2.9.6 Working with ancient music—scenarios and solutions

Working with ancient music frequently involves particular tasks which differ considerably from the modern notation for which LilyPond is designed. In the rest of this section, a number of typical scenarios are outlined, with suggestions of solutions. These involve:


Incipits

TBC


Mensurstriche layout

Mensurstriche (‘mensuration lines’) is the accepted term for bar lines that are drawn between the staves of a system but not through the staves themselves. It is a common way to preserve the rhythmic appearance of the original, i.e. not having to break syncopated notes at bar lines, while still providing the orientation aids that bar lines give.

The mensurstriche-layout where the bar lines do not show on the staves but between staves can be achieved with a StaffGroup instead of a ChoirStaff. The bar line on staves is blanked out by setting the transparent property.

global = {
  \hide Staff.BarLine
  s1 s
  % the final bar line is not interrupted
  \undo \hide Staff.BarLine
  \bar "|."
}
\new StaffGroup \relative c'' {
  <<
    \new Staff { << \global { c1 c } >> }
    \new Staff { << \global { c c } >> }
  >>
}

[image of music]


Transcribing Gregorian chant

Gregorian chant can be transcribed into modern notation with a number of simple tweaks.

Stems. Stems can be left out altogether by \remove-ing the Stem_engraver from the Voice context:

\layout {
  …
  \context {
    \Voice
      \remove "Stem_engraver"
  }
}

However, in some transcription styles, stems are used occasionally, for example to indicate the transition from a single-tone recitative to a fixed melodic gesture. In these cases, one can use either \hide Stem or \override Stem.length = #0 instead, and restore the stem when needed with the corresponding \once \override Stem.transparent = ##f (see example below).

Timing. For unmetered chant, there are several alternatives.

The Time_signature_engraver can be removed from the Staff context without any negative side effects. The alternative, to make it transparent, will leave an empty space in the score, since the invisible signature will still take up space.

In many cases, \set Score.timing = ##f will give good results. Another alternative is to use \cadenzaOn and \cadenzaOff.

To remove the bar lines, the radical approach is to \remove the Bar_engraver from the Staff context. Again, one may want to use \hide BarLine instead, if an occasional barline is wanted.

A common type of transcription is recitativic chant where the repeated notes are indicated with a single breve. The text to the recitation tone can be dealt with in two different ways: either set as a single, left-aligned syllable:

\include "gregorian.ly"
chant = \relative c' {
  \clef "G_8"
  c\breve c4 b4 a c2 c4  \divisioMaior
  c\breve c4 c f, f \finalis
}

verba = \lyricmode {
  \once \override LyricText.self-alignment-X = #-1
  "Noctem quietam et" fi -- nem per -- fec -- tum
  \once \override LyricText.self-alignment-X = #-1
  "concedat nobis Dominus" om -- ni -- po -- tens.
}
\score {
  \new Staff <<
  \new Voice = "melody" \chant
  \new Lyrics = "one" \lyricsto melody \verba
  >>
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove "Time_signature_engraver"
      \remove "Bar_engraver"
      \hide Stem
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

This works fine, as long as the text doesn’t span a line break. If that is the case, an alternative is to add hidden notes to the score, here in combination with changing stem visibility:

\include "gregorian.ly"
chant = \relative c' {
  \clef "G_8"
  \set Score.timing = ##f
  c\breve \hide NoteHead  c c c c c
  \undo \hide NoteHead
  \override Stem.transparent = ##f \stemUp c4 b4 a
  \hide Stem c2 c4  \divisioMaior
  c\breve \hide NoteHead c c c c c c c
  \undo \hide NoteHead c4 c f, f \finalis
}

verba = \lyricmode {
  No -- ctem qui -- e -- tam et fi -- nem per -- fec -- tum
  con -- ce -- dat no -- bis Do -- mi -- nus om -- ni -- po -- tens.
}

\score {
  \new Staff <<
    \new Voice = "melody" \chant
    \new Lyrics \lyricsto "melody" \verba
  >>
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove "Time_signature_engraver"
      \hide BarLine
      \hide Stem
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Another common situation is transcription of neumatic or melismatic chants, i.e. chants with a varying number of notes to each syllable. In this case, one would want to set the syllable groups clearly apart, usually also the subdivisions of a longer melisma. One way to achieve this is to use a fixed \time, e.g., 1/4, and let each syllable or note group fill one of these measures, with the help of tuplets or shorter durations. If the bar lines and all other rhythmical indications are made transparent, and the space around the bar lines is increased, this will give a fairly good representation in modern notation of the original.

To avoid that syllables of different width (such as “-ri” and “-rum”) spread the syllable note groups unevenly apart, the 'X-extent property of the LyricText object may be set to a fixed value. Another, more cumbersome way would be to add the syllables as \markup elements. If further adjustments are necessary, this can be easily done with s ‘notes’.

spiritus = \relative c' {
  \time 1/4
  \override Lyrics.LyricText.X-extent  = #'(0 . 3)
  d4 \tuplet 3/2 { f8 a g } g a a4 g f8 e
  d4 f8 g g8 d f g a g f4 g8 a a4  s
  \tuplet 3/2 { g8 f d } e f g a g4
}

spirLyr = \lyricmode {
  Spi -- ri -- _ _ tus  _ Do -- mi -- ni  _ re -- ple -- _ vit _
  or -- _ bem _  ter -- ra -- _ rum, al -- _ _ le -- _ lu
  -- _ ia.
}
\score {
  \new Staff <<
    \new Voice = "chant" \spiritus
    \new Lyrics = "one" \lyricsto "chant" \spirLyr
  >>
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove "Time_signature_engraver"
      \override BarLine.X-extent = #'(-1 . 1)
      \hide Stem
      \hide Beam
      \hide BarLine
      \hide TupletNumber
    }
  }
}

[image of music]


Ancient and modern from one source

TBC


Editorial markings


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LilyPond — Notation Reference v2.17.97 (development-branch).