Braille Byzantine Music Notation
St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery The Divine Liturgies Music Project

Explanation of Byzantine Music Symbols in Braille This page presents a detailed explanation of how all symbols in Byzantine Music notation are written in braille. Originally, it was meant to be used as a reference to accompany our online braille exercise book that introduces each of the basic symbols along with recordings. But after realizing how unwieldy this web page is (and how much information is repeated), I decided to replace this web page with this Reference Manual in brf format.
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Contents:
All the regular orthographical and formulaic rules of Byzantine music notation apply also to Braille Byzantine Music notation. However, orthographical rules #12, 39, 4244, 4850, and 93 are irrelevant because they deal with the vertical positioning of symbols, which is not an issue in braille.
Names of the Pitches: Nee [dots 456]n[ar]. — dots 456, dots 1345, dots 345 ("ar" = Greek "eta"), dots 256 Pa [dots 456]pa. — dots 456, dots 1234, dot1 (a), dots 256 Vou [dots 456]bu. — dots 456, dots 12(Greek "beta" is pronounced like a "v"), dots 136 (u = Greek omicronypsilon), dots 256 Ga [dots 456]ga. — dots 456, dots 1245, dot1, dots 256 Di [dots 456]di. — dots 456, dots 145, dots 24, dots 256 Ke [dots 456]ke. — dots 456, dots 13, dots 15, dots 256 Zo [dots 456]zj. — dots 456, dots 1356, dots 245 (j = Greek "omega"), dots 256
Comments on Initial Martyrias: The initial martyrias are written at the beginning of a hymn to indicate what mode the hymn is in. Due to the long and complex history of modes in Byzantine Music, the symbols used to write these initial martyrias in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted are also complex. As a result, nowadays only musicologists understand the meaning behind their complex shapes. Most chanters merely know which symbol is associated with which mode. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, these complex symbols have been represented with four braille characters. The first of these is always dots 456, and the third of these is always a hyphen (dots 36). Due to the complexity of these initial martyrias in braille, they are frequently replaced by a regular martyria.
Initial Martyrias: "Ehos" (The word for "mode" or "tone") [ar]hos — dots 345 (ar = Greek eta), dots 125, dots 135, dots 234 For First Mode (Plain Ypsele above two dots above alpha with tail) [dots 456][in][com][the] — dots 456, dots 35, dots 36, dots 2346 For Second Mode (Two dots above Chromatic Squiggle beside Oligon above Kentemata) [dots 456]![com]p — dots 456, dots 236, dots 36, dots 1234 For Third Mode (Gorgon beside two dots beneath Oligon beside Kentemata beneath Oligon) [dots 456][gg][com][for] — dots 456, dots 2356, dots 36, dots 123456 For Fourth Mode (Plain Ypsele above two dots above a fancy lowercase delta) [dots 456]“[com][of] — dots 456, dots 236 (open quotation mark), dots 36, dots 12356 Pi beneath Lambda (abbreviation for "plagal") pl. — dots 1234, dots 123, dots 256 For Plagal First Mode (Two dots above alpha with tail) [dots 456][en][com]z — dots 456, dots 26, dots 36, dots 1356 For Plagal Second Mode (Two dots above Chromatic Squiggle) [dots 456][en][com]o — dots 456, dots 26, dots 36, dots 135 For Grave (Varys) Mode (Oligon above Kentemata [or two dots] above Diatonic Squiggle [dots 456]“[com][with] — dots 456, dots 236, dots 36, dots 23456 For Plagal Fourth Mode (Two dots above a fancy lowercase delta) [dots 456][dd][com]y — dots 456, dots 256, dots 36, dots 13456 For Legetos Fourth Mode (LambdaGamma symbol beneath Gorgon beside tauomicronsigma) [dots 456]g. — dots 456, dots 1245, dots 256 For Legetos Fourth Mode (LambdaGamma symbol beneath Gorgon beside tauomicronsigma) [dots 456]![com][and] — dots 456, dots 235, dots 36, dots 12346
Comments on Martyrias: A martyria (pronounced "marteeREEah") is an indicatory sign. All martyrias are preceded and followed by a space. Martyrias consist of three braille characters. The first character shows which octave the note belongs to. In particular: dots 456 inidicate a note in the middle octave; dot 5 indicates a note in the higher octave (which would be indicated in Byzantine music notation for the sighted with an apostrophe after the martyria); and dots 45 indicate a note in the lower octave (which would be indicated in Byzantine music notation for the sighted by inverting the two parts of the martyria). The second braille character in a martyria indicates the first letter of the pitch's name (e.g., "n" for "Nee," "p" for "Pa," etc.), and thus gives the "absolute" pitch. The third braille character corresponds to the bottom part of the martyria in Byzantine music notation for the sighted, which indicates the "relative" pitch. That is, it indicates what solfege note of which scale is being used. The braille symbols chosen to represent these "relative" pitches are identical to the braille symbols in Western music used for the eighth notes for C, D, E, etc., except that all dots are lowered. For example, the symbol for "Nee" is dots 256, which is simply the symbol for the note "C" (dots 145) but with each of its dot lowered. The symbol for "Pa" (dots 26) is a lowered note "D" (dots 15). The symbol for "Vou" (dots 235) is a lowered note "E" (dots 124), etc. For chromatic martyrias, the order of the second and third braille characters is reversed.
