Re: Byzantine musical notation

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Mon Oct 06 2003 - 18:25:54 CST

Nick Nicholas asked:

> (Resend)
> I can't really find the answer to this question online, especially
> because the proposal documents for it don't seem to have been posted to
> Furthermore, this is not actually an area I know
> anything about. :-) So:
> Byzantine musical notation consisted of three stages, Middle Byzantine,
> Late Byzantine, and Modern. Obviously the first two are only of
> scholarly interest, and only the last is in productive use in Greece.
> Does the repertoire in Unicode cover all three? I suspect it does, and
> that the ekphonemata first up in the table are the Middle Byzantine
> symbols; but I'd like to make sure. Furthermore, does the scheme
> encompass the variants of Byzantine notation used outside Greece, e.g.
> in Russia?

Nobody in the UTC, that I know of, really knows the answer to
that. The encoded set of byzantine musical symbols is simply
the set that was provided by the Greek national body to WG2.
The documentation, then, as now, was very, very thin. The Greek
justification was basically that this was a Greek standard
and had to be incorporated. Nobody got to question any of
the details, and when we went to try to document such basic
facts about the notation such as which symbols are used on
which of the 3 "stripes" and which characters can subtend or
supertend others, we just got insufficient information to

The answers are apparently available in the heads of the people
who created the Greek standard, but the editors of the
Unicode Standard, to date, have been unable to come up with
sufficient details from ELOT or anywhere else to really
answer your questions. If you manage to shake loose any answers,
let us know. ;-)


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