Glossary of Terms
as used by the NEUMES Project

Purpose: The purpose of this document is to define a limited set of terms as they are used in the NEUMES Project, so that their intended meanings shall be explicit. Standard terms both from medieval musicology and computer software engineering are covered, as well as terms that are assigned a special meaning in this Project. Single quotation marks are used as so-called 'scare quotes' to set off a word or phrase of common parlance. Double quotation marks are used in direct quotations, or to denote terms with a special meaning that has been coined by the NEUMES Project.
  References Cited
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An auxiliary mark written just before a note to modify the note's pitch from what it would otherwise be read as. The most common accidentals are the sharp and the flat, which raise or lower the note's pitch by a half step respectively.

abstract character (or, abstract symbol)
A semantic unit (i.e., a unit of meaning) in a symbol system. There can be many different concrete forms of an abstract character (see, glyph), which may be very different one from another graphically .

Acquired 'by accident'; not inherent. Regarding neume notations: 'adventitious notation' refers to auxiliary notation (such as pitch letters) that has been added to the 'base' notation (which, typically, would be the neumatic glyphs written above a chant text).

A book, usually manuscript, containing music for use at the Mass (antiphonale missarum) or the daily office (antiphonale officii).

apostropha (or, stropha, or strophicus)
A neume form, written like the apostrophe of vowel elision, that indicates a lightly, or delicately rendered note. The apostropha is always written in combination with other neumes. There is debate about correct interpretation of the apostropha.

The art of decorative or fancy handwriting. Writing was a high-tech skill in medieval times. Few people had the training and experience to do it well; until the founding of universities, almost all scribes were monks. Copying of religious texts was done with great care and artistry. Music writing required even greater skill, and so copying of music manuscripts was left only to the most experienced scribes.

The singer in charge of the choir in a church or monastery, generally responsible for the choir and for seeing to it that the correct chants are sung for the liturgy.

cheironomic notation
Notation symbols that represent the gestures of the hand that inform singers of the correct note to sing in a chant. Cheironomy (i.e., the hand signs, themselves) was used in ancient Egypt and is evident today in isolated Jewish religious practice. Unheighted neume notation is sometimes called cheironomic notation, as it indicates the general melodic shape, rather than specific not pitches.

chant [see, plainchant]

[Latin, meaning 'key'] In Western musical notations that use a staff (q.v.), a mark—normally written at the beginning of each staff—that establishes a correspondence between staff lines and tones of the scale [from Italian 'scala', meaning 'ladder']. The two commonly-used clefs are the doh clef and the fah clef. Doh and fah are tones of solfège (viz., doh, re, me, fah, sol, la, ti, doh); these are names of 'relative pitches', because they denote the degrees of a modal scale (not fixed 'pitches' in the modern sense). The clef can be written on any line of the staff to establish which line corresponds to doh, or to fah, etc. Just one clef can appear at a particular point of the notation, but a different clef (at a different height, and/or a different symbol) can appear at any point along the staff to change the meaning of the staff lines from that point forward. When the notation breaks at the right margin of a page, another staff is written below to continue the notation, and the clef normally is written again. (By contrast, modern musical notation uses the C clef, F clef, and G clef for a similar purpose, except that the pitches are fixed rather than relative.)
Example: doh clef on a four-line staff; the third line (up) is marked as doh; doh clef

Example: fah clef on a three-line staff; the second line (up) is marked as fah; fah clef

A two-note neume in which the second note is lower than the first.

codec (or, CODEC)
[Short for 'coder-decoder'] Usually, a computer program that encodes an analog signal (typically, an audio stream) to digital data and, conversely, decodes from digital data to an analog signal. Also, a hardware device whose main purpose is to do such conversions.