Diatonic Martyrias: High Di [dot 5]d“ — dot 5, dots 145, dots 236 (open quotation mark) High Ga [dot 5]g( — dot 5, dots 1245, dots 2356 (parenthesis) High Vou [dot 5]b! — dot 5, dots 12, dots 235 (exlcamation point) High Pa [dot 5]p[en] — dot 5, dots 1234, dots 26 High Nee [dot 5]n( — dot 5, dots 1345, dots 2356 High Zo [dot 5]z” — dot 5, dots 1356, dots 356 (close quotation mark) Ke [dots 456]k[in] — dots 456, dots 13, dots 35 Di [dots 456]d“ — dots 456, dots 145, dots 236 Ga [dots 456]g( — dots 456, dots 1245, dots 2356 Vou [dots 456]b! — dots 456, dots 12, dots 235 Pa [dots 456]p[en] — dots 456, dots 1234, dots 26 (en) Nee [dots 456]n. — dots 456, dots 1345, dots 256 Zo [dots 456]z” — dots 456, dots 1356, dots 356 Low Ke [dots 45]k[in] — dots 45, dots 13, dots 35 Low Di [dots 45]d“ — dots 45, dots 145, dots 236
Hard Chromatic Martyrias: High Di [dot 5][en]d— dot 5, dots 26, dots 145 High Ga [dot 5]“g— dot 5, dots 236 (open quotation mark), dots 1245 High Vou [dot 5][en]b— dot 5, dots 26, dots 12 High Pa [dot 5]“p— dot 5, dots 236, dots 1234 High Nee [dot 5][en]n— dot 5, dots 26, dots 1345 High Zo [dot 5]“z— dot 5, dots 236, dots 1356 Ke [dots456][en]k— dots 456, dots 26, dots 13 Di [dots 456]“d— dots 456, dots 236, dots 145 Ga [dots 456][en]g — dots 456, dots 26, dots 1245 Vou [dots 456]“b — dots 456, dots 236, dots 12 Pa [dots 456][en]p — dots 456, dots 26, dots 1234 Nee [dots 456]“n — dots 456, dots 236, dots 1345 Zo [dots 456][en]z — dots 456, dots 26, dots 1356 Low Ke [dots 45]“k — dots 45, dots 236, dots 13 Low Di [dots 45][en]d — dots 45, dots 26, dots 145
Soft Chromatic Martyrias: High Di [dot 5](d — dot 5, dots 2356 (parenthesis), dots 145 High Ga [dot 5]!g — dot 5, dots 235 (exclamation point), dots 1245 High Vou [dot 5](b — dot 5, dots 2356, dots 12 High Pa [dot 5]!p — dot 5, dots 235, dots 1234 High Nee [dot 5](n — dot 5, dots 2356, dots 1345 High Zo [dot 5]!z — dot 5, dots 235, dots 1356 Ke [dots 456](k — dots 456, dots 2356, dots 13 Di [dots 456]!d — dots 456, dots 235, dots 145 Ga [dots 456](g— dots 456, dots 2356, dots 1245 Vou [dots 456]!b— dots 456, dots 235, dots 12 Pa [dots 456](p— dots 456, dots 2356, dots 1234 Nee [dots 456]!n— dots 456, dots 235, dots 1345
Comments on the Ison: As in International Braille Music Notation, the arrangement of the top four dots (1, 2, 4, and 5) determine the note name, and the lower two dots (3 and 6) determine the duration of the note. A onebeat note has a dot 6 in addition to its other dots. To make this into a twobeat note, dot 5 replaces dot 6, while its other dots remain the same. To make this into a threebeat note, both dot 5 and dot 6 are written in addition to its other dots. To make this into a fourbeat note, a threebeat note is written in one braille cell followed by another braille cell containing only dot 3. The basic symbol for the ison (pronounced "EEsohn") is dots 24, which is the braille letter "i" (for "ison"). The duration of the ison is regulated by including dots 3 and/or 6 to this braille character. Thus, dots 24 by themselves are a halfbeat ison, that is, an ison with a gorgon (pronounced "gorGOHN"). Dots 246 are an ison for 1 beat. Dots 245 are a twobeat ison, that is, an ison with a klasma (pronounced "KLAHzmah"). Dots 2456 are a threebeat ison, that is, an ison with a diple (pronounced "dheePLEE"). To hold an ison for four beats, i.e., to write an ison with a triple (pronounced "treePLEE"), one writes an ison with a diple (dots 2456) followed by another braille character consisting of only dot 3. In order to write an ison with a digorgon (pronounced "DHEEgorgohn"), trigorgon (pronounced "TREEgorgohn"), or tetragorgon (pronounced "teTRAHgorgohn"), a separate braille character is written preceding a onebeat ison (dots 246).
Ison: Ison (+0 for 1 beat) [ow] — dots 246 Ison with Klasma (+0 for 2 beats) s — dots 234 Ison with Diple (+0 for 3 beats) [the] — dots 2346 Ison with Triple (+0 for 4 beats) [the]' — dots 2346, dot 3 Ison with Gorgon (+0 for half beat) i — dots 24 Ison with Digorgon (+0 for onethird beat) [be][ow] — dots 23, dots 246 Ison with Trigorgon (+0 for onefourth beat) [con][ow] — dots 25, dots 246 Ison with Tetragorgon (+0 for onefifth beat) [dis][ow] — dots 256, dots 246
Comments on the Oligon: All combinations for the oligon (pronounced "ohLEEgohn") are written exactly like all combinations for the Ison, with the only difference being that dots 2 and 4 are replaced with dots 1 and 5.
Oligon: Oligon (+1 for 1 beat) [wh] — dots 156 Oligon with Klasma (+1 for 2 beats) o — dots 135 Oligon with Diple (+1 for 3 beats) z — dots 1356 Oligon with Triple (+1 for 4 beats) z[dot 3] — dots 1356, dot 3 Oligon with Gorgon (+1 for half beat) e — dots 15 Oligon with Digorgon (+1 for onethird beat) [be][wh] — dots 23, dots 156 Oligon with Trigorgon (+1 for onefourth beat) [con][wh] — dots 25, dots 156 Oligon with Tetragorgon (+1 for onefifth beat) [dis][wh] — dots 256, dots 156
Comments on the Kentemata: The basic symbol for a onebeat kentemata (pronounced "kenDEEmahtah" and is the plural of the word "kentema," which is pronounced "KENdeemah") is dots 3456. As with the onebeat ison and the onebeat oligon, dot 6 is removed from it to indicate kentemata with a gorgon. The same symbols used with the ison and oligon to indicate the digorgon, trigorgon, and tetragorgon are used for the kentemata.
Kentemata: Kentemata (+1 for 1 beat) # — dots 3456 (number sign) Kentemata with Gorgon (+1 for half beat) [ar] — dots 345 Kentemata with Digorgon (+1 for onethird beat) [be]# — dots 23, dots 3456 Kentemata with Trigorgon (+1 for onefourth beat) [con]# — dots 25, dots 3456 Kentemata with Tetragorgon (+1 for onefifth beat) [dis]# — dots 256, dots 3456
Comments on the Kentema: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, a kentema is never written alone but always in conjunction with an oligon (or with a petaste). But in Braille Byzantine Music notation, the kentema is written without an oligon, and it means the same thing as a oligon with a kentema to the right of it or below it in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted (i.e., a jump of two, which is a "third" in Western music). The same method used for changing the duration of the ison and the oligon is also used for changing the duration of the kentema.
Kentema: Kentema (+2 for 1 beat) [er] — dots 12456 Kentema with Klasma (+2 for 2 beats) q — dots 12345 Kentema with Diple (+2 for 3 beats) [for] — dots 123456 Kentema with Triple (+2 for 4 beats) [for]' — dots 123456, dot 3 (apostrophe) Kentema with Gorgon (+2 for half beat) g — dots 1245 Kentema with Digorgon (+2 for onethird beat) [be][er] — dots 23, dots 12456 Kentema with Trigorgon (+2 for onefourth beat) [con][er] — dots 25, dots 12456 Kentema with Tetragorgon (+2 for onefifth beat) [dis][er] — dots 256, dots 12456
Comments on the Kentema above Oligon: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, a kentema written above an oligon indicates a jump of three, i.e., a "fourth" in Western music. This is written in Braille Byzantine Music notation by writing dot 4 in the braille cell preceding whatever would be written for a kentema of any duration. When a jump of three is written with a digorgon, trigorgon, or tetragorgon, the corresponding braille character is inserted before the braille character consisting of dot 4.
Kentema above Oligon: Kentema above Oligon (+3 for 1 beat) [dot 4][er] — dot 4, dots 12456 Kentema above Oligon with Klasma (+3 for 2 beats) [dot 4]q — dot 4, dots 12345 Kentema above Oligon with Diple (+3 for 3 beats) [dot 4] [for] — dot 4, dots 123456 Kentema above Oligon with Triple (+3 for 4 beats) [dot 4] [for]' — dot 4, dots 123456, dot 3 (apostrophe) Kentema above Oligon with Gorgon (+3 for half beat) [dot 4]g — dot 4, dots 1245 Kentema above Oligon with Digorgon (+3 for onethird beat) [be][dot 4][er] —dots 23, dot 4, dots 12456 Kentema above Oligon with Trigorgon (+3 for onefourth beat) [con][dot 4][er] — dots 25, dot 4, dots 12456 Kentema above Oligon with Tetragorgon (+3 for 1/5th beat) [dis][dot 4][er] —dots 256, dot 4, dots 12456
Comments on the Ypsele: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, an ypsele (pronounced "eepseeLEE") is never written alone but always in conjunction with an oligon (or with a petaste). But in Braille Byzantine Music notation, the ypsele is written without an oligon, and it means the same thing as a oligon with an ypsele in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted (i.e., a jump of four, which is a "fifth" in Western music). The same method used for changing the duration of the ison and the oligon is also used for changing the duration of the ypsele.
Ypsele: Ypsele (+4) w — dots 2456 Ypsele with Klasma (+4 for 2 beats) t — dots 2345 Ypsele with Diple (+4 for 3 beats) [with] — dots 23456 Ypsele with Triple (+4 for 4 beats) [with]' — dots 23456, dot 3 Ypsele with Gorgon (+4 for half beat) j —dots 245 Ypsele with Digorgon (+4 for onethird beat) [be]w — dots 23, dots 2456 Ypsele with Trigorgon (+4 for onefourth beat) [con]w — dots 25, dots 2456 Ypsele with Tetragorgon (+4 for 1/5th beat) [dis]w — dots 256, dots 2456
Comments on Larger Ascending Jumps: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, jumps of 5 or more notes are written by writing various combinations of ypseles, kentemas, and kentematas in various positions above an oligon (or petaste). These combinations of symbols are quite difficult to memorize, especially for the very large jumps. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, however, there is a much easier way of writing these large jumps. One merely writes an ypsele preceded by a braille character that indicates how many steps more than an ypsele to ascend. In particular, the additional numbers are expressed with the following braille characters:
Thus, a jump of 5 would be written as an ypsele (which means a jump of 4) preceded by a braile character consisting of dot 4 (which means add one to the following jump). A jump of 6 would be written as an ypsele (+4) preceded by dots 45 (+2). A jump of 7 would be an ypsele (+4) preceded by dots 456 (+3). A jump of 11 would be an ypsele (+4) preceded by dots 56 (+6) preceded by dot 4 (+1). Bear in mind, though, that jumps of intervals greater eight notes are extremely rare in Byzantine Music.
Larger Ascending Jumps: Ypsele above left side of Oligon (+5) [dot 4]w — dot 4, dots 2456 Kentema and Ypsele above Oligon (+6) [dots 45]w — dots 45, dots 2456 Ypsele above Kentema above Oligon (+7) [dots 456]w — dots 456, dots 2456 Two Ypseles above Oligon (+8) [dot 5]w — dot 5, dots 2456 [Ypsele above Kentemata on the left of Ypsele] above Oligon (+9) [dots 46]w — dots 46, dots 2456 [Ypsele above Kentema on the left of Ypsele] above Oligon (+10) [dots 56]w — dots 56, dots 2456 [Ypsele above Kentema on the right of Ypsele] above Oligon (+11) [dot 4][dots 56]w — dot 4, dots 56, dots 2456 Three Ypseles above Oligon (+12) [dots 45][dots 56]w — dots 45, dots 56, dots 2456 [Three Ypseles above Kentemata] above Oligon (+13) [dots 456][dots 56]w — dots 456, dots 56, dots 2456 [Three Ypseles above Kentema] above Oligon (+14) [dot 5][dots 56]w — dot 5, dots 56, dots 2456 [Three Ypseles above Kentemata] above Oligon beside Kentema (+15) [dots 46][dots 56]w — dots 46, dots 56, dots 2456
Comments on the Petaste: The petaste (pronounced "pehtahSTEE") ascends one note with a flutter of the voice. The manner in which this flutter is executed can depend on context. It can never be written with a gorgon (or digorgon, etc.), nor can it be held for more than two beats. Thus, there are essentially only two versions of the petaste: a petaste held for one beat and a petaste held for two beats. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, a onebeat petaste is written as the braille letter "v," and a twobeat petaste is the braille letter "u." In order to jump up more than one note with a petaste, a separate braille character to indicate the additional number is placed before the "v" or the "u" (for one or twobeat petastes, respectively). To show what that additional number is, the same six braille characters mentioned above in the "Larger Ascending Jumps" section are used. Namely:
Thus, a jump of two with a flutter is written as dot 4 followed by the symbol for a petaste (dots 1236). A jump of three with a flutter is written as dots 45 followed by the symbol for a petaste (dots 1236), etc.
