Qualities of NEUMES/NeumesXML
This article gives
a concise overview of the nature and purpose of the
NEUMES data representation and the
NeumesXML markup language. These software products
are available for non-commercial, educational, and cultural use under a free license.1
Currently, the data representation and markup language are in the 'beta-test' stage of development.
This means that product design is largely complete, and the products are in a functioning state.
The products are not yet, however, ready for 'production use' due to on-going testing and refinement of the design.
The finalization of the design, such that NEUMES/NeumesXML chant transcriptions will be stable for the
long term, is still some months away.
Users are invited to experiment with, and learn about this software now; users can make sample transcriptions,
with the understanding that such transcriptions might need to be modified in the future.
1 Certain licensing restrictions apply, as stated at the top of the
NeumesXML Schema document.
Use of the software products in any way that that does not comply with the licensing restrinctions shall constitute
an infringement of copyright.
NEUMES is a data-coding standard for transcribing neumatic chant notation
to computer data, especially the content of medieval Western (Latin) and
Eastern (Byzantine, principally Greek) liturgical manuscripts.
|In medieval manuscripts containing chant, scribes used various
emergent symbol systems for music notation
(that is to say, musical notations that were somewhat primitive, experimental, and evolving).
Music notation was written usually above the sacred text to be cantillated, chanted, or sung.
In subsequent centuries, the many
early symbol systems coalesced into two main types of notation. These historically later and stable branches of notation
are: (a) square-neume notation on a four-line staff (which is commonly called so-called 'Gregorian chant' notation;
one sees it today in mechanically-printed books of Roman Catholic chant, such as the Liber Usualis);
and (b) the so-called 'New Method' of notation for Eastern Orthodox chant and hymns.
The principal benefit of NEUMES data representation for digital transcription of medieval neumed sources is that
it allows encoding of archaic neume notations without forcing anachronistic concepts or unwarranted assumptions
about the original manuscript notation.
Systematic comparison of melodies is possible across all notation types. Information about the glyphs in the
native notation is preserved in NEUMES transcription.
For purposes of teaching, journal articles, choir sheets, and so on, a "diplomatic facsimile" of a manuscript chant can be
generated from NEUMES data to a stylized version of the origiinal notation.
|The main design requirements of the NEUMES data representation are as follows.
- It must be "lossless", by which we mean that all chant-semantic content
on the face of neumed artifacts can be expressed in the data.
- The dozens of early notational styles (as well as modern chant-notation)
are represented by a unified (or, universal) abstraction, such that,
although notational idiosyncrasies of primary sources are preserved in transcription
data, it is feasible and computationally-efficient to search
and compare melodic patterns across all notational species (even
across Western and Eastern sources).
- The raw data are inherently compatible with XML (Extensible Markup Language)
and are entirely suited for Internet transmission (viz, without need for "serialization" of data).
- Computer programs that will read NEUMES data for a variety of end-uses
(such as Web browser visualization, word processing, typeset printing,
musicological analysis, and so on) are well supported by the data format
-- this avoids duplication of effort in creating separate transcriptions for
- It shall allow scalar Certainty Factors to be part of the data, by which
transcribers can qualify their reading of a source artifact at specific points
where graphical features might be unclear or the scribe's intended usage of symbols
is not known with confidence.
|The NEUMES data representation comprises two main parts, as follows.
- The NEUMES Taxonomy assigns a codepoint (ie, a numerical value) in
the Private Use Area of the Unicode™ to each distinct semantic item that
may appear on the face of chant manuscripts, and designates a human-readable
name (or, mnemonic) to each codepoint.
- The NEUMES Grammar decides the 'well-formedness' of transcription
data in order to sustain the design requirements of interoperability
and permanence of transcription data (viz., to avoid fragmentation of digital libraries).
NeumesXML is an implementation of XML Schema.
The latter is the industry-standard
extension of XML DTD (Document Type Definition) for implementing constraints
on XML document content beyond the constraints on document structure provided
by DTD. By enforcing some uniformity in how transcriptions are marked
up, comprehensive searches across many NeumesXML documents
for their meta-data content can be done by simple search queries.
Note that part of the Phase Two goals of the NEUMES Project
is to design a system of parallel markup, by which end-users will be able to markup a
transcription in user-defined ways without affecting the transcription document itself.
Since there already exists pervasive
support for the XML standard for shared documents (for example, in Web browsers,
Internet search engines, word processors, utilities that import/export XML
documents to/from databases, and so forth), by making NeumesXML the "wrapper"
that contains NEUMES transcription data, the capabilities of a great amount
of existing software infrastructure can be leveraged.
The NeumesXML Schema is the framework in which a variety of transcription
needs are met, including the following:
- with the NeumesXML tag set, the transcriber describes the structure of
the chant text, the music, and the neume notation;
- the liturgical purpose, feast day, and other generic information about
the chant is documented;
- physical features of the source artifact may be recorded, such as pagination,
line breaks, pin holes, erasures, and the like;
- bibliographical, contextual, and accession information about the artifact,
plus hyperlinks to related resources, are accommodated;
- a chronicle can be maintained about versions of the transcription,
transcribers, and editorial procedures that were used;
- transcribers can annotate NEUMES transcription data at specific
locations by inserting by editorial comments.
Mapping from the mnemonics of the NEUMES Taxonomy to their corresponding
numerical codepoints is handled automatically by any XML pre-processor.
XML pre-processors are ubiquitous; for example, they are bundled with newer Web browsers.
Furthermore, an XML 'validating parser' automatically enforces the NEUMES Grammar; this helps
ensure that all NEUMES transcriptions adhere to a sharable, interoperable data format.
NEUMES transcription data (since they are XML-compatible) can be manipulated
easily by Java™ programs, XML utilities, and other kinds of software, so
that a wide variety of processing functions can be implemented. NEUMES
data also may be translated directly to different formats (although the converse,
obviously, might not be possible). An example of such translation is the
XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) creation
of an HTML graphical display of NEUMES transcription data, one possible
implementation of which is done by the NEUMES 'beta-test' visualization script.