The NEUMES Project    Definitions

Essential Terminology of NEUMES/NeumesXML


This page defines several terms that have a fixed, narrow meaning in relation to the NEUMES data representation and the NeumesXML Schema language. Remark that some of these words are borrowed from musicology, but specialised, narrow defintions are assigned for use in the NEUMES Project. In contexts where there could be confusion about whether the musicological sense or the NEUMES sense is intended, the NEUMES term may be written with an initial capital letter. Instead of coining entirely new words for this purpose—which would have no associations for the reader to remember what the word is about—analogous or related words from musicology have been borrowed.
cross-referenceSee also, the Glossary of Terms of the NEUMES Project.
Definition 1.   A Chant is an integral song of words and music that is intended for singing in a religious observance or ceremony. Excluded from this scope are metrical hymns (in the sense of the prevalent musical form in today's churches), choral polyphony, and motets, since they are treated more adequately elsewhere. A strong preference of this definition is for archaic chant of which the oral tradition has been broken, and whose only reliable witness today is in written artifacts.

Generally, one Chant is not interrupted by periods of silence or spoken recitation. In certain cases, however, the controlling definition is that a Chant occurs during one function or act in a religious ceremony, because there are examples where a chant is interrupted but clearly is intended to be integral piece of music. Remark also that, in some cases an entire chant text is present but only part of its musical notation was written out; if the musical notation is partial, the Chant is defined to include the whole chant text.

More than one Chant can appear on one page of an artifact, or a Chant can span more than one page of an artifact.

Definition 2.   A Source is just one Chant as it appears in writing on an artifact, which may be hand-written or mechanically printed. A "manuscript" (or, codex) typically contains many Chants. There may exist many artifacts that record essentially the same music and text; if the artifact is hand-written, then each instance is a separate Source; if the artifact is mechanically printed, then all instances of one edition or printing are considered collectively as one Source.

This Project currently focuses on only monophonic Chant of Christian traditional or historical literature, particularly Western European and Byzantine Chant Sources. Excluded from this scope are polyphonic music and music that contains a written instrumental accompaniment that was written contemporaneously with creation of the source. The future direction of this Project is toward expanding its scope to cover Orthodox Christian Sources generally, such as Slavonic, Syrian, and Coptic Sources, and Hebrew cantillation Sources.

Definition 3.   A Heighted Source is one on which the scribe used the 'Y'-axis of the two-dimensional writing surface as a carrier of meaning about musical pitch or melodic interval. If the normal flow of reading on the page is from top-to-bottom, then (in any row of writing) a musical sign that is "higher" toward the top of the page denotes higher pitch. Sources in so-called "partially-heighted notation" (i.e., where signs have internal heighting—such as the climacus—but heighting is not used between signs) are not considered as Heighted Sources under this definition.

Definition 4.   A Pitched Source is one where pitches of notes in the musical scale are explicitly written. Typically this is done by the use of staff lines and a clef, or by the addition of pitch letters to musical symbols. Excluded from this definition are sources where pitch is implicit in the notation, such as Byzantine sources where approximate pitch is derivable from the martyriai; in such cases, transcribers should record these pitches in NeumesXML meta-data.

Definition 5.   A Rubric is any semantic mark on the face of a Source artifact that is not itself chanted or recited.

This includes (but is not limited to): clefs, mode signatures, and martyriai; marks for verse, gradual, and the like; pitch letters and performance letters; the custos, equaliter, and similar signs; and scribal annotations that ordinarily are called "rubrics".

This definition excludes: later additions of folio numbers; library stamps; illuminations (vignettes of saints, for example), ornamention on initial letters, border decoration, and the like. Although these are prima facie content of an artifact, they do not have semantic value to the Chant or the spoken text. They are, therefore, excluded from NEUMES character taxonomy; they may be documented in transcription only as Attributes of NeumesXML meta-data tags.

Definition 6.   An Offset is a metric of the vertical position of a Glyph image (or of an adjunct text particle) in visualization, above or below the global baseline for Glyph-image rendering. Depending on the context of discussion, Offset typically is measured in terms of pixels. Most commonly, a neumatic Glyph's Offset is caused by heighting in the Source notation.

Definition 7.   A Displacement is a metric of horizontal separation of a Glyph image or text particle from its preceding Glyph or text particle in visualization. Depending on the context of discussion, Displacement typically is measured in terms of pixels.