An older terminology (still in use) is 'A/D converter' (or, 'analog-to-digital converter', or 'ADC') and 'D/A converter' (or, 'digital-to-analog converter', or 'DAC'). These terms refer only to hardware devices that just deal in the 'raw' digital data of sampling (that is, the numerical amplitude of an analog signal measured at regular intervals of time)—not dealing in complex types of data representation for analog signals. Complex types of data representation for analog signals may incorporate signal compression; they may record the results of Fast Fourier Transformation (FFT) of the signal; they may include descriptive metadata about the object data; and so on.

codex (plural: codicis)
[Latin, meaning 'book'; literally, 'the trunk of a tree'; older form was 'caudex'] A manuscript volume, which may contain a collection (or, a 'gathering') of individual manuscripts.

common practice notation
A term synonymous with 'modern music notation'. This is the form of music notation familiar to most people. It involves quarter notes, half notes, rests, time signature, etc.

copying error
A transcription mistake made by a scribe when copying a manuscript. The study of where and when variations were introduced into manuscript copies can give important clues about the line-of-transmission of plainchant melodies. "Until the 9th century words were not separated, although in some writing, both inscriptions and literary works, dots or points were used as divisions. These practices accounted for many errors in transcription by scribes who were either careless or uneducated. The difficulty of deciphering medieval manuscripts arises largely from such faults in copying, as well as from the contractions, abbreviations, and ligatures that were employed to economize on labor and expensive parchment" [Duckworth, "Paleography"].

[Latin, meaning 'body'] The term used by musicologists when they refer to the entire collection of music in a particular style, or from a particular geographical region, from one historical period, or using any other reasonable classification.

The contraction of a vowel or diphthong at the end of one word, with a vowel or diphthong at the start of the following word. For example, the two vowels, 'i', may be elided in « Si iniquitates ».

This is relevant to the NEUMES data representation, because some sources show a single neume spanning two vowels of a crasis. This is an important exception to the general rule, that each neume is correlated with just one syllable of the chant text (and therefore, with a single vowel). In Western notation we find, for example, a pressus written clearly and deliberately across « Si iniquitates » in some sources, such as St Gall MS 340 (see, graphic below). This usage is copied across several manuscripts in St Gall notation.

Chant 'Si iniquitates'; St Gall MS 340, f186 (excerpt).
Introit 'Si iniquitates': a neume clearly is straddling the crasis.
Source: St Gall MS 340, f. 186 (excerpt).
Other instances of "bisyllabic" neumes are discussed in
Cardine, Cpt. 13, Sect. IV ("Repercussion of the note at the unison"), Examples nr 282, 283, 284, 285, and 289. The notation anomaly can occur also on a single word, such as « tuus » or « tuum ». It is not limited to the pressus, and may occur with other neumatic glyphs as well.


Our analysis of the anomaly (based on our study of it across a variety of sources and notation species, and considering the scholarship to-date on this point) is that, the syllables are not what is irregular (nor is the elision with which they may be chanted), but rather the neumation is a special case. For consistency with design principles of the NEUMES data representation, the anomaly should be accommodated by the manner in which neumatic symbols are correlated to text syllables in these special cases. To preserve the "lossless" aspect of data representation, this accommodation shall not involve splitting of a "bisyllabic" neume into two neumes, if that is not what the original scribe did.

In strict terminology, a 'database' is a collection of data that is contained in a computer program called a database management system (or DBMS, such as Microsoft Access, Oracle, or dBase). A DBMS (and, therefore, any databases it contains) typically resides on a single computer: access to the data is possible only via mediation of the DBMS. On the Web, data stored in a database are often called 'dark matter' of the Web, because (although the DBMS might have a Web-accessible 'portal'), the data are not visible directly on the Web: they are 'hidden' behind the DBMS.

A musical scale (as is used in Western music) where notes fall into discrete pitches that are a whole tone or a semitone apart.

differentia (plural: differentiae)
In Roman (Western) chant, this indicates the correct melodic ending of an otherwise well-known chant. At the end of an Introitus or Antiphon (viz., at the beginning of a Psalm), the abbreviation "Euouae" is given with the tones of the differentia. This abbreviation is formed from the vowels of the last two words of the lesser doxology, "seculorum. Amen". (It is understood as the point where the Introitus or Antiphon is repeated after the Psalm and lesser doxology.)

Study of the formal qualities of a document, including standardised forms of wording and layout.

diplomatic facsimile
By our definition, a 'diplomatic facimile' is a visualization (on-screen or in print) from the digital transcription a source artifact, such that it has the same semantic content as the source, and its glyphs and layout are similar to the original source. Many different visualizations of such a digital transcription could be possible and valid. This term does not refer to the method of transcription nor to a type of data. The 'facsimile' aspect of this term implies that such a visualization is (to the greatest degree possible) not influenced by editorial interpretation. (By contrast, a 'critical edition' usually may be heavily edited or even translated to another type of notation that is wholly different to the original.)

