[Question] Raasted, A Primitive Palaeobyzantine Musical Notation

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#21
Of course, Zaal Tsereteli's statistic method needs to be questioned,
I wouldn’t call his method “statistic”. What it relies upon is that Tsereteli tries to identify similar formulae in different neumated heirmoi. Then, if the staff notation transcriptions also contain similar or identical melodies in the same places, he concludes the melodic passages in the staff notation transcriptions stayed stable over centuries and they should be related to medieval versions. On basis of this he tries to figure out how the individual signs function. But all such “coincidences” seem to be restricted to smaller parts of the heirmoi, not the entire melodies, and usually are based on two-three occurrences of formulae. In the end he arrives at the table like the one you showed, which to me is too rigid and simplistic to be true. If his method were correct, he must have been able to transcribe heirmoi in the neumatic notation that were not used in his analysis, compared transcriptions to the notated versions from the 19th c., and validated his results. But as far as I know he has no example like that.

I don’t claim I can or will ever be able to “decipher” (?) the Georgian notation (this is an impossible task given its imprecise, mnemonic character), but its strucural implications are in so many ways linked to the melodies passed in the classical Byzantine heirmologion / sticherarion that it would be strange to ignore it. This concerns both the minute details, such as occurrence of melismatic passages, or more global features like repetition of certain neumatic patterns, or even entire structures of the hymns as we know them from the middle Byzantine sources.

There is a huge corpus of Georgian heirmoi / automela that mimic the metrical structure of the Greek originals (at the expense of exactness of translation). Now from the Slavonic or Melchite sources we know a similar approach was used by other nations too to retain Greek melodies for translated texts. This is something the Georgian philologists were preaching already long ago, but it didn’t fall on a very fertile ground in Georgian musicology.
 

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#22
Here is a comparative table of Georgian neumes vs Armenian khazes based on early manuscript sources (a later Armenian notation, say from the 12th c. on, looks different enough from the Georgian one). Graphical similarity should be pretty obvious (caveat: that doesn't mean the signs in both notations had similar functions too).

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 22.11.31.png
 
#23
But all such “coincidences” seem to be restricted to smaller parts of the heirmoi, not the entire melodies, and usually are based on two-three occurrences of formulae. In the end he arrives at the table like the one you showed, which to me is too rigid and simplistic to be true. If his method were correct, he must have been able to transcribe heirmoi in the neumatic notation that were not used in his analysis, compared transcriptions to the notated versions from the 19th c., and validated his results. But as far as I know he has no example like that.
Zaal does indeed work with statistic methods, not only concerning neumes, but also concerning the intervals. The interesting fact is that there is also a certain role of German ethnomusicologists like Siegfried Nadel (“Georgische Gesänge”, 1933), later Susanne Ziegler within the history of research. The former also used staff notation in beautiful transcriptions realised in copperplate engraving, but emphasised at the same time that the intervals are different so that staff as medium of transcription was somehow misleading. He simply measured them in cent (which nobody can really hear).

Right now Frank Scherbaum who regularly visits polyphony conferences at Tbilisi, checked these hypotheses by an automatic transcription of field recordings made of Artem Erkomaishvili in 1966. Since he was the last church singer left, he had to sing all the parts alone, before they were arranged simultaneously:
https://www.audiolabs-erlangen.de/resources/MIR/2017-GeorgianMusic-Erkomaishvili
Here you can go to each recording, switch on and off each of the parts, and there is even an automatic transcription in a kind of spectogramme.

I know these problems well. It needs some time until philologists and ethnomusicologists will finally meet together, but for the Georgian tradition there is such an interdisciplinary challenge thanks to the initiative of the transcription movement. If one likes it or not ;D

I don’t claim I can or will ever be able to “decipher” (?) the Georgian notation (this is an impossible task given its imprecise, mnemonic character), but its strucural implications are in so many ways linked to the melodies passed in the classical Byzantine heirmologion / sticherarion that it would be strange to ignore it. This concerns both the minute details, such as occurrence of melismatic passages, or more global features like repetition of certain neumatic patterns, or even entire structures of the hymns as we know them from the middle Byzantine sources.
I fear the term “deciphering” became abused since Constantin Floros’ claim that he had deciphered Kondakarian notation. Since then this kind of notation is claimed to be “finally deciphered” each year by another Russian scholar.

