Transcribing the Beneventan Chant

October 2012

“Transcribing the Beneventan Chant,” part of the series of workshops related to note-taking, explores the difficulties of recovering an important musical repertory from the early middle ages. The Beneventan chant, the musical repertory of southern Italy, is one of the earliest musical repertories in the West. Because it was suppressed in the course of the 11th century, in favor of the so-called Gregorian chant of the Roman church, its sources are palimpsest, fragmentary, and written in a notation that almost defies transcription by scholars into readable, singable, studiable music. We believe that this music can be recovered, and we want to test the hypothesis. Participants will discuss the mechanisms of transcription, comparison, checking, variants, means of display in modern notation, and a host of issues on which we will seek to agree before moving ahead to a published scholarly edition. We will also explore the possibility of digitizing a set of medieval manuscripts; in this connection collaborative software for creation and addition of metadata will be considered. 

The workshop seeks to fill an important lacuna in our knowledge of this early south Italian repertory, and to develop methods for providing comprehensive access to the melodies for further study by scholars and performers. The agenda will also engage with larger questions related to the transfer of melodies from oral to written forms, and with theoretical issues of representation and translation. Singing the results will be part of the two-day event; the workshop may conclude with a brief public performance.