EPHESIOS Byzantine ChaNt Notation fonts
In August of 1990 I had completed the preliminary research for my doctoral dissertation in Byzantine Musicology at the University of Athens, Greece with prof. Gregorios Stathis. Upon returning to the States I was ordained and assigned to a Boston area parish and also appointed as instructor of Byzantine chant at Hellenic College, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. There were some bit map Byzantine Music fonts circulating on the campus. I got my hands on one and began working.
Within the first academic year I had a prototype Byzantine Music computer font in my Macintosh LC! I could actually create and print out exercises and lessons in Byzantine chant for my students. In time, the crude font became an “outline” font!
By the end of 1992 I had worked with scans from the first printed Byzantine music publications, Petros Ephesios’ Νέον Ἀναστασιματάριον (Bucharest 1820) and Δοξαστάριον (Bucharest 1820), producing a set of PostScript™ and TrueType™ computer fonts using, first, Alsys’ and then Macromedia’s Fontographer© font creation application. In time I had worked out a keystroke system and assembled enough combinations of the New Method of Ecclesiastical Chant to actually publish a little booklet of hymns in English, the Holy Week Troparia booklet (Boston 1992 and Wilmington NC 1996).
The first font was called PsalticArt-Classic and Martyriai (1991), then it became ByzantineMusicPlus (1992) and finally Bucharest (by 1994), before settling on the final version of Ephesios. I had even attained special font id numbers Adobe was assigning back then — 5065578-82!
The strength of the bare font set for simple text input was that one could use the word processing or page layout program on their computer and add the lyric text in whatever font style and language they pleased and lay out the score however one desired. Other Byzantine Music programs that eventually surfaced did not offer such freedom and my whole purpose was the ability to publish a professional score. Also, my own personal need to render notations preceding the New Method (1814) for my dissertation and articles, led me to create signs from the exegematic, middle Byzantine and even ekphonetic notation phases as needed.
Within the past few years the Unicode Consortium approved the inclusion of Byzantine Musical Notation Symbols into their UniCode font platform.
OK. There are code points for all the base signs in the various historical phases of the notation (well, almost), but anyone who works with any Byzantine chant knows that above and beyond the basic signs there are combinations. Especially when we move into the pre-New Method notations we have many signs that can stretch over a string of combined signs. Where are they? OK… progress. Back to the beginning.
Now what? “Byzantine Musical Symbols are divided into 15 classes according to function. Characters interact with one another in the horizontal and vertical dimension. There are three horizontal ‘stripes’ in which various classes generally appear and rules as to how other characters interact within them. These rules are being specified and at present the plain text manipulation of Byzantine musical symbols, like that of Western musical symbols, is outside the scope of the Unicode Standard” (Unicode 4.0.0, chapter 14.10). “OK. I see,” said the blind man. There are even those working on proposed changes to the standard [email@example.com], but there is a big gap between linguists, programmers, designers, transcribers, composers and musicologists. One place where some are coming together is the NEUMES project at the University of Oxford (NEumed Unicode™ Manuscript Encoding Standard). It is in the second phase and is concentrating on the digital transcription of both Western and Eastern chant manuscripts for archival, descriptive and comparative purposes. A good thing. Unfortunately, the project is limiting itself to the medieval historical period. Nevertheless, above and beyond the obvious benefits, hopefully there will be some good software technology to help us in the end.
Actually, this is fun! I’m learning about XML, OpenType, Uniscribe, ATSUI, AAT and ATS. And before I’m done probably a good bit of information I never thought I’d need. Why? These are the present technologies in use to manipulate complex scripts like Byzantine Musical Notation. | ^
Other than learning to deal with the above technologies, I’ve prepared a few Unicode Byzantine fonts with some new glyph styles (Ephesios is one of them) and am trying to figure out how they might best work for the purposes of sharing files, viewing them on the web or preparing scores for professional printing.
Except for the Unicode™ version of Ephesios, I’ve tooled a completely new glyph from scratch, including all the older notations and chart codepoints. There is no name for this design, so I need to think of one. Then there is what I call Byzantine liniar, which is a thin, very simple lined design—like if you were to write notation using a pencil. I designed it with the idea that it could be used for exegeses in the margins or between the lines of a score, just as we often observe in the manuscripts of the Hellenic psaltic art.
The main thrust for the moment, however, is to get a usable font up and running. God bless it! | ^