virga strata

I considered calling this post “Chironomic Neumes of the Adiastematic Manuscripts from Metz and Einsiedeln” just to make me look smart.  But I have come to realize that some of the unnecessarily complicated jargon associated with Gregorian chant can be a stumbling block for those who want to learn to read the comparatively user-friedly manuscript notation.

Eric Estrada

Everything starts out simple enough, with a single dot called a punctum. Even the names of two-note groups are easy to master: in a pes the second note is higher; in a clivis, the second one is lower.  When we have three-note groups, however, there are more melodic possibilities: low-high-low (torculus), high-low-high (porrectus), low-high-high (scandicus), and high-low-low (climacus). By the time we get to four-note shapes, it starts getting ridiculous, with compound names such as pes sub-bipunctis, porrectus-flexus, and torculus-resupinus.  Then, after going through all of that, the Solesmes method tells us — wait for it — that all of these groups are performed exactly the same way!

For those who find the nomenclature as unsatisfactory as the method, I have produced a little chart containing the fundamental note shapes from the Laon and St. Gall manuscripts along with their English names.

Note Shapes in Laon and St. Gall

I will begin using the English names in future articles, so please let me know what you think.