Definition 8.   A Glyph is the minimum unit of manuscript writing, characterized by a visually unbroken mark of ink. To avoid being overly narrow about this, some glyphs may have separation in the ink, such as the letter 'i', which has separation between its stroke and dot but is nevertheless always understood semantically as one element of writing.

"Glyph" always connotes the morphology of a written sign. One, then, mentions "the pes glyph" in a particular manuscript when referring to its morphology, but prefers the term "Neumatic Symbol" when referring to the abstract class that covers all pes glyphs.

Since a glyph is a symbol with morphology, the word also is used when referring to a particular image of a symbol (often mentioned as a "Glyph image"). Similarly, 'glyph' can refer to the visual rendition of a symbol as a character of a printer font or in a computer display font.

Definition 9.   A Compound Glyph is the combination of two or more Glyphs (either separated by space or joined by ligation), where the combined mark is understood taxonomically as an inseparable unit. But, in some other context, each of the component glyphs could appear separately. An example from the Latin alphabet is 'æ' (the legation of 'a' and 'e').

When space separates the components, classification as a Compound Glyph may be a grey area of taxonomy or a judgment call. Prevailing scholarly conventions should be obeyed if possible, so that the difficulties of transcription are reduced for scholars. In some cases, two alternative ways of classifying a sign might be accommodated: as a Compound Glyph; or, as a sequence of simple Glyphs that are logically joined by combining characters (such as ligation or superposition). In general, however, such alternation should be avoided, because it complicates the problem of searching/matching Glyphs across transcriptions. Normally only one classification is allowed, and the decision of which to use is based on whether a Tonal Movement must be recorded with each component (the sequence solution), or one-or-more Tonal Movements can be listed after the group (the Compound Glyph solution).

Examples of Compound Glyphs (as stated in the NEUMES abstraction taxonomy) are the three-tone climacus (' &climacus3; ') of Western neumatic notations, and the succession of two apostrophos marks (' &apostrophoi; ') of Byzantine neume notations.

Definition 10.   A Neumatic Symbol is an abstraction that arises in the process of classifying Glyphs by a weak equivalence relation. One could classify Glyphs in many different ways. For example, one might have just two categories: Glyphs that look pretty; and, Glyphs that don't look pretty. The pretty Glyphs are weakly equivalent under the "pretty" relation. The intention of NEUMES, however, is semantic classification, viz., sorting Glyphs into groups by weak equivalence under the "meaning" relation.

A Neumatic Symbol is exactly one type of Glyph or Compound Glyph. One does not say that a series of Glyphs is one "Neumatic Symbol", unless the series is classified as a Compound Glyph. There is also no such thing as a "compound Neumatic Symbol", since a Compound Glyph maps to just one Neumatic Symbol.

The NEUMES Taxonomy gives a unique number value for each Neumatic Symbol. A NEUMES transcription is entirely a string of numerical values corresponding to Neumatic Symbols and other information items listed in the NEUMES Taxonomy. In a transcription, one Neumatic Symbol is delimited by the ' &STA; ' and ' &END; ' characters (more precisely: delimited by the numerical values that these two mnemonics denote).

Definition 11.   The term 'Neume' is defined to mean a sequence of one or more Neumatic Symbols, where the sequence corresponds to one "musical gesture" [cf., Cardine, Gregorian Semiology], or the smallest integral 'chunk' of vocal expression in the source manuscript. In relation to a notatated source, a Neume ordinarily spans less than a "phrase" and no more than one syllable. Usually, a Neume comprises all the neumation on a particular syllable of the chant text. In some cases, however, there are many Neumes on one syllable, especially in the case of a melisma. Under this terminology, one is in error to use the term "Neume" when one means Glyph, Compound Glyph, or Neumatic Symbol; often this distinction is essential for clear communication.

Because Neumes are seldom delineated explicitly in Sources, it is a matter of editorial judgment to determine where the boundaries of musical gesture are. The transcriber's expertise in this regard is crucial to the success of automated methods for melodic-pattern matching: small differences in melody or details of notation between otherwise similar Sources can put a pattern-matching algorithm hopelessly off-track; chunking of melodic fragments provides "frames" by which an algorithm can "understand" what the units of melodic structure are.

A Neume is delimited in transcription by the NeumesXML tags " <neume> " and " </neume> ".



Copyright © 2004-2008, Louis W. G. Barton.