Ascending Jumps with Petaste: Petaste (+1 with flutter) v — dots 1236 Petaste above Klasma (+1 with flutter for 2 beats) u — dots 136 Oligon above Petaste (+2 with flutter) [dot 4]v — dot 4, dots 1236 Oligon above Petaste above Klasma (+2 with flutter for 2 beats) [dot 4]u — dot 4, dots 136 Kentema above Petaste (+3 with flutter) [dots 45]v — dots 45, dots 1236 Ypsele above right side of Petaste (+4 with flutter) [dots 456]v — dots 456, dots 1236 Ypsele above left side of Petaste (+5 with flutter) [dot 5]v — dot 5, dots 1236 Kentema and Ypsele above Petaste (+6 with flutter) [dots 46]v — dots 46, dots 1236 Ypsele above Kentema above Petaste (+7 with flutter) [dots 56]v — dots 56, dots 1236 Two Ypseles above Petaste (+8 with flutter) [dot 4][dots 56]v — dot 4, dots 56, dots 1236 [Ypsele, Kentemata, and Ypsele] above Petaste (+9 with flutter) [dots 45][dots 56]v — dots 45, dots 56, dots 1236 [Ypsele, Kentema, and Ypsele] above Petaste (+10 with flutter) [dots 456][dots 56]v — dots 456, dots 56, dots 1236 [Ypsele above Kentema beside Ypsele] above Petaste (+11 with flutter) [dot 5][dots 56]v — dot 5, dots 56, dots 1236 Three Ypseles above Petaste (+12 with flutter) [dots 46][dots 56]v — dots 46, dots 56, dots 1236 [Three Ypseles above Kentemata] above Petaste (+13 with flutter) [dots 56][dots 56]v — dots 56, dots 56, dots 1236 [Three Ypseles above Kentema] above Petaste (+14 with flutter) [dot 4][dots 56][dots 56]v — dot 4, dots 56, dots 56, dots 1236 [Three Ypseles above Kentema] above Oligon above Petaste (+15 with flutter) [dots 45][dots 56][dots 56]v — dots 45, dots 56, dots 56, dots 1236
Comments on the Apostrophos: The apostrophos (pronounced "ahPOHstrohfohs") descends one note. All combinations for the apostrophos are written exactly like all combinations for the oligon with an additional dot 2. In other words, an oligon (which means +1) is dots 156, whereas an apostrophos (which means 1) is dots 1256.
Apostrophos: Apostrophos (1) [ou] — dots 1256 Apostrophos with Klasma (1 for 2 beats) r — dots 1235 Apostrophos with Aple (1 for 2 beats) [ou]' — dots 1256, dot 3 Apostrophos with Aple and Gorgon (1 for 1.5 beats) h' — dots 125, dot 3 Apostrophos with Diple (1 for 3 beats) [of] — dots 12356 Apostrophos with Triple (1 for 4 beats) [of]' — dots 12356, dot 3 Apostrophos with Gorgon (1 for half beat) h —dots 125 Apostrophos with Digorgon (1 for onethird beat) [be][ou] — dots 23, dots 1256 Apostrophos with Trigorgon (1 for onefourth beat) [con][ou] — dots 25, dots 1256 Apostrophos with Tetragorgon (1 for 1/5th beat) [dis][ou] — dots 256, dots 1256
Comments on the Yporroe: The yporroe (pronounced "eepohrohEE") descends two notes, one at a time. Thus it is equivalent to two consecutive apostrophoses. For historical reasons it is written with an aple (pronounced "ahPLEE") instead of a klasma to indicate that the second of its two apostrophoses is held for two beats.