I wonder a little why Floros choose this term which is not quite accurate, if one tries to describe his own method which is very precise. He never tried to decipher Kondakarian notation, but just those sources in Middle Byzantine round notation, and made comparisons in a second step.

The simple truth is, we have not even deciphered any source of the past (whatever the notation is) and the Transcripta series of MMB has not been continued for decades. This would require a competence concerning the method needed for the thesis of the melos. Who can really claim to have it?

Neumatic notation (whether Western or Eastern) never had any scientific precision since it was defined according to Aristotle as an art (τέχνη) which is always related to a sum of possibilities as its potential (δύναμις) of being. Not exactly what a scientist is looking for...
 
Last edited:

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#24
Tsereteli ascribes different meanings to signs written above and below the text lines. But the problem is he apparently doesn't compare prosomoia and maybe neither the notation of different manuscripts. Because if he did this, he would have seen that quite often when in one place one sign is written above the line, in another identical context its mirror image is written below the line. I don't know what a formal "rule" (?) for such substitutions is, but at least in several examples I have seen the reason is as banal as lack of space to place a neume above a line, because of which it is moved below a line. See, e.g., this example with two troparia set to the Σού η τροπαιούχος δεξιά melody. In the first case the second curly sign is placed below the line, because there is no space to put it above. In the second case both signs are above the line.

Untitled.jpg
 
#25
Hence, you would object against Zaal's interpretation that the descending signs mean a descending melodic direction!

And if you compare the same troparion written in another manscript by another scribe, did you find some evidence for your hypothesis that the ascending and descending signs did mean the same and could always replace the analogue ascending shape?

In such a case, what was the difference to the Armenian khazes?

In case that this custom did only exist in a certain area with a certain liturgical language, was the reason that Georgian scribes did recycle older manuscripts (like Iovan Zosime at Mar Saba and Saint Catherine's who dealt with old and new types), since earlier scribes did not need to leave space for notational signs, while Oniani's articles rather shows precious versions of the new type, where the scribes did not need to face such a lack of space?

The horizontal picture of my slide was Oniani's ex. 1 and taken from there. She clearly said that this custom to mirror is different with respect to Byzantine, Latin, and Armenian scribes (Latin scribes do use ascending and descending signs, but the difference is the meaning, they do not write them under the text). This would also mean that the notation was almost the same like the khazes, but Armenian scribes did not have the habit to mirror them.
 
Last edited:

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#26
And if you compare the same troparion written in another manscript by another scribe, did you find some evidence for your hypothesis that the ascending and descending signs did mean the same and could always replace the analogue ascending shape?
I can't establish a formal "rule" and cannot know the thing for sure. But here is one example from the Georgian translation of the heirmos Ὀρθρίσωμεν ὄρθρου βαθέος, its troparion, and its theotokion (the latter is absent in the Greek version of Damascene's Paschal kanon). The theotokion is written in a different hand in a margin of the manuscript.

As you can see, in the heirmos (case a)) the long curly signs are placed both above and below the line. In the troparion they are above the line (case b)). In the theotokion (case c)) they are above and below the line, but in the order inverse to that of the heirmos.

So yes, I seriously doubt Tsereteli's interpretation is correct.

Screen Shot 2018-10-20 at 15.02.04.png
 
#28
This is another essay of his with such a table.

I could not trust his approach anyway... It was evident that he liked a structural analogy to his theory of a descending scale in the leading voice within the polyphonic texture. The real problem is that the whole modal theory is weak.

Of course, it is very interesting for me that the modes are not so easily recognisable listening to Georgian sacred polyphony!

For my students I presented different local versions of the cherouvikon (romelni qerubimta), but it seems hardly a coincidence that the E mode (transcribed into staff notation) corresponds to the tonality of the old cherouvikon asmatikon (in asmatika a plagios devteros or diphonon). The whole question of how to divide the tetrachord is anyway secondary, as long as the smallest interval is in its right place (otherwise there is a temporary transposition).
 
Last edited:

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#29
This is another essay of his with such a table.

I could not trust his approach anyway... It was evident that he liked a structural analogy to his theory of a descending scale in the leading voice within the polyphonic texture. The real problem is that the whole modal theory is weak.

