Using the meaningless "n" in English compositions

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#1
Samuel Herron just posted a koinonikon of his in English here in the Psaltologion at: http://psaltologion.com/showthread.php?t=5202

As you can see in lines 3, 4, and 7, he has followed the Greek tradition of inserting meaningless "n's" at particular places in the papadic formulae. But since vowels are written after these "n's", and since the vowels have been disassociated from their corresponding syllables, a chanter could easily mispronounce those vowels.

For example, the first text seen in the fourth line is the special "n" symbol followed by the letter "o". I wouldn't be surprised if some people when chanting this might lose track of what syllable was being chanted (considering that it began on the previous line) and pronounce that like the word "no". But since that "o" is part of the word "Body", it really should be pronounced "nah".
The same problem occurs with the other instances of that special "n" in lines 3 and 7.

I had the idea that we should solve this problem in English by omitting the vowel and merely writing the special "n" symbol by itself. What do you think of this?

+Fr. Ephraim
 

basil

Παλαιό Μέλος
#2
I think that many people who have never been exposed to meaningless consonants will question their purpose in English. But I do believe they are necessary for musical purposes. In order to clarify the purpose of these consonants, I think it would be helpful for you to include the quote which you mentioned in the other thread on "chi" within the text of your essay on lyric conventions:

"Two problems were solved with the introduction of these foreign sounds into the text. First, a practical one: they had the effect of abbreviating an extended melodic phrase into groups of a few notes, thereby making it easier for the soloist or the choir to sing. Secondly, it solved an aesthetic problem; the consonants erased the unpleasantness of a sustained vowel and offered an incentive to the chanter to add emphasis at certain points where the composer, scribe or psalte [i.e., chanter] thought fit."

- Conomos, Dimitri E., Byzantine Trisagia and Cheroubika of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, Thessaloniki, 1974, p. 264

My other comment is regarding the symbol for the consonsant "n." While I understand how to pronounce this symbol, very few people around me would know what it is, or how to pronounce it. I think that using the Latin character "n" would be more appropriate in an English piece, especially for people who are unfamiliar with Greek Byzantine music. In the Arabic Byzantine music books by Mitri el-Murr, the consonsant "n" is written in Arabic script, in parentheses, along with the vowel of the preceding word. For example: "qa ee leen" would be written "qa ee lin (ni)."

I like your idea of omitting the vowel and merely writing the special "n" symbol by itself. In fact, I have been doing this myself for a while now [1]. My suggestion is to put the "n" in parentheses, as in the Arabic books: "(n)".

[1] For example, see the end of this piece: http://tinyurl.com/df7yw8
 

frephraim

Παλαιό Μέλος
#3
I think it would be helpful for you to include the quote which you mentioned in the other thread on "chi" within the text of your essay on lyric conventions.
Good idea. I will do so.

I think that using the Latin character "n" would be more appropriate in an English piece, especially for people who are unfamiliar with Greek Byzantine music.
In my Divine Liturgies Book, I did use the Latin "n" in parentheses to denote the meaningless "n". But afterwards, I noticed that I was also putting "n's" in parentheses when a syllable ending in "n" was held for more than one line of music. As a result, it was no longer immediately obvious if an "n" in parentheses was part of the original word or not. This is particularly problematic for chanters who believe that those meaningless "n's" should not be chanted at all in English and would like to omit them. So to distinguish between the two, I decided to use that special Greek symbol for the meaningless "n" and a Latin "n" in parentheses when it is part of the lyrics. True, it will be a surprise at first for people unfamiliar with seeing Greek Byzantine music, but after all, it's only one symbol that they can easily learn if they just read the book's preface.

I like your idea of omitting the vowel and merely writing the special "n" symbol by itself.
Actually, I stole the idea from John Michael Boyer.
 
#4
I personally chose to include the Greek character because my piece is in only Byzantine Notation and (not that my composition is a particularly hard piece) anybody with the skill to chant this piece would, in all liklihood, know what that is, because as of now I think it would be rather hard to learn Byzantine Notation to the degree needed to perform a papadic piece without having learned some Greek and performed some Greek pieces.

Were I to transcribe this to Western notation (I personally have not the skill to do this, but for arguments sake), I would switch it to the latin character "n".

Another reason I chose the Greek character is because, say with our Byzantine Choir, it lets them know WHY it's there. We know it's just the "ne" sound meant to continue the syllable. Example being, when it is in the word "the" in my piece, we know it's a continuation of that same pronunciation of the "e" in "the". Now, it would not take long to explain if I used the Latin character, especially with a parenthesis, but if i didn't explain it to someone who downloaded the piece, there is the risk they sing the "ne" like one would the "Ne" in "Ne Dynamis". With the Greek character, there is no explanation needed.

It also adds an asthetical quality, it just looks cool to me :), but that obviously is low on the list of reasons.
 
#5
I do also think it is as quick an explanation on the Greek character as to what it does as it is to explain the latin character in the paranthesis.
 
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