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

Andrew Hankinson andrew.hankinson at bodleian.ox.ac.uk
Thu May 23 08:23:52 CEST 2019

Hi Juliette,

In MEI there is a distinction between a 'staff' and a 'system'. A staff could be defined as the 'line' of performed music, while systems are simply the mechanism to fit a portion of a staff within a given width (a page, or a screen). A 'system begin' is encoded with the `<sb />` element, and this is a milestone element that can generally go anywhere in your encoding.

In the picture you sent I would say there is only one staff if we ignore the 'Dominus" bit up to the red line, and assume that the chant ends where your image ends, thus starting 'Et' and ending '-ne'. There are, however, two systems.

Although not wanting to say 'never' when notated music is concerned, it's highly unlikely that a syllable would cross two 'staff' elements, since this would mean a single syllable would be present across, say, a movement or section. 

In Neume encoding specifically, the `syllable` element is different than the `syl` element in "standard" MEI. Syllable is a logical chunking of the content such that multiple neumes can be grouped on the same sung bit of text, while `syl` provides the specific text being sung.

So for your encoding I would say (roughly; neume and syl encoding abbreviated):

<staff n="1">
  <layer n="1">
      <neume ... >
      <sb />

To indicate the "system begin" on the new line you might then begin the next staff (just off the page in your image):

<staff n="1">
  <layer n="1">
    <sb />

Does that help?


> On 22 May 2019, at 16:30, Juliette Regimbal <juliette.regimbal at mail.mcgill.ca> wrote:
> 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
> <Screenshot_2019-05-22 Neon3(2).png>_______________________________________________
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