Of course, it is very interesting for me that the modes are not so easily recognisable listening to Gerogian sacred polyphony!

For my students I presented different local versions of the cherouvikon (romelni qerubimta), but it seems hardly a coincidence that the E mode (transcribed into staff notation) corresponds to the tonality of the old cherouvikon asmatikon (in asmatika a plagios devteros or diphonon). The whole question of how to divide the tetrachord is anyway secondary, as long as the smallest interval is in its right place (otherwise there is a temporary transposition).
I don't think the Georgian versions of cheroubikon are particularly representative of the modal structure: they seem to lie somewhat outside the eight modes system. But what is interesting is an extremely repetitive character of the melody. This is especially evident in a version in "children's tune" (called so because it was the first one learnt by young chant students in the 19th c.), but somewhat less so in more developed versions, due to various embellishment practices. The "children's tune" (I'll upload the score later) divides the hymn as follows, with one and the same melody reoccurring over and over again:

Οἱ τὰ Χερουβεὶμ
μυστικῶς
εἰκονίζοντες
καὶ τῇ ζωοποιῷ
Τριάδι
τὸν τρισάγιον
ὕμνον προσᾴδοντες
πᾶσαν τὴν βιοτικὴν
ἀποθώμεθα μέριμναν.

Such a "monotony", but to a significantly lesser degree, can be observed in mediaeval Byzantine cheroubika as well, where, however, a more varied pool of formulae was used.
 

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#30
Hence, you would object against Zaal's interpretation that the descending signs mean a descending melodic direction!
Here are three more counterexamples from two different manuscripts. The signs are not the same ones I dealt with in my previous messages, they are "new" cases. If Tsereteli wants to uphold his interpretations, he has to deal with such occurrences explicitly (and of course there are many more of the kind), something he hasn't done that far in writing.

Screen Shot 2018-10-20 at 17.39.11.png
Screen Shot 2018-10-20 at 17.39.25.png
 
#31
Thank you for this rich exchange.

Please do not understand this reaction as a complaint to your generous contributions, but my reading of Nuskhuri is not so perfect, it would be very nice also to have the Georgian incipits (also if it is not transliterated), because I would like to understand better which Georgian incipits belong to the Greek incipits. Of course, it is not urgent.

Thank you anyway!
 

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#32
Thank you for this rich exchange.

Please do not understand this reaction as a complaint to your generous contributions, but my reading of Nuskhuri is not so perfect, it would be very nice also to have the Georgian incipits (also if it is not transliterated), because I would like to understand better which Georgian incipits belong to the Greek incipits. Of course, it is not urgent.

Thank you anyway!
The first heirmos is “moslvisa shenisa”. There is no Greek incipit visible on the photo, but it is in the manuscripts, and gives the Greek heirmos I quoted. The second heirmos is “mesma me smenaj”, and in the photo you can also see the Greek incipit transliterated into Georgian (“isakikoa tin akoin”) and written in red ink in capital (Asomtavruli) letters; in both mss, actually (which are Sin. Geo. O 1 and 14, both New Iadgari mss).
 

Shota

Παλαιό Μέλος
#33
Here, from 23:30 on, you can see a choir under Zaal Tsereteli’s direction singing from a neumatic score one ode of a kanon (not the medieval score, but the one he produced from a 19th c. staff notation transcription). Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with an authentic medieval way of singing, but it is presented as such. Somehow Tsereteli misses the fact that medieval neumated Iadgaris were primarily study books, that Georgian chanters knew the heirmoi off-heart, and that the rest of the kanon would be sung with kanonarches (all this pretty obvious if one reads medieval Georgian sources). Before singing starts, he talks about antiphonal singing, but this is exactly what the choir doesn’t do: the other choir sings only the refrain of the kanon. Ten singers each holding his own score would be unthinkable in older times, anyway.

Honestly, at this moment I don’t understand this artificial preoccupation with “antiquity” (which of course doesn’t happen only in Georgia, but also elsewhere).

 
#34
Thank you for this. Very nice singers!

But I suppose that everyone in Georgia understands that this is a revival of a lost oral tradition which has been documented by the transcription movement... These recordings have become recently very numerous, and I am very grateful, because it offers me an insight into the Georgian oktoechos.
 
Last edited: