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A contributor wrote in the article:

== Rhytmic interpretation ==
A controversial subject concerning:
  • episemas
  • romanus letters
  • neumatic breaks
(I intend to show one hypothetical interpretation...)

Sounds like original research, but may offer some ideas for research into verifiably accepted info.
--Jerzy(t) 23:29, 2004 Nov 15 (UTC)

Not original at all; these words refer to additional markings (horizontal or vertical lines, letters, etc.) appearing in many early manuscripts which have been variously decoded as interpretive marks. This is a subject of ongoing controversy among musicologists, but certainly legitimate for inclusion here, although the fragment above is too small to be useful. I'll see if I can dredge something up about this. --Wahoofive 04:34, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Another contributor added the following, which does not appear to have an encyclopedic function yet:

=== Encoding in text ===

Neumes were finally encoded along with other musical symbols in Unicode in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane, in the range U+1D1D0–U+1D1D9. Most user agents as of 2004 cannot display any characters in this range, but in the near future it should be possible to properly encode neumes in plaintext.

𝇐 C clef
𝇑 F clef
𝇒 B square
𝇓 Virga
𝇔 Pes / Podatus
𝇕 Clivis
𝇖 Scandicus
𝇗 Climacus
𝇘 Torculus
𝇙 Porrectus

--Jerzy(t) 23:40, 2004 Nov 15 (UTC)

these are pictures of square notation[edit]

The images in this article are not of actual neumes (which are hand-drawn and look like squiggly lines, on or off of a staff), but rather of square notation. Developed in 14th-century Paris (I think), square notation post-dates neumatic notation and is STILL used to notate liturgical music-- in the Liber Usualis and Graduale Triplex, for example. In fact, these images look like they were borrowed from the Liber Usualis. The terminology for square notation (punctum, virga, scandicus, etc.) is the same as that used for neumes, but these examples of puncta, virgae, etc. are NOT neumes. I wish I could fix this article, but I don't know enough about encoding yet-- someone needs to fix this!

Emiao, the musical symbols used in square notation are neumes. The handwritten neumes that you mention are cheironomic neumes. It would be nice to have representative neumes in different styles for comparison, but this article shouldn't be flagged for factual inaccuracy just because the neumes portrayed are in square notation rather than cheironomic. Peirigill 01:49, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Here [[1]] is a web page from Virginia Tech, and here [[2]] is the web page (subscription access only) to the online Grove Music Dictionary (David Hiley and Janka Szendrei: 'Notation', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed 27 June 2006), <>). Both make it clear that notes in square notation are also neumes. Since you don't really get more authoritative than Grove, I'm going to remove the unsourced claims by User: that neumes in square notation aren't neumes.
The odd claim that "Neumes would be (invisible in this picture) above the square notes" suggests that this user may be misinterpreting the Graduale triplex, which juxtaposes modern square notation with the two other transmissions of the chants, above and below the staved square notation, which use the freehand cheironomic notation. However, this is not period practice; no actual original source manuscript is a "Rosetta stone" with parallel transcriptions in different notation styles.
This user goes on to say "Neumes often go together with square notes, but they are interpretatory signs indicating length and accentuations, that stand above the square notes (or above the plain text)" and "Neumes ARE describing the rhythm of a choral." This suggests that the user may be confusing neumes with the episema marks of the Solesmes editors, or perhaps with the significatory letters found in some original manuscripts, such as a letter "t" to indicate a tenuto. The first claim is simply false (or at least is mistakenly using the word "neume"), and the second claim doesn't even make sense, since "choral" isn't a noun.
If User: (or anyone else) can document that some authority specifically says that notes in square notation are not neumes, then please add that to the article as a conflicting definition, and please cite the source. In the meantime, I'm going with Grove (and every other source I've ever read), and removing the questionable claims and the "Disputed" tag. Peirigill 22:25, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Ligatures in GNU Lilypond[edit]

Does anybody know about another form of the podatus, one that looks like an ascending clivis? Additionally, what is the punctum inclinatum used for?

