1512 Music Manuscript

by Max Derrickson

This is what appears to be the first page of a folio manuscript that was found near Rome.   The piece is plainchant with melismas and is dated at 1512 AD. The squarish notes in the staves are called “heightened neumes.”   This style of musical notation is not completely understood today, but you can see that the shape of the melodic line and pitch reference are fairly obvious.  Notice the 4 line staff instead of 5.  Rhythms are implied by the spacing of the neumes, but performers still relied on oral tradition taught in the 16th Century.

Of other interest is the size of the manuscript, which is roughly 14 ” high x 28 ” wide (in its original fold out) — meaning that the monks would gather around one large piece of music like this one rather than having their own individual parts, as musicians do today.