There is some disagreement among humanities scholars over what the term 'diplomatic facsimile' means exactly. Our definition is not intended to be normative for all fields.

'Diplomatic' derives from the Greek word διπλωμα, meaning 'folded in half', and thus a 'document'. (Cf., the English word 'diploma'.) 'Facsimile' comes from the Latin  fac simile, meaning to 'make similar'.

Divine Office (or, canonical hours, or, Hours of the Office)
The prayer liturgy of the Catholic Church. It involves the chanting of Psalms and reading of lessons from Scripture. Traditionally the Office is observed at eight specified hours interspersed through the day and night. In monasteries or other religious communities, the Office is prayed together by the community.

dots-per-inch (usually abbreviated as, dpi)
A measure of the resolution (or, fineness) of visual rendering. This metric is commonly used for electronic scanners and dot-oriented printers, such as laser printers.

Document Type Definition, which is an XML document that defines the general type of particular XML instance documents (viz., documents that contain particular data). A DTD enumerates the XML tags and their attributes that are permitted for instance documents of its type. A DTD also may contain definitions of XML Entities (often, Character Entities that allow human-readable mnemonic names to be used as proxies for non-ASCII characters within XML instance documents). The capabilities of DTD are weak for constraining the content of attribute values and character data (i.e., what appears between tags). Stronger data constraints are provided by XML Schema. An instance document may declare a DTD (principally for pullling in Character Entity definitions) and an XML Schema (for strong data-typing of the document's content and structure).

The order and direction in which the pen strokes were made, which make up a letter or neumatic symbol.

ecclesiastical (also, ecclesiastic)
[From Greek 'ekklesia', meaning 'those who are called out'] Pertaining to the church. In the NEUMES Project, the word is used most frequently in reference to the Catholic Church ['catholic', from Greek 'katholikos', meaning 'universal'). This is because Christianity in the Middle Ages across most of Western Europe was Catholic. The term 'ecclesiastical' covers both the regular Church (i.e., local parishes, cathedrals, the Papal court, and so on—often called the 'lay Church') and religious orders (i.e., religious communities, such as monasteries). This term, however, applies equally to the Eastern Orthodox Church, where also a term is needed when referring both to parishes and to monasteries. (From the context of discussion, it should be clear whether the Western or Eastern Church is meant.)

In the post-Reformation era, the meaning of this term has broadened to include some 'traditionalist' Protestant denominations (such as the Anglican Church) that have retained structural vestiges from their Catholic origins. The NEUMES Project, however, ordinarily does not cover post-Reformation musical sources.

ekphonic notation (or, ecphonetic)
Cantillation marks on Biblical texts of both the Christian and Hebrew liturgies [the term was coined in 1885]. The earliest Syrian exemplars might date from as early as the 2nd to 4th century. It appears mixed with neume notation in Latin manuscripts as late as possibly the 15th century. Early informants explain that these marks denote vocal inflection (such as vocal expressions of astonishment or fear). Their melodic significance is purely conjectural under current scholarship.

A single leaf or page of a manuscript. Folios are numbered with 'r' (i.e., recto) for the front or right-hand page, and 'v' (i.e., verso) for the back or left-hand page.

A set of glyphs (q.v.), all observing the same basic motif according to design, size, appearance, and other attributes associated with the entire set, and a mapping from abstract characters (q.v.) to glyphs.

A distinct musical phrase or event expressing a thought or emotion.

A symbol of calligraphy as it was written on a source artifact; an image or picture of such a symbol, or (by extension) the shape of a particular character of a typographical font that depicts an actual or stylized symbol of calligraphy. From the viewpoint of symbol systems, the visual rendition of an abstract character (q.v.), whether as handwritten caligraphy, a printed sign, or a computer-generated image or font character.

