Session 1 (Free Papers): Palaeography

Monday, 5 July 2021, 14.30-16.30, Room A224 | Chair: Elsa De Luca (CESEM, NOVA FCSH)

The calligraphy of Old Hispanic notation: Two notational scripts in British Library Add. MS 30845 | Marcus Jones (University of Bristol)

Old Hispanic chant is a distinctive musical and liturgical tradition that was practised in medieval Iberia until its suppression in 1080 at the Council of Burgos. The unpitched notation used to preserve this repertory forms part of a broader network of notations labelled “gestural”, as generally each gesture of a sign indicates the melodic contour of the series of notes it represents. The surviving Old Hispanic chant materials preserve examples of different Old Hispanic notational scripts. Sometimes, a single source preserves more than one variant of Old Hispanic notational scripts; for example, the 10th/11th-century Liber Misticus, British Library, Add. MS 30845 (BL45) associated with the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla contains two different scripts used to preserve the melodies. The quill is held and manoeuvred in different ways in the two scripts. Such physical aspects of writing Old Hispanic notation have not been explored previously. In this paper, I present a new methodology for the analysis of the writing techniques used in unpitched notations. The understanding of the practical aspects of producing different musical scripts can shed light on regional practices and musical literacy in medieval Iberia.

Constructing diversity in horizontal Old Hispanic notation | Emily Wride (University of Bristol)

Old Hispanic notation was used in ecclesiastical manuscripts containing the Old Hispanic Rite between the 9th and 14th centuries. Most discussions of this system are centred around sources containing vertical notation, such as the famous León Antiphoner, while the horizontal variant, and the sources which contain it, remain largely undiscussed. Where horizontal notation has been discussed, it has normally been considered as “less diverse” than vertical notation. In this paper I will explore the concept of diversity in Old Hispanic notation, looking specifically at how shapes are constructed from their basic elements, in order to explore the graphic vocabulary of the horizontal script. By looking at traits such as the “virga principle”, firstly in the manuscript, Toledo, Biblioteca Capitolare, MS 35.4, and then in vertical sources from the north of the Iberian Peninsula, I will demonstrate that horizontal notation is not merely a simplified version of vertical notation, but rather a variation of the script with its own conceptualisation of notational shapes and principles. Through these comparisons between horizontal and vertical notation I will explore the presence and absence of certain notational elements and this will help to highlight the common ideas shared between the two systems, further locating horizontal notation within the broader contexts of medieval Spain.

Cimelia palaeographica: Early Chant Palimpsests from Italy | Giovanni Varelli (University of Trento)

Because of their difficult legibility, most palimpsests of early notated chant manuscripts have never been studied, or underwent so far only partial analyses. Thus, a wealth of potentially crucial information on the exchange and movement of music writing techniques across the Alps, and within the Italic peninsula, remains hidden inside the pages of these volumes. As part of an international collaborative project, a group of early Italian palimpsest manuscripts (Mantua, Assisi and Vercelli) have been digitised with multispectral imaging, UV, and infrared lights. Techniques of digital editing with specialist imaging software have been successfully applied to this type of material before, but never on early chant manuscripts. The paper will present the results of the initial digital reconstruction of some of the earliest notated liturgical manuscript palimpsests from Italy, with a focus on the palaeographical analysis of the graphic features of their music scripts.

What is a “neume”? – Questions and clues arising from D-B IV 11 | Christoph Weyer (Universität Hamburg)

As naturally as the word “neume” is used, its definition is unclear and varied. Observations on a hitherto little-noticed manuscript expand this definition once again. D-B IV 11, which has been written in 1024, was assumed to be lost in World War II but could be found in Krakow. The Codex contains inter alia the sequences of Notker Balbulus from St. Gall. These sequences have been provided with neumes twice although they seem to relate to the same melodies. This begs not only the question why they were notated twice but also what is the difference in their intent. Furthermore: An intensive comparison suggests that the neumes contained in D-B IV 11 query the usual definition that neumes are limited to syllables and words and are not written at syllable and word transitions, too. These questions are examined on the basis of grammatical, music-theoretical and developmental observations.