Hartker Antiphony

Facsimile of a 10th century Swiss manuscript

This is a facsimile edition of the mss. St. Gall 390-391, the “Hartker Antiphonary.” It was published in 1970 as Volume 1 of the series Paleographie Musicale, a multi-volume collection of photo-reproductions of medieval music manuscripts. The manuscript from the mid-tenth Century contains music and texts for the chants of the Divine Office of the Roman Catholic Church. It is believed to have been copied by a monk at the monastery of St. Gall named “Hartker” and represents one of the earliest complete chant manuscripts containing both text and music.

This manuscript reproduction is used by students in the course “Medieval and Renaissance Music” in order to understand the evolution of musical notation. The place indicated in the manuscript shows the first of a set of antiphons for vespers on Christmas day. The text “Tecum principium?” lies below a set of squiggles called “neumes” that indicate the music to be sung to the text. The neumes that look like a “/”, or a dot, for example, designate single notes. The neume that looks like a check mark indicates a note and then another note above that first note. The neume that looks like a slightly cockeyed “N”indicates a three-note pattern of note-note below-original note. However, none of these neumes show a precise relationship to each other in terms of pitch. In addition, there are no indications of rhythm or tempo except for occasional instances of “c” meaning celereter (faster) or “t” meaning trahere (hold back).

When compared to later notation which includes precise indications of pitch, rhythm, meter, tempo, dynamics, phrasing, etc., this notation looks primitive and, perhaps, even useless. But if useless why would the monastery go to the considerable expense and time creating this manuscript? The class refocuses its lens on what the manuscript does show and what that might tell us about differences in the way music was viewed in the Tenth Century when compared to later eras. Given the small size of the manuscript, for example, it is clear it would not be possible for a group of singers to use it as a performance score.

Furthermore, given the imprecision of the notation itself, it is hard to imagine the manuscript being used in the manner of a later musical score to codify exactly a repertory. After a much richer investigation and some reading about the nature of oral versus written forms of musical transmission, we are led to the idea that this manuscript might represent a stage in the evolution of musical notation that reveals its origin in the oral tradition. The manuscript itself then would then function as a “reminder” to the cantor of the chant repertory somewhat fixed in the cantor’s memory.

Stephen Kelly
Dean for Budget and Planning
Dye Family Professor of Music

Antiphonaire de Hartker; manuscripts Saint-Gall, 390-391

Catholic Church. Antiphonary (Benedictine, Hartker’s antiphonary) Berne: Éditions H. Lang, 1970

Main Folio M2 .P153 v.1