Transcription in St. Gall notation
  • By request (from the "Observation" thread), here is a transcription of the Introit "Gaudeamus" (for the Assumption of Mary), in St. Gall notation. That's right, I said "transcription in," not "transcription from." This particular chant is not to be found in the manuscripts with the Marian text since the melody is borrowed from another feast. I have "reverse engineered" the notation from the Vatican edition (changing only one pitch, which I currently feel is at least a poor choice, if not an outright error) by first memorizing the chant and then writing it as a scribe of the St. Gall school might notate it for a modern choir (who are not as familiar with the melody or notational conventions as the older manuscripts seem to assume on the part of the singers of the time).


    My choir will eventually perform from a tabloid sized choir book with text (in the lovely uncial font used for the G in "Gaudeamus") and handwritten neumes only. This is an intermediate version which includes five-line notation above my St. Gall transcription. For the former, I have made some editorial indications:

    The quarter note represents the normal syllabic rhythm (cf. Cardine, "Beginning Studies in Gregorian Chant"), while the eighth note represents shortened syllabic rhythm and, in melisma, "light" notes. This notation, however, does not preclude other rhythmic interpretations. Followers of the old Solesmes method may treat long and light notes with equal duration according to practice of that school, while mensuralists may choose to observe a strict 2:1 ratio between the long and short notes.

    Accidentals given in the GR are indicated above the staff and are to be considered strictly optional.

    The division of full and half bars in the Vatican Edition is retained in this transcription, and an apostrophe is used to indicate an optional breath (or, in the case of of "celebrantes" and "sub honore," an optional separation between the two s sounds).

    The staccato dot indicates repeated notes that may be lightly repercussed (according to he skill of the choir).

    Liquescent neumes are indicated by cue sized notes joined to the regular note. Proper pronunciation and a favorable acoustic, however, may render a strict rhythmic articulation of the affected consonant, semi-vowel, or diphthong unnecessary.

    The second note of the quilisma group (in unison with the preceding note) is given in parentheses for those who follow one current practice, based on a comparison with the Messine notation, of performing the quilisma note itself as an ornament of two notes.

    The first note of the "torculus initio debilis" is given as a grace note grouped with the syllable to which it belongs, but it is to be performed by slightly shorting the preceding note. Thus, "honore" and "Assumptione" are performed in the same way as "collaudant," even though the liquescent phenomenon is notated in two different ways.
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  • I'm not quite following why one would do the "reverse transcription" at all. Does it illuminate some aspect of the standard notation that isn't already there?
  • @dshadle - In a word, yes. To give but but one example, we have heard over and over debates about the proper interpretation of the salicus, right? This transcription shows that the third syllable of "Gaudeamus" is not even actually a salicus, as it appears in the Vatican Edition, but a pes followed by a virga (an actual salicus looks like . ~ /). However, even if the Vatican Edition contained all the same information as the manuscripts, I believe the notation itself has an effect on the the performance. I will post some audio, perhaps tomorrow, to illustrate this point.

    The reason for the "reverse engineering" approach (and by this I mean I have used the version contained in the Vatican Edition for the pitches, except for one that I believe to be in error) is that the scribes of the manuscripts were writing for a different audience, one that was familiar with conventions of the time. Now, I have had choir members ask what to sing when the & symbol is written under a note, and this was in a modern edition of polyphony . While this might be somewhat confusing in English (you sing "and"), the editor obviously thought it would be reasonably clear that in Latin one would sing "et," since the ampersand is actually formed from the letters E and t. Considering that your average singer, even trained ones, are unfamiliar with 10th century conventions that are much further removed from our own time than this example, I have been much more explicit in my transcription than any one scribe ever was.
  • Interesting. It's just my understanding of 10th century notation that it was neither prescriptive nor descriptive, but rather a mnemonic aid. Pitch, especially, isn't captured precisely. If that's the case, then you lose information by going backwards--unless you take the original notation as the "correct" source, in which case you lose nothing by using it.

    In the St. Gall manuscripts, there isn't always a 1:1 correspondence between neume height and pitch "height," which is how your transcription seems to deviate from them. By creating that correspondence, you seem to be capturing information in the notation that is adequately conveyed in any other notational system that we are accustomed to using--that is, at least with regard to pitch.

    Maybe I just need to hear it to "see" what you're saying, but my gut says that your own performance directions to the choir are the main determinants of sound, not the notation per se.
  • @dshadle

    The point in referencing non-diastematic (non-pitched) neumes, such as St. Gall, Laon, as found in the Graduale Triplex, is for rhythmic and expressive purposes. The singers who used these notations knew the chants by heart from the aural tradition, and they referenced the notation to call to mind the nuance in the chant, for which they already had the pitches memorized. These notations captured much more information about the rhythm and expression of the chants than did the later notations, which focused almost exclusively on pitch. As a result these expressive and rhythmic elements were lost in the notation, and therefore, as singers relied more and more on the score, they also lost them in practice. As Cardine says, it really became "cantus planus" (plain chant), not a chant full of expressive nuance and vitality. A more complete understanding of what these early neumes mean can be found in Cardine's "Gregorian Semiology".
  • If my neumes are of different heights it's because I need more practice writing with a fountain pen! The pitches themselves are drawn from the Graduale Romanum (which I had memorized before doing the transcription) and I have not tampered with them. The one exception is the third syllable of "Assumptione." This is the beginning gesture for the same melodic fragment found at "sub honore" and "et collaudant" (which, by the way, all begin with short notes, as I have indicated more clearly). I find it absurd to imagine that one would sing the same melody from memory three times, but the second time with one pitch that was different. Therefore, I have changed the "G" of the third syllable of "Assumptione" to an F to conform to the other two phrases.
  • Adam, that sounds like what I said, at least with regard to pitch. I wasn't considering Cardine, but that makes sense.

    Incantu, very interesting. I'm curious to hear now.
  • Here's one possible reading:


    I used an organ drone on the chain of thirds for this recording (which was done at 10 pm after a long day of rehearsals!) to point out the structural pitches. I don't approve of my [u] vowel at the end, or my intonation at "angeli." Otherwise, the rhythm is more or less what I intend.

    Just for fun, here's a reading of Beatam with all the tones of the hexachord sounding simultaneously, with the two chains of thirds on separate expressive divisions of the organ.
  • Otherwise, the rhythm is more or less what I intend.

    Yikes, well... I must say I didn't intend to plow straight through the long notes on "celebrantes," but maybe I can say that my voice was irresistibly drawn to the Latin tonic accent. Anyway, I expect that by August 15th my all female chant ensemble will sing this much better than I did last night.
  • The recording is very helpful, thanks!
  • Thanks for listening. I will try to post another, less exaggerated version without the drone. I am not happy with the unintentional word accents (di-EM fes-TUM) as well as some rhythmic details. Also, I will have a different type of transcription for Audi filia soon.
  • Here's Beatam with text and St. Gall neumes to be used in an oversized choir book format: