Tuesday, October 28, 2014

An Important Discovery in Musicology

The website of Radio Canada International reports that a Canadian musicologist, Prof. James Grier of Western University in London, Ontario, “has been able to identify the person who made a breakthrough in music notation, and accurately date this innovation, which is now possibly the earliest surviving example of such ‘modern’ music notation.”
While studying documents which are almost 1000 years old, a colleague from Sweden asked him about the particular handwriting style of a well-known monk, Adémar de Chabannes (c. 989-1034). It seems a section of the musical manuscript text was written by Adémar. The handwriting was confirmed by another colleague from Boston who was studying the monk for historical reasons. Suddenly Professor Grier realized that not only was that passage in the monk’s handwriting, but also the musical notation in that passage, and indeed throughout the entire manuscript. The discovery has been reported in Journal of the American Musicological Society.
You can read the full article, and listen to an interview with Prof. Grier explaining the discovery and its importance, by clicking this link to the original article.

A page of a book of tropes and proses written by Adémar de Chabannes and his uncle Roger, who was the cantor of the Abbey of Saint Martial in Limoges. Above is the simple Kyrie of the Mass with notation; below, the Kyrie with tropes. Bibliothèque National de France, Latin ms. 1084, late 10th century.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: