Plain and Simple? (Venezia 360)

The musical notation in this display case of antique musical instruments troubled me.  A non musician might not spot that this isn’t standard notation (crotchets, quavers, minims etc on a five-lined stave) – it is neumatic notation, a form that dates back to the 9th Century and one that I associate with the plainsong chants of monks and clergy from that era.

As the five-line version that we use today originated in Italy in the 14th Century, I saw the work here as a fake.  Surely plainsong manuscripts would have been handwritten as they preceded the printing press?

A little research soon put me right.  Neumatic notation continued in use, particularly in the Eastern Roman Empire, and Byzantine and Greek Orthodox music feature this style even today.

Given Venice’s history as a bridge between East and West it’s no surprise to find printed neumes here after all.

I stand corrected.




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