Orality, Literacy, and the Early Notation of the Office Hymns

Boynton, Susan Leslie

This article takes the early notation of the Office hymns as the framework for a new investigation of orality and literacy in musical notation. Of all chant genres, hymns remained an oral tradition the longest, and the notation of entire hymn repertories was apparently rare before 1100. As a repertory of melodies hardly written down before the eleventh century, the hymns offer an opportunity to study the initial recording of an oral tradition at a time when other chant genres were increasingly notated. The variety of approaches to notating both entire hymn repertories and individual hymns in the sources up to the early twelfth century signals the increasing reliance on writing, as well as the dynamic interaction between orality and literacy, that characterizes monastic textual production in the eleventh century. The article places the notation of hymns in the context of their important role in monastic education and proposes an analogy between hymnaries and monastic customaries.



Also Published In

Journal of the American Musicological Society

More About This Work

Academic Units
University of California Press
Published Here
May 14, 2015