A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography

By Egon Wellesz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
BYZANTINE MUSICAL NOTATION I

I. THE TWO SYSTEMS: ECPHONETIC SIGNS AND NEUMES

IN Byzantine manuscripts of service-books for the use of lectors and singers two systems of musical signs occur: one regulating the cantillation of the Lessons from the Prophets, Epistles, and the Gospel; the other fixing the flow and execution of the melodies of the model stanzas of the Kanons, the Stichera, Kontakia, and other poetical texts. Psalms, Alleluias, and Doxologies appear in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century manuscripts only.

The first system of signs, regulating the recitation (ἐκϕώνησις) of the Lessons, comprises the ecphonetic signs;1 the second the musical signs proper. Both systems derive from the Greek prosodic signs, but have a different development: the ecphonetic signs are set, in the main, at the beginning and at the end of a group of words; the musical signs correspond to the syllables of the text. The function of the ecphonetic signs, therefore, is equivalent to that of the system of Syriac accents whose introduction is ascribed to Joseph Hûzâjâ (c. A.D. 500),2 though their shape is very like that of the prosodic signs.

The system of the ecphonetic signs seems to have been introduced towards the end of the fourth century;3 it appears fully

____________________
1
Attention was first drawn to the signs in Byzantine lectionaries by Montfaucon in his Palaeographia Graeca ( Paris, 1708), pp. 234 and 260, and by Wattenbach in Schrifttafeln zur Geschichte der griechischen Schrift ( Berlin, 1876-7). Sabas in his Specimina Palaeographica cod. graec. et slavon. bibliothecae mosquensis synodalis saec. vi-xvii ( Moscow, 1863) and Gardthausen in the first edition of his Griechische Palaeographie ( Leipzig, 1879) gave the first account of the function of the signs. The term 'ecphonetic' was first used by I. Tzetzes in his essay 'H ἐπινόησις τη + ̑ς παρασημαντικη + ̑ς τω + ̑ν Βυζαντινω + ̑ν, Parnassos, ix ( 1885), 441; but it is through J.-B. Thibaut "'Étude de musique byzantine. Le chant ekphonétique'", B.Z. viii ( 1899), 122 sqq., that the term was made known to western scholars. For the study of the ecphonetic notation see J.-B. Thibaut, Monuments de la notation ekphonétique et hagiopolite de l'église grecque ( 1913); E. Wellesz, "'Die byzantinischen Lektionszeichen'", Z.M.W. xi ( 1929), 513-34; id., "'Ein griechisches Evangelium der Wiener Nationalbibliothek'", Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch, 1930, pp. 9-24; C. Höeg, La Notation ekphonétique, M.M.B., Subs. i. 2 ( 1935); P. L. Tardo, L'Antica Melurgia Bizantina ( 1938), pp. 45-53.
2
Cf. Th. Weiss, "'Zur ostsyrischen Laut- und Akzentlehre'", Bonner Orientalistische Studien, v ( 1933). A similar system, consisting of single dots, or a combination of two or three, was discovered and described by the present author from Manichean and Christian texts, written in 'Soghdic', a Middle-Persian dialect; cf. E. Wellesz, "'Die Lektionszeichen in den soghdischen Texten'", Z.M.W. i ( 1919), 505 sqq.
3
Cf. C. Höeg, La Notation ekphon., pp. 38-9.

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