Gregorian chant
This is a commonly-used term for the Latin chant of the Catholic Church. Actually, Gregorian chant did not exist until at least one to two hundred years after the death of Pope Gregory I (reigned 590-604), but his name was borrowed to legitimize this particular collection as the 'official' chant of the Church. It was catalogued mostly during the reign of the Frankish king Charlemagne (reigned 768-814), and is likely mixture of traditional Frankish and Roman chants.

A handwriting bearing distinctive features of an individual scribe.

In heighted notation (q.v.), the vertical position of a neume above its corresponding chant text. Intuitively, one can think of neume 'height' as denoting the pitch of a note in Western musical notation, but this is not always reliable. Especially in early Latin manuscripts, neume height may just denote the general direction (up or down) of the melody without being specific about pitches, and perhaps not even being consistent across one line of neumation. A "lossless" data representation for medieval neumed manuscripts should record each neume's height: heighting is vague in many manuscripts, and retention of heights in the data might provide important criteria for analysis of melody, notation, origin of the manuscript, and so forth.

heighted notation
A concept peculiar to Western musical notations, where the relative vertical placement of a glyph (q.v.) denotes the pitch (or, acoustical frequency) of the musical note—or notes—that the glyph represents. Musical notations in the Eastern Orthodox Church did not adopt this concept, even though it likely was well-known to neume scribes in the East; nor was the concept arrived at independently in other cultures. Although today the concept is so common in music writing as perhaps to seem necessary, nevertheless it is not; consider, for instance, the graph below, in which 'height' denotes amplitude (or, loudness of the sound) instead of pitch.
Counterexample: verticality as denotation of amplitude,waveform


Originally meaning the decoration of a manuscript with gold leaf, this term refers more generally to artistic decoration of manuscripts that is not an essential part of the text or melody. Broadly defined, this category includes florid initial letters, pictorial 'miniatures', border motifs, and other decorations. Illuminations are often in full color. Typically, manuscripts were written by three different monks: one would write the text, leaving space for notation of the melody and for decorations; a second would notate the chant melody; a third would create the decorated initial letters. Illustration of miniatures was often sent outside the monastery to be done by lay artists..

A short textual fragment or melodic fragment (typically only a few notes) used for identification of a particular chant text, melody, or melodic formula.

The acoustical distance between two notes. This is normally measured in terms of the degrees of the musical scale in use (see, clef). In the case of medieval chant, the scales are modes (q.v.), and the degrees are named as solfège tones. For example, the interval between doh and re is a second; the interval between mi and sol is a third.

A combination of characters for graphical display. In Medieval manuscripts two or more neumes are often written together as a 'compound' neume. Musicologically we wish to draw an important distinction between (a) neumes that can be graphically built up as combinations of simpler forms, and (b) complex neume forms that have distinct semantics. We define a ligature as a compound that is not semantically distinct from the combination of its component neumes.

A modifier of a neume, often written as a tight loop at the end of the neume, to indicate liquescence. Liquescence is a particular vocal rendering of complex syllables in the text, especially at diphthongs and the juxtaposition of consonants. Liquescent neumes provide an excellent example of why it is necessary to retain the semantics of neumes in the data representation: Liquescent neumes are ambiguous. In the St. Gall tradition, for instance, a single liquescent neume-form can refer to two different normal neume signs (e.g., virga and clivis), even within the same manuscript. It is necessary to refer to a "control" manuscript (i.e., one containing a stereotypical melody) to infer which of the ambiguous meanings is intended.

The body of religious rituals prescribed for public (i.e., community) worship of the Church. The liturgy includes music, sacred or inspirational texts, and prayers. When referring specifically to the liturgy of the Catholic Church, the word is normally capitalized. The Liturgy is comprised mainly of the Mass and the Divine Office (q.v.).


A collection (usually bound) of hand-written documents. Medieval manuscripts were written on parchment (or, sheepskin), since papyrus from Egypt was scarce; consequently, they are highly durable. Prior to about A.D. 800, text manuscripts were written only by a small number of highly-skilled monks. In the reign of Charlemagne [A.D. 768-814] there was a concerted effort to increase literacy in Europe. Legions of new scribes were trained, and manuscript copying was done on a massive scale. New, cursive scripts were invented to make copying faster.

