Graphical considerations

This page describes the written form of Gregorian chant for those interested: in particular the precise rules for the construction of a score, rules which are respected by Gregorio.

The alignment of text and neumes

The alignment of text and notes is something fundamental in Gregorian chant scores, because the correspondence of text and notes needs to be very clear when a score is read, in order to make rapid sight-reading possible.

What we need to do, in fact, is to align two points: one on the neumes, and one on the text. The alignment point on the neumes needs to be determined based on the notes; and that on the text, depending on the type of syllable.

The alignment point on the neumes

This point is the simplest to determine, as there are only three cases:

The alignment point of the text

This alignment point is harder to determine as there are more cases. We treat here the case of the Latin; there may be different cases depending on the language, but Latin is the most used language for Gregorian chant. For Latin pronunciation, see the Wikipedia article on Latin.

The basic case is the case of a syllable with only one vowel, for example  -tor  in  creator . In this case, the alignment point is in the middle of the vowel, here  o.

In the case of a diphthong, for example  au  (pronounced [au̯]) in aurum), the alignment point is in the middle of the diphthong.

The case of double vowels having only one sound (monophthongs), such as  æ  (pronounced [ɛː]), is quite similar; the alignment point is in the middle of the two letters.

Gregorian chant scores usually start with a large initial letter. In this case the alignment point is in the middle of the first letter after the initial if the initial is a vowel. Otherwise it is in the normal position described above.

The harder cases to discern, which deviate from the rules of the diphthong, are the cases of the “false vowels”, that is to say iota and digamma:

In these two cases, the alignment point is in the middle of the second vowel, for example on the e of Iesus, on the i of qui. Be careful not to confuse multiple structures. For example, cuius consists of two distinct syllables, cu and ius: the second one is an iota, so it is aligned on the u. In the same way, the word media is composed of three syllables: me, di and a.