[MEI-L] Representing syllables that span multiple staves (neume notation)

Juliette Regimbal juliette.regimbal at mail.mcgill.ca
Wed May 22 17:30:43 CEST 2019

Hello everyone,

In neume notation, it is possible that a single syllable can have neumes that continue past the end of a staff and onto the following one. An example is shown in the attached image. In it, the last syllable of the first staff ("ret") has neumes on both the end of the first staff and the beginning of the second staff. This kind of situation can also occur across pages if the last staff of a page has a syllable that continues onto the next staff, which would be the first staff of the following page.

Since MEI is an XML-based encoding, any element can only have one direct parent element. In this case, a <syllable> must be the child of exactly one <layer> in one <staff> and any neumes that are part of the syllable must be represented by <neume> elements in a single <syllable> element. There is no way to encode a single <syllable> in multiple <staff> elements, even if the syllable it is meant to describe does span multiple staves.

Looking through the MEI documentation there does not appear to be an accepted way to encode this, even though this should be possible. For example, this could be done by creating two separate <syllable> elements in each <staff>. Each <syllable> could reference the ID of the other in an attribute saying that the syllable is continued by another <syllable> element or is a continuation of another <syllable> element for the first and second elements respectively.

Juliette Regimbal
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