Yporroe: Yporroe (1, 1) [ing] — dots 346 Yporroe with Aple (1, 1 for 2 beats) [ing]' — dots 346, dot 3 Yporroe with Diple (1, 1 for 3 beats) [ing]'' — dots 346, dot 3, dot 3 Yporroe with Gorgon (1 for half beat, 1) [st] —dots 34 Yporroe with Digorgon (1 for onethird beat, 1) [be][ing] — dots 23, dots 346 Yporroe with Trigorgon (1 for onefourth beat, 1) [con][ing] — dots 25, dots 346 Yporroe with Tetragorgon (1 for 1/5th beat, 1) [dis][ing] — dots 256, dots 346
Comments on the Elaphron: All combinations for the elaphron (pronounced "elahFROHN") are written exactly like all combination for the apostrophos, except that dot 4 is used instead of dot 5.
Elaphron: Elaphron (2) [ed] — dots 1246 Elaphron with Klasma (2 for 2 beats) p — dots 1234 Elaphron with Diple (2 for 3 beats) [and] — dots 12346 Elaphron with Triple (2 for 4 beats) [and]' — dots 12346, dot 3 Elaphron with Gorgon (2 for half beat) f —dots 124 Elaphron with Digorgon (2 for onethird beat) [be][ed] — dots 23, dots 1246 Elaphron with Trigorgon (2 for onefourth beat) [con][ed] — dots 25, dots 1246 Elaphron with Tetragorgon (2 for 1/5th beat) [dis][ed] — dots 256, dots 1246
Comments on the Syneches Elaphron: The syneches elaphron (pronounced "seenehHES elahFROHN") in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted is written as an elaphron placed to the right of an apostrophos with almost no space between them. This compound symbol is interpreted as two consecutive apostrophoses with a gorgon on the first of them. Thus, it will always subtract half a beat from the previous note. According to the rules of orthography, the syneches elaphron must be written with its own syllable, which is associated with the second of the two apostrophoses.Since a syneches elaphron always begins a new syllable and always removes half a beat from the previous syllable, the last note of the previous syllable must always have a "warning symbol" (see below) in Braille Byzantine Music notation. When a klasma, diple, or triple is written with a syneches elaphron, the effect of those symbols applies only to the second of its two apostrophoses.
Syneches Elaphron: Syneches Elaphron (1, 1) m — dots 134 Syneches Elaphron with Klasma (1, 1 for 2 beats) m' — dots 134, dot 3 Syneches Elaphron with Diple (1, 1 for 3 beats) m'' — dots 134, dot 3, dot 3 Syneches Elaphron with Triple (1, 1 for 4 beats) m''' — dots 134, dot 3, dot 3, dot 3
Comments on the Elaphron above Apostrophos: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, a jump down of three is written by placing an elaphron (2) above an apostrophos (1). In Braille Byzantine Music notation, however, it is written simply by inserting dot 4 in its own braille character before an elaphron.
Elaphron above Apostrophos: Elaphron above Apostrophos (3) [dot 4][ed] — dot 4, dots 1246 Elaphron above Apostrophos with Klasma (3 for 2 beats) [dot 4]p — dot 4, dots 1234 Elaphron above Apostrophos and Diple (3 for 3 beats) [dot 4][and] — dot 4, dots 12346 Elaphron above Apostrophos and Triple (3 for 4 beats) [dot 4][and]' — dot 4, dots 12346, dot 3 Elaphron above Apostrophos and Gorgon (3 for half beat) [dot 4]f — dot 4, dots 124 Elaphron above Apostrophos and Digorgon (3 for onethird beat) [dot 4][be][ed] — dot 4, dots 23, dots 1246 Elaphron above Apostrophos and Trigorgon (3 for onefourth beat) [dot 4][con][ed] — dot 4, dots 25, dots 1246 Elaphron above Apostrophos and Tetragorgon (3 for 1/5th beat) [dot 4][dis][ed] — dot 4, dots 256, dots 1246
Comments on the Hamele: All combinations for the hamele (pronounced "hahmeeLEE") are written exactly like all combination for the elaphron, except that dot 5 is used instead of dot 2.