Text added to the data of a document to convey information about the document. Descriptive (or logical, or structural) markup describes the structure of a document. Procedural (or physical, or presentational) markup specifies how the document should be presented physically.

martyriai (or, Main Signatures, or, MSi)
In Byzantine chant notation, these are signs that show the pitch and length of the starting tone; they are abbreviations of well-known melodies that provide an initial intonation.

[From the Latin, Ite, misse est, meaning, "Go. It is sent forth"; said at end of Mass] The religious ritual of songs, readings, prayers, and consecration of the Bread (or, Body of Christ) for the celebration of the Eucharist (breaking of bread) in the Catholic Church.

mensural notation
Musical notation that prescribes specific relative durations of notes. In modern notation this is done with quarter notes, half notes, etc., assembled into units called 'measures'. Medieval chant notation does not specify such rhythmic values for notes.

mode (or, Church mode)
One of eight musical scale patterns used by medieval chant. Only two of these modes survive in modern music, and are now referred to as the major and minor scales.

moveable feast
A liturgical feast [from Latin, festus, meaning 'joyous'] that does not have a fixed month-and-date on the liturgical calendar. The date on which a moveable feast is celebrated in a particular year is determined by the lunar calendar (as opposed the the solar calendar, by which fixed dates are reckoned). An example of a moveable feast is Easter, which may fall on different dates from year-to-year.

Today, it is popularly believed that 'moveable feast' means some food that you can take away. This is an illiterate confounding of the meaning. It results from ignorance, and the naïve misinterpretation of the words in this phrase after it appeared in a popular novel.

MS (plural: MSS)
The common abbreviation for manuscript (q.v.).

A scholar who studies the history of music. As with other kinds of history, historians of music are concerned with much more than just recording names, dates, and events. Musicologists also study a broad range of related topics, such as musical culture, handwriting, trends in art, politics, and religion, that influenced musical style, and so on. To some extent musicologists are also concerned with music theory, as they analyze the structure of old music and the nature of the compositional process.

One in a set of symbols (simple or compound) that were invented in medieval times for writing music. Neumes are quite different from modern musical symbols, both in their appearance and meaning.

The term 'neume notation' comprises many emergent systems of musical notation that were invented in the Middle Ages primarily for the notation (both musical and performance) of ecclesiatical (q.v.) chant. Different systems evolved in the West (for Latin chant) and in the East (especially for Greek chant, hymns). Ekphonetic (q.v.) notation (especially for cantillation of the Gospels) normally is included as a type of neume notation.

In the West, the emergent systems gradually converged into a single system called square-neume notation. It is the precursor of modern musical notation (or, common-practice notation).


In Byzantine chant, the framework of a mode as defined by a few melodic formulas.

A neume modifier or a free-standing neume form, written in some shape similar to the tilde of some modern languages, to indicate a variety of nuances in the vocal rendering.


The study of ancient handwriting. Paleographers (those who specialize in paleography) can deduce much about the age of manuscripts, lines of transmission, etc., by studying the handwriting of individual scribes. The NEUMES "lossless" data representation seeks to preserve a musicologically-accurate, but stylized facsimile of manuscripts. Paleographers, however, rely on close examination of the original manuscripts. For this reason, paleographic analysis of manuscripts lies beyond the scope of the NEUMES Project.

The basic unit of resolution for visualization devices, especially of computer screens. A pixel corresponds to a single, irreducible point (or, dot) on the viewing device. The resolution of computer monitors is usually specified in pixels, where the number of available dots horizontally is listed first (such as "800 by 600 pixels"); many monitors have a variety of pixel-resolutions that the computer user can choose from. Note that pixels are not the same metric as dots-per-inch (q.v.); the physical size of a monitor is unrelated to its pixel resolution, and so, given a large monitor and a small monitor with the same pixel resolution, the physical size of a pixel on the large monitor is larger than the size of a pixel on the small monitor.

performance significance
Ornamentation, vocal color, inflection, or articulation.

pictographic notation
Musical notation depicting general melodic shape, rather than specific notes [see, 'unheighted neume'].

How 'high' an auditory tone is, specifically its acoustical frequency.

plainchant (or, plainsong)
The general name given to songs that were chanted as part of religious worship in the medieval Christian church. They are characterized by the lack of a regular beat, lack of instrumental accompaniment, and a peculiar modal sound.

