Session 41 (Free Papers): Paleography II

Thursday, 8 July 2021, 14.30-16.30, Room 209 Chair: Giovanni Varelli (University of Trento)

Learning to read: Music paleography instruction in the age of digital sources | Dan Donnelly (Independent Scholar) & Julie Cumming (McGill University)

The twenty-first century has seen a veritable explosion in the digitisation of early music sources by libraries and archives, many of which have been made freely available to the public both through institutional websites and through more centralised resources such as DIAMM and IMSLP. This increased availability of sources, particularly over the last decade, also appears to correspond with a significant rise in interest in both amateur and professional music-making directly from original notation without the traditional intermediary of the critical edition. At the same time, however, the disciplinary de-centering of medieval and Renaissance music within musicology has led to the elimination of formal coursework in music paleography either as a requirement or even as an offering from many university music programmes. In-person instruction in early notation has also been considerably compromised by the recent pandemic. This study combines institutional and organisational document analysis with a broad survey of active early-music scholars and performers to show: 1) an overall picture of the current state of instruction in pre-1600 Western musical notations; 2) how this picture has changed over the last few decades; and 3) the changing role of original sources in the work of scholars and performers of early repertoires. It will conclude with the researcher’s own reflections on how experts in early notation might best adapt our instructional methods to the current and future needs of the broader early-music community.

Sesquialtera in theory, notation, and sound | Paul Kolb (KU Leuven)

In music of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the most commonly found proportion sign was the number “3”, signifying sesquialtera: three notes sung in the time of two. In most cases, it also implies a change of mensuration to some sort of triple meter, usually major prolation or perfect time: three minims to the semibreve, or three semibreves to the breve. Theorists such as Tinctoris and Gaffurius complained about this practice, arguing not only that a single numeral was insufficient to indicate the proportion, but also that the numerals alone should not change the mensuration. Taking this criticism into account, some scribes and music printers started giving two numerals (i.e. 3 over 2) and/or supplementing the numeral(s) with a cut or uncut mensuration sign. Even so, the notational situation remained murky, for the signs themselves did not always clarify the mensural level of the new triple meter. Notational readings betray an uncertainty on the part of scribes as to whether and how the rules of imperfection and alteration should be taken into account. Complicating this is the parallel use of coloration to indicate sesquialtera, which, unlike the signed instances, always fixed the notes at their imperfect values. This paper will consider both the theoretical grounding for and notational responses to this seemingly straightforward aspect of the mensural system, with implications for understanding compositional structure and performance.

The scribe and the notator as the bearer of identity. Bohemian notation in late mediaeval manuscripts of Central Europe | Eva Veselovska (Institute of Musicology Slovak Academy of Sciences)

The identity of late mediaeval notation systems was explored by the Hungarian music historian Janka Szendrei in her 1988 study (Janka SZENDREI: Choralnotation als Identitätsausdruck im Mittelalter. In: Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 27. Budapest 1985, pp. 139-70). Szendrei pointed out an important fact that particular religious communities in Central Europe identified themselves with a particular type of notation and the character of the notation became a symbol that expressed a certain identity.

This study explores the status of the Bohemian system of notation in Central Europe and the identity of the scribes and notators of specific mediaeval manuscripts from Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Austria, and Poland. Especially in the latter half of the fourteenth century and in the course of the fifteenth century, Bohemian notation became an important export product (article) which appeared also outside the territory of the mediaeval Kingdom of Bohemia. Active scriptoria, or migrating scribes, illuminators and notators, created a large number of liturgical manuscripts which reveal valuable information about their activities and migrations. Several sources point to various combinations with respect to the identity of the manuscripts, with the liturgy or the musical contents representing the customer and the notation representing the creator of the particular source, such as in Antiphonary CCl. 65-68 (Augustinian Library in Klosterneuburg), Bratislava Missal “D” Clmae 216 from the Library of the Bratislava Chapter (National Széchényi Library in Budapest) or the Várad Antiphonary (Diocesan Seminary Library Győr).

Scriptor, cantor, notator: The case of the Armenian neumes | Haig Utidjian (Independent Scholar)

This presentation will tackle the still undeciphered Armenian mediaeval neumes as part of an organic tradition – entailing early manuscript and printed sources, transcriptions in other systems of musical notation, and the evolution in the oral tradition across the centuries in the context of phenomena such as the increase in melismaticity. It also seeks to reconstruct the procedures employed in the nineteenth century, when the neumes continued to be used, albeit in specific and strictly limited ways, by chanters, notators and redactors alike. Finally, it presents suggestions for future investigations, entailing both the exploitation of extant melodies and the analysis of the neumations on their own terms, employing cutting-edge digital humanities tools. The treatment is informed by recent research undertaken over a multiplicity of genres and notational systems.