The Neumatic Notation Systems
of the 9th and 10th Centuries

The Neumatic Notation Systems of the 9th and 10th Centuries By Dominique Gatté It is around the year 800 that Romano-French chant, born in Metz around 765, began to be spread by the antiphonaries of the so-called “Gradual” Mass. At that time, notation in the West had probably not yet been invented and the first songbooks of this repertoire were then almost completely devoid of musical notation. An example of this Gradual copied around the year 800 in the North of France or in Belgium is known as the Antiphonaire du Mont-Blandin, after the place where it had been preserved, before it arrived to the Royal Library of Belgium. At that time, the transmission of chant was therefore only oral. However, the liturgical reforms undertaken by the Carolingian kings for the unification of the Empire required a rapid propagation of its repertoire. It is probably for this reason that around the year 800 intellectual centers began to develop graphic signs to write the sounds, which were called neumes. These sources from the end of the 9th and early 10th century are wrongly considered as the beginning of the history of notation. The familiarity of copyists and the variety of forms that musical writing took at the end of the 9th century shows us that it is in fact the culmination of nearly a century of development in monastic scriptoria (rooms they dedicated to writing and copying). It was at the end of the 9th century that developed and codified notation systems were employed on fully notated liturgical books. These musical notation systems probably originated in the great intellectual centers, and are generally known as the beginning of the history of notation. Specifically:

The so-called Paleofranque

notations of Northern France and West Germany:

Gradual of Corvey

Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod Guelf Helmst 510

Gradual of Corvey from around 900/920

Frankish notations:

Germanic of St. Gallen

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France. Manuscripts Department. Latin 10587

Liber Ymnorum Copied by Notker of St. Gallen around 880/900

Commonly known as “French,” as in this Burgundian manuscript

Autun, Municipal Library, Ms S3 (4)

Gradual of Flavigny (?) around 900

Northern Italy from Bologna

Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, Ms 748

Gradual from the Bologna region from around 890/900

Nonantola Notation

Roma, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emanuele II, Mss Sessoriano 96

Office of Saint-Benoit de Nonantola from around 900

Breton Notation

Chartres, Municipal Library, Ms 47 (+)

Gradual of Redon from around 900

Southwest Aquitanian Notation

Albi, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms 44

Gradual-Antiphonary of Albi from around 890/900

Lotharingian Notation

Laon, Municipal Library, Ms 239

Gradual of Laon from around 880