A compound neume consisting of a virga, an oriscus, and a punctum. The pressus can be found either in isolation or in combination.

[From Greek, 'psallein'; meaning in English, 'to play the harp'; hence, n Gr 'psalmos'; n Lat 'psalmus'. With an initial capital letter, any of the songs, hymns, or prayers contained in the Book of Psalms.] The Hebrew sefer tehillim, or "Book of Praises," contains 150 Psalms. In the Hebrew Temple, the Psalms were chanted daily by professional singers from the tribe of Levi, accompanied by instruments.

In the Western (Latin) Church, the Psalms have always been an important part of the liturgy, and they figure prominently both in 'Liturgy of the Word' for the Mass and in the Hours of the Office. They are sometimes written in a separate book called a Psalter. "The psalms are by far the most important texts used in Gregorian chant. In the early days of Christian worship the service consisted only of psalm singing, and ... the psalms have retained their dominant position in the Catholic liturgy. ... [There were] three original types, namely: I. direct psalmody, II. responsorial psalmody, and III. antiphonal psalmody" [Apel, s.v. 'Psalmody, Gregorian'].

In the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, however, the Psalms are of less importance and seldom is a Psalm sung in its entirety. The Eastern Orthodox Church counts 151 Psalms: Psalm 151 is the name given to a short Psalm that is found in most copies of the Greek Septuagint Bible but not in the Hebrew Masoretic text. (The Western Church and Judaism consider this 'Psalm' as apocryphal.)

Psalms 152 to 155 are additional Psalms found in the Syriac Peshitta, in Greek Septuagint manuscripts, and in the Qumran scrolls: (11QPs(a)154,155)

Historically, various translations of the Bible enumerate the Psalms differently, as summarized in the following table.

Old enumeration used by the Latin Vulgate Bible and other early versions; taken from the Septuagint. New enumeration used by the Versio Nova Vulgata and most modern English Bibles; taken from the Masoretic texts.

Two or three semicircular loops, never found in isolation but is always tied to an ascending virga forming a quilisma-pes. Normally a quilisma-pes is preceded by a note which is always at a lower pitch. Most often this note is part of a quilismatic group but sometimes it belongs to the preceding neume. In this case the quilisma is directly attached to a new text syllable. [See, Cardine, p. 199.]


[Latin. In English, responsory, or a responsorial] In the Roman liturgy (viz., Gregorian chant), a chant form consisting of the alternation of a choral refrain (the respond)—ordinarily sung by the congregation—and one or more verses)—typically sung by the cantor (q.v.) or by the schola cantorum (q.v.). The structure of a responsorium is (schematically): R V R V ... R, normally followed by the Lesser Doxology ("Gloria patri et filio et ..."; that is, "Glory to the Father, to the Son, and ..."). This genre of chants originated from the ancient manner of responsorial psalmody.

The NEUMES Project defines a "rubric" as all text or symbols that appear on the face of a source manuscript, but that are not themselves chanted or recited. We delineate rubrics using the tags, <rubric> ... </rubric>. Our definition includes many more kinds of written items than does the conventional definition.

Conventionally defined, a rubrics is an instruction about a liturgical document. Normally these are written in red ink [from Latin 'ruber', meaning 'red']. For instance, the Roman liturgy for the consecration of a bishop includes a rubric saying that the new bishop may give a short homily.


The word 'Sarum' is probably a corruption of an earlier Celtic or Latin name for Salisbury, and was originally applied to the settlement, now known as Old Sarum, to the north of the present city of Salisbury, England. There St Osmund (a Norman Bishop, nephew of William the Conqueror) built his cathedral, which was consecrated in 1092—the foundations of which can still be seen—and he created the Ordinal (Missal, Breviary, and Church Calendar) that bears his name. In the 13th century the settlement was abandoned and a new cathedral built in the present city of Salisbury, where it still stands; the liturgy was also expanded and clarified during these later centuries.

The Use of Sarum (some scholars prefer the term 'Use of Salisbury') is a form of the Roman rite as modified in Salisbury, beginning with the Ordinal of St Osmund. It introduced some Norman liturgical customs and regularized the diverse, local liturgical practices. The Use of Sarum is distinct from the Uses of York, Hereford, Bangor, and Lincoln, and other customs of local churches. It was used by the majority of secular and some other churches in England and parts of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland up to the Reformation in the 16th century.