Hamele: Hamele (4) [th] — dots 1456 Hamele with Klasma (4 for 2 beats) n — dots 1345 Hamele with Diple (4 for 3 beats) y — dots 13456 Hamele with Triple (4 for 4 beats) y' — dots 13456, dot 3 Hamele with Gorgon (4 for half beat) d —dots 145 Hamele with Digorgon (4 for onethird beat) [be][th] — dots 23, dots 1456 Hamele with Trigorgon (4 for onefourth beat) [con][th] — dots 25, dots 1456 Hamele with Tetragorgon (4 for 1/5th beat) [dis][th] — dots 256, dots 1456
Comments on Larger Descending Jumps: As with large ascending jumps, large descending jumps in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted are written by writing various combinations of neumes (apostrophoses, elaphrons and hameles) in various positions beneath a hamele. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, however, there is a much easier way of writing these large jumps. One merely writes the symbol for a hamele preceded by a braille character that indicates how many steps more than a hamele to descend. The same additional numbers are used:
Thus, a jump down of 5 would be written as a hamele (which means a jump down of 4) preceded by a braile character consisting of dot 4 (which means add one to the following jump). A jump of 6 would be written as a hamele (4) preceded by dots 45 (2). A jump of 7 would be a hamele (4) preceded by dots 456 (3). A jump of 11 would be a hamele (4) preceded by dots 56 (6) preceded by dot 4 (1). Again, bear in mind that jumps of intervals greater eight notes are extremely rare in Byzantine Music.
Larger Descending Jumps: Hamele above Apostrophos (5) [dot 4][th] — dot 4, dots 1456 Hamele above Elaphron (6) [dots 45][th] — dots 45, dots 1456 Hamele above Elaphron above Apostrophos (7) [dots 456][th] — dots 456, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele (8) [dot 5][th] — dot 5, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele above Apostrophos (9) [dots 46][th] — dots 46, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele above Elaphron (10) [dots 56][th] — dots 56, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele above Elaphron above Apostrophos (11) [dot 4][dots 56][th] — dot 4, dots 56, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele above Hamele (12) [dots 45][dots 56][th] — dots 45, dots 56, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele above Hamele above Apostrophos (13) [dots 456][dots 56][th] — dots 456, dots 56, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele above Hamele above Elaphron (14) [dot 5][dots 56][th] — dot 5, dots 56, dots 1456 Hamele above Hamele above Hamele above Elaphron above Apostrophos (15) [dots 46][dots 56][th] — dots 46, dots 56, dots 1456
Comments on Compound Symbols: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, the combination: "kentemata with a gorgon followed by an oligon held for more than one beat" is written as a compound symbol consisting of kentemata beneath an oligon beneath one of the following three special symbols:
In Braille Byzantine Music notation, however, it was not deemed necessary to invent a special braille character for these symbols, considering that they would have to be written horizontally anyway. Therefore, these combinations are simply written out in their expanded form. Thus, for example, the combination "kentemata beneath an oligon beneath an argon " is written in its expanded form, i.e., as kentemata with a gorgon followed by an oligon with a klasma. Similarly, other compound symbols in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted that are stacked vertically on top of each other are written out sequentially in Braille Byzantine Music notation. Thus, the combination: "gorgon above an oligon above kentemata above an antikenoma above an aple" would be written out sequentially as: kentemata with a gorgon, oligon, antiekenoma, aple: [ar][wh][en]' — dots 345, dots 156, dots 26, dot 3 In the combination "kentemata above an oligon above a psefiston," the psefiston applies to the kentemata from a purely theoretical standpoint (since a psefiston can only modify quantitative symbols followed by at least two descending notes). From a practical standpoint, however, either the oligon or the kentemata may be emphasized, depending on the interpretation of the formula in which this combination appears. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, the psefiston in this combination is written before the oligon: [dot 6][wh]# — dot 6, dots 156, dots 3456 In addition, the orthographical rules of Byzantine Music notation for the sighted dictate that jumps of three, six, seven, etc. may not have the kentemata above the oligon, since the kentemata would be too close to the kentema and thus confusing. For this reason, when a jump of three, six, seven, etc. is followed by kentemata and a descending character, the kentemata are replaced by an oligon. In this particular case, the psefiston is written beneath the second oligon in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted and before the second oligon in Braille Byzantine Music notation. But as above, from a practical standpoint either the first or the second oligon may be emphasized, depending on the interpretation of the formula in which this group of neumes appears.
