Early Musical Notation: A Look at the ‘Cantatorium’ of St Gall

medievalfragments

By Jenneka Janzen

This week, while playing with the iPhone app for e-codices, the Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland, I paid an online visit to one of my favourite manuscripts, the Cantatorium of St Gall (Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek Cod. Sang. 359):

A ‘cantatorium’ is a book that contains the gradual and alleluia chants that a soloist would perform during the Mass. Amalarius of Metz (writing before 850 AD) comments in his Liber officialis that the cantor (or ‘soloist’) holds the cantatorium in his hands at the ambo (or ‘lectern’) although he does not need it to perform his duties, and that the book is bound in ivory plaques.

But what is so special about Cod. Sang. 359? Besides the fact that very few ‘independent’ cantatoria survive today (over time these books were gradually combined with other chant and liturgical books), Cod. Sang. 359 is the earliest complete…

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