The term 'Sarum antiphoner' refers to any of the numerous Latin manuscripts containing music of the Divine Office according to the Sarum Use that were copied in Great Britain during the Middle Ages. The chant repertory of the Sarum antipihoner is nearly uniform across all the surviving sources, except for additions made from time to time to accommodate liturgical accretions.

Sarum notation is a species of square-neume notation on a four-line staff (q.v.) that is characteristic of the Sarum antiphoner manuscripts. Its calligraphic style is rather more cursive than the more regular, block-form notation includes some distinguishing glyphs, for instance the "telephone neume." The list of saints' feasts and some of the chant melodies of the Sarum Rite also are distinctive.

Cambridge University Library, MS Mm.ii.9 (called the "Barnwell Antiphoner") is the principal source used by the published facsimile edition of the Sarum antipihoner. This edition in six volumes, entitled Antiphonale Sarisburiense, was edited by Walter Howard Frere [Frere].

schola cantorum (or simply, schola)
[Latin, 'school of singing'] The trained choir of a church or monastery.

[From the Greek "semainein"; meaning in English, "to signify"] We refer to the meaning of symbols in the philosophical sense. The "semantic content" of a manuscript refers to the written symbols and their logical order, which bear the meaning intended by the scribe. We exclude from this definition any illuminations or decorations; although they may signify someting, they generally do not bear meaning in the musical or textual sense.

1. In computer science, a 'sequence' is an ordered list of items of one data type.
2. In Western chant musicology, a 'sequence' (sometimes called a prosa or 'prose') is a musical and textual addition to a chant—originally, added only at the end of an Alleluia. It is the oldest form of trope in Latin chant. According to Crocker, pp. 2, 15, passim, the earliest surviving manuscripts containing sequences are written in Aquitanian notation. Notker Balbulus of St Gall (ca. A.D. 840-912) compiled a book of sequences, about whom Crocker writes, "In the case of Notker's proses we have art works that were consciously, purposefully composed by a single, identifiable, individual creative agent" (ibid., p. 3). This has implications for the NEUMES Project because, as Crocker states, "The concept of 'oral tradition' is not applicable here ... —we are dealing with a 'literate' phenomenon, something intended to have a definite, precise form even if the written record does not encode all aspects of that form" (ibid., p. 15).

siglum (plural: sigla)
[Latin; contraction of "sigillum"; meaning, "a sign of abbreviation"; or literally, "signet"] The abbreviated identifier by which a source manuscript is commonly known. Some publishing houses, libraries, and collections have designated abbreviations, and so any newly-assigned sigla should avoid conflicting with them. A manuscript source normally contains "MS" in its siglum.

A set of horizontal lines on which music notation is written in the Western style of writing music. The idea of "heighted notation" (q.v.) is that, notes written higher (closer to the top) have higher pitch (i.e., higher acoustical frequency) than notes written lower. In the case of modern (or, 'common practice') musical notation, staff lines fix these vertical positions at specific pitches; in the case of neume notation on staff lines, staff lines fix these vertical positions at relative pitches (i.e., at degrees of a modal scale). Typically, in modern printed editions of Gregorian chant, a four-line staff is used; in medieval source manuscripts of chant, however, there might be anywhere between one and six lines per staff, or no staff line at all.
Example: a four-line staff staff lines

substitute style
In the NEUMES data representation, provision is made for adding a substitute style number to the specification of a neumatic symbol in transcription. This number selects a glyph image that is different from the ordinary (default) glyph that is used for visualization of that neumatic symbol. [In principle, 'substitute style 1' would be used for the default glyph, but this information is not included in NEUMES transcription—it is assumed.] Substitute style numbers affect visualization (in display or print), but they are not intended to be part of the musicological semantics. For specialized paleographic research, one might do search and comparison operations that include substitute style numbers; completeness and consistency across transcriptions, however, is not ensured. Another advanced use of substitute styles is where—with early notation species—it is currently unknown whether a glyph variant has, or does not have, semantics that are different from the default glyph form. (For example, one might conjecture that the 'short' and 'long' glyph forms of the punctum in early Aquitanian notation might have differing semantics.) In this scenario, the variant glyph form may be distinguished by a substitute style number. If eventually it is determined that the variant form does have distinct semantics, then the variant form should be assigned (by the software engineer) to a different semantic codepoint. In such an event, existing transcriptions need to be updated with the new code to reflect the change in scholarly understanding of this notation.

