Jr.
© 1994 Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities
Reproduced by the IEEE Technical Committee on Computer Generated Music by permission

Category 5. Early Music

Type 1. Neumes (note types) in unmeasured notation.

The most conspicuous need of music from the Middle Ages, and of its modern residue in current liturgical practice, is for note shapes and types that do not conform to the stemmed ovals that cover most needs in common musical notation.

Prior to adoption of mensural notation, neumes (the "notes" of early church music) expressed through their shapes and placement relative to one another not only an exact pitch but also a relative duration. In much early music no precise information about duration is indicated. Three uses of neumes are shown in the four examples below.

In Ex. #27 we see conventional chant notation as it is used today in liturgical books such as the Liber Usualis. The four-line staff is typical. This example includes (in order of their occurrence) the following types of neumes: a virga, three (later one more) puncta, two (later two more) podati, a clivis, an epiphonus, a cephalicus, a torculus, a porrectus, and, at the end, a punctum with a custos (the custos is a guide to the first pitch on the ensuing staff).

Ex. #27. A passage illustrating several kinds of neumes on a four-line staff. This illustration was produced by William F. Clocksin using Calliope. It appeared in Computing in Musicology 9 (1994), 221.

The neumes in Ex. #28 are of similar kinds, but they are used in a different way. Here the author is comparing variant versions of the same chant quotations. Thus the problems of alignment found in modern score preparation are encountered without the control provided in common notation by the use of barlines. In this example, text underlay and overlay are also required.

© 1990 by the Trustees of Columbia University. Used by permission.

Ex. #28. This example was prepared by Don Giller using Adobe Illustrator to the exclusion of notation software. It appeared in Computing in Musicology 7 (1991), 155.

The presentation of neumes varied regionally and of course it varied over time. In Ex. #29 the incipit of "Ave nunc genetrix Maria" from the Handschrift Engelberg 314 (f. 98r) in the Stiftsbibliothek of St. Gall, Switzerland, we see a different style of neumatic notation. Its purpose is to serve as an incipit for cataloguing purposes.

Ex. #29. This example, prepared by Christoph Schnell using the ALPHA/TIMES system, was shown in the Directory of Computer Assisted Research in Musicology 2 (1986), 24.

In Ex. #30 the style of notation is similar to, but not the same as, that of Ex. #29. Here the problem of coordinating simultaneous parts is again present.

Ex. #30. This illustration was produced by Christoph Schnell using the ALPHA/TIMES system. It appeared in the Directory of Computer Assisted Research in Musicology 3 (1987), 72.

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