There's no ascending podatus in standard square notation that I know of. You will find that shape within a scandicus or torculus, but not in isolation. It's not in any of my references, including Hiley, Apel, and the Liber usualis. I'm not familiar with Lilypond, so I don't know why they'd have it, unless it's used to create compound neumes like the scandicus. The punctum inclinatum just means tilted punctum, and refers to the lozenge-shaped individual notes used to show a series of descending pitches on a single syllable. The punctum inclinatum is always part of a compound neume and never used as a whole neume by itself. A regular old square punctum quadratum is used when a single syllable is sung to a single note. Hope that answers your questions! And by the way, please end your posts with four tildes in a row when editing a talk page. It makes your name and the time you posted appear. Peirigill 09:15, 13 July 2006 (UTC)
If you need a complete set of neumes, use Gregorio. Too me it's also much easier to use than Lilypond (for square notation). --Johannes Arnold (talk) 08:07, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

Missing images at link[edit]

The images at seem to have gone missing. Kay Dekker 23:28, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Yep, the University of Arizona has revamped their website, and I wasn't able to locate a new location for the image. It looks as though a professor uploaded it as a teaching aid for a music history course, which may no longer be using the same materials. Peirigill 23:55, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Etymology pneuma - πνεῦμα vs. neuma - νεῦμα and cheironomia[edit]

Although the etymologic deduction from spirit or breath (lat. spiritus) (pneuma - πνεῦμα) is very popular in musicological literature concerning Western plainchant, there is no reason to refer to an corrupted etymology. Greek νεῦμα simply means “command”. πνεῦμα is very well known in Byzantine treatises and refers to an additional sign, used together with a sōma (σῶμα)—“body”— in Byzantine Round Notation since the 12th century, when the intervalls were clearly indicated by these combinations.

The same could be said about the whole discussion concerning cheirōnomia which is purely based on vague speculations concerning Latin notation. It is related with a special case of Byzantine notation (mainly through a Kontakarion manuscript provided in Kastoria) in which groups of neumes (Byzantine Round notation) are summarized in one very complex sign which was indicated by the leader of the left or right choir by hand gestures in the Constantinopolitan cathedral rite. This means that the choir followed these gestures which mean a whole phrase. Hence the Byzantine neumes which often transcribe only the construction of a chant piece without writing out the well-known formulas of the melos, seduced some theorists that they call the great signs or hypostaseis synonymously “cheironomic signs”. These are additional signs excluded from the phonic signs (the spirits and bodys) which are the fundament of every “thesis of the melos”. But there is no direct connection between the Late Byzantine and the Kontakarion notation.

If you are talking about the 10th century neumes (the earliest layer of Latin neume notations), I advice to use the rather common terms adiastematic notation or notation «in campo aperto». But note that the forms of the various dialects used in the Frankish Empire, differ very fundamentally. The more analytic notation used by the scriptoria of Lorraine (Metz) does not know the «clivis», because the notatores used two «virgae» in one vertical falling line. And this habit can be found in all French dialects, but not in the German or Alemanic scriptoria who like to use one sign which they called «clivis».

By the way: I like very much your intention to include also the neumes of Eastern traditions, but your article needs to be elaborated in various directions.

Concerning a lack of the older layer of written transmission I inserted a very fine link to the homepage of Ensemble Ison, which explains the names with the old forms, but also offers some propositions how to perform them (without pretending that these propositions are the only possible way of performance).

If you would make a clear difference between adiastematic and square neumes, and within square neumes a difference between historical and transcriptive forms (used since the 19th century by historical editions of the «graduale romanum»), a lot of questions concerning the forms and its names could be solved easily. I try to be a useful assistant.

--Platonykiss (talk) 13:24, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

No. The word neume is derived from the Greek νεῦμα which means "nod, sign, gesture, hint, direction non-linguistic message" (here) and is used even today for the sign language in Modern Greek. Πνεύματα referred exclusively to breathing marks. (talk) 20:02, 26 May 2014 (UTC)


This is one of the best articles I've ever read on Wikipedia. Thank you to the contributors. Lucas gonze (talk) 02:27, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

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