The range of substitute style numbers is limited. Transcribers must consult the glyph image set [or, the data-entry program must consult the glyphs manifest] of the notation species in order to know what substitute styles are available for a particular neumatic symbol. In visualization, if a substitute style number is specified in transcription, but there exists no corresponding glyph in the glyph image set, then the default glyph shall be used instead. Substitute style numbers are assigned quasi-arbitrarily: there is not necessarily any meaningful correlation of substitute sytle numbers across neumatic symbols, or for one neumatic symbol across notation species.

The main intent of substitute styles is to help non-expert transcribers to visually recognize glyphs in a source manuscript when transcribing. If a glyph form has a very different morphology from semantically-equivalent glyphs, then it should be included in the glyph image set and have a substitute style number assigned to it. A non-expert transcriber should be able to correctly select the appropriate neumatic symbol from a graphical menu of glyph forms for that notation species.

For end-users of NEUMES/NeumesXML visualization software, inclusion of substitute-style glyph images in the display may help users who wish to study the source image of a manuscript.

unheighted neume
Neume notation, especially in early sources, that does not have horizontal guidelines and is likely indicative of general melodic shape rather than specific tones and pitches.


A single-note neume written in a manner similar to an acute accent.

The display of data with the aim of maximizing comprehension rather than photographic realism [Dictionary of Computing, s.v. 'visualization'].


Extensible Markup Language. XML per se allows programmers to write a grammar that defines a particular XML language (such as NeumesXML). Such a grammar decides the 'well-formedness' of an XML instance document, where an 'instance document' is a file containing particular 'content' and conforming to the XML grammar that governs that type of document. An instance document consists of tags (which are delineated by the '<' and '>' characters, and are declared in the governing XML grammar) and character data (which comprises the 'content').

Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (or, XSL Transformations). This ia a scripting language for transforming XML documents into other XML documents, or to documents in other formats (such as HTML or plain text). An XSLT script is, itself, an XML document. Increasingly, modern Web browsers have a built-in XSLT parser, such that, transformations can be realised on the client-side. The NEUMES Project software uses XSLT for various purposes, notably for transforming NeumesXML transcriptions into NEUMES visualization format for output as an HTML page. XSLT is one of a family of languages defined by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for manipulating XML documents.

A 'scripting language' is like a programming language, except that the sourcecode gets interpreted at runtime by a parser. The parser converts the sourcecode into executable instructions and runs these on the computer. This process is similar to HTML: a parser (which is built-into the Web browser) interprets HTML sourcecode of a webpage 'at runtime' and displays the results in the browser. HTML, however, is a 'markup scripting language', since HTML contains no program logic [i.e., executable instructions]. By contrast, a programming language normally gets compiled from sourcecode into executable code (or, in some cases, into bytecode) by a compiler. The resulting executable code (or bytecode) is not human-readable.


References Cited:
[1] Apel, Willi, Harvard Dictionary of Music, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1958).
[2] Cardine, Dom Eguène, Gregorian Semiology, (Robert M. Fowells, tr.), (Sablé-sur-Sarthe, France: Abbaye Saint-Pierre, [1970] 1982).
[3] Crocker, Richard L., The Early Medieval Sequence, (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1977).
[4] Dictionary of Computing, (Oxford: Oxford University, 1996).
[5] Duckworth, George E., "Paleography"; Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia.
[6] Frere, Walter Howard (ed.), Antiphonale Sarisburiense, in six volumes (London: Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society, 1921-1924; reprinted by Gregg Press, Farnborough, 1966).
[7] Rankin, Susan, "Carolingian music," in Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), pp. 274-316, (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University, 1993).
NEUMES Project homepage.The NEUMES Project homepage

Revision: 28 June 2009

Copyright © 2001, 2004-2009, Louis W. G. Barton.