The Neumes of the León Antiphoner: Written and Oral Transmission in Old Hispanic Chant

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

5 Downloads (Pure)


Old Hispanic Chant was the liturgical repertory sung in the Iberian peninsula before the imposition of the Gregorian liturgy (ca. 1080). Old Hispanic notation is not pitch-readable, it cannot be transcribed into a score, and we have lost, probably forever, the ability to sing it at the right pitches. Surviving Old Hispanic musical manuscripts date approximately from the tenth to the thirteenth century and, among them, the León Antiphoner is by far the most complete, and therefore the most studied. Due to the quantity of music it preserves, the Antiphoner has been widely used as the basis of comparison for the musical analysis of Old Hispanic melodies (Randel, Hornby and Maloy). Prior to this research, the Antiphoner was considered to be written by a single music scribe and, consequently, cross-musical comparisons between Old Hispanic manuscripts treated the Antiphoner as a whole and homogeneous witness of early Iberian notation. The research I present demonstrates the presence of at least four main music scribes and several later hands in the Antiphoner. By means of paleographical analysis of neume shapes, duplicated chants, and customary neumatic patterns, I describe the characteristics of the notation and the individual peculiarities of the Antiphoner’s music scribes. I focus on both the four main music scribes and some of the later hands, discussing their neumatic preferences and the interventions to the original layer of notation. From a methodological point of view, the originality of this research consists in treating the Antiphoner as a complex witness in which there are traces of multiple layers of musical transmission. Understanding its scribes’ habits can help to clarify the extent to which orality and scribes intervened in the dissemination (and modification) of the Old Hispanic melodies found in the Antiphoner. This information can be of great help when we compare these same melodies in other Old Hispanic manuscripts. Within the bigger picture of Western sacred music, Old Hispanic Chant is the most completely preserved pre-Gregorian repertory, and has few Gregorian contaminations. Its study may unveil important information about Western liturgical chant before the Carolingian reform.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
Event2017 Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society - Rochester
Duration: 9 Nov 201712 Nov 2017


Conference2017 Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society


  • Old Hispanic Chant
  • Léon Antiphoner
  • Neumes
  • Written Transmission
  • Oral Transmission


Dive into the research topics of 'The Neumes of the León Antiphoner: Written and Oral Transmission in Old Hispanic Chant'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this