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Ilaria Fusani: The ornamental neumes in the Italian transition notations: the impact of staff notation on the performative nuances of Gregorian Chant

Q.9, fr.98v. Italian Gradual, 12th century. Propriety of “Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna”

Between the 11th and 12th century the staff notation spread around Italy and in the rest of Europe. This early staff system was developed by Guido d'Arezzo in the 11th century, concurrently with the Gregorian reform.  Thanks to the new pedagogical strategies gradually detached from the Magister's instruction, the new notation started to be used for learning the repertory. This circumstance provoked dynamic changes in the conventions of the oral practice and in the singular neumatic traditions. The new writing principles were embraced uniformly, but with local variations in neumes shapes. The results was an early phase of a new music writing convention shared by the majority of territories, even though - until the square notation - the singular neumatic's traditions continued to use their peculiar neumatic forms. The new notation of Gregorian chant gained a new detailed indication of pitch, the elements which were in the oral tradition subject to change due to different chant communities and their singing conventions. Nevertheless, other important performance's indications evolved: significative letters and episema signs gradually disappeared, only some type of liquescent neumes, quilisma and oriscus survived. The consequence of these dynamics was a writing style that lacked the expressive signs characteristic of the early neumatic notation.

My dissertation project aims to investigate how the staff notation impacted on the early ornamental nuances in the Italian area and how it changed the performance and composition conventions of Gregorian chant. In this regard, I aim to determine the dynamics of this transformation and how it influenced the practice of the oral performances of chants, especially in the rhythmical and melodic nuances. To do so, I analyze the ornamental neumes in the Italian sources from the second half of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century, belonging to different scriptoria centres. Furthermore, I investigate the theoretical and practical foundation which lies behind the new urgency to indicate the precise sound pitch.