Compound Symbols: Argon above an Oligon above Kentemata [ar]o — dots 345, dots 135 Emiolion above an Oligon above Kentemata [ar]z — dots 345, dots 1356 Diargon above an Oligon above Kentemata [ar]z' — dots 345, dots 1356, dot 3
Comments on Modulants: A modulant is a symbol that affects the pitch of more than one note in the scale. All modulants must be preceded by a hyphen (dots 36). There are two kinds of modulants: hroas (the word "hroa" is pronounced "hrohAH") and fthoras (the word "fthora" is pronounced "fthohRAH"). The difference between them is that a hroa affects the pitch of only a few notes, whereas a fthora affects the entire scale. In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, there are only two soft chromatic fthoras and only two hard chromatic fthoras. Thus, a soft chromatic fthora for "Di," for example, is the same symbol used for soft chromatic fthora for Vou, Nee, and high Zo. To avoid confusion, Byzantine Music notation for the sighted often inserts a tiny letter "beta" or "zeta" beside the fthora to clarify that the fthora is meant for Vou or Zo, respectively. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, a similar solution is employed. For example, dots 1234 (a braille "p") is used for the soft chromatic fthora for Di. To indicate this fthora for Vou, Nee, or high Zo, the braille letter "b" ("beta" for Vou), "n," or "z" respectively is written after the "p." The same method is used for hard chromatic fthoras as well.
Hroas: Kliton (kleeTOHN) [ou] — dots 1256 Spathi (SPAHthee) s — dots 234 Zygos (zeeGOHS) t — dots 2345
Enharmonic Fthora: for Zo w — dots 2456
Diatonic Fthoras: for High Nee n — dots 1345 for High Zo [with] — dots 23456 for Ke [the] — dots 2346 for Di [of] — dots 12356 for Ga [for] — dots 123456 for Vou [and] — dots 12346 for Pa z — dots 1356 for Nee y — dots 13456
Soft Chromatic Fthoras: for High Di q — dots 12345 for High Ga pg — dots 1234, dots 1245 for High Vou qb — dots 12345, dots 12 for High Pa p — dots 1234 for High Nee qn — dots 12345, dots 1345 for High Zo pz — dots 1234, dots 1356 for Ke qk — dots 12345, dots 13 for Di p — dots 1234
Hard Chromatic Fthoras: for Ga og — dots 135, dots 1245 for Vou rb — dots 1235, dots 12 for Pa o — dots 135 for Nee rn — dots 1235, dots 1345 for Zo rz — dots 1235, dots 1356
Comments on Accidentals: Accidentals (i.e., sharps and flats) change the pitch of a single note. In Byzantine Music, sharps and flats affect only one note rather than all following instances of that note, which is what sharps and flats do in Western music. An exception to this is the "permanent sharp" and the "permanent flat" of Byzantine Music notation. These two symbols are almost never used except for in third mode, in which a permanent flat is frequently placed on Ke to indicate that all subsequent Zo's are flat, and a permanent sharp is frequently placed on Ga to indicate that all subsequent Vou's are raised by two units, i.e. 33 cents. Unfortunately, some confusion currently prevails regarding the exact meaning of some sharps and flats. When Chrysanthos devised the "New Method" of Byzantine Music notation in the early 19th century, he decided to use five different symbols for sharps and five for flats. The amount that each of those symbols changes the pitch is proportional to the interval between it and the next note. Thus, a plain sharp (i.e., a sharp without a hook or crossbeams) raises the pitch halfway to the next note in the scale. If that interval is a whole step (12 units—or 200 cents), that sharp will raise the pitch by 6 units (100 cents). But if that interval is only 10 units (167 cents), it will raise the pitch by only 5 units (83 cents). In order to make Byzantine Music notation more definitive, the Patriarchal Committee of 1881 decided to change the meaning of sharps and flats. They eliminated sharps and flats that have a hook, and they used sharps and flats with 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 crossbeams. The meaning they assigned to these symbols was as follows: A plain sharp (i.e., without any crossbeams) adds 2 units (33 cents) to the pitch of a note, and each additional crossbeam added to that sharp adds another 2 units to the pitch. Thus, a sharp with one crossbeam adds 4 units (67 cents), a sharp with two crossbeams adds 6 units (100 cents), a sharp with three crossbeams adds 8 units (133 cents), and a sharp with four crossbeams adds 10 units (167 cents). The problem is that many books printed after 1881 continued using a plain sharp (i.e., without any crossbeams) not with the new meaning assigned to this symbol by the 1881 Committee (which stated that it adds two units or 33 cents to the pitch), but with the meaning given to it by Chrysanthos (who stated that it increases the note's pitch halfway to the next higher note). In Braille Byzantine Music notation, accidentals are written immediately before the braille neume they affect.
Temporary sharps and flats: Sharp (plus half interval) [sh] — dots 146 Sharp with one crossbeam (plus onefourth interval) [dot 4][sh] — dot 4, dots 146 Sharp with two crossbeams (plus threefourths interval) [dots 45][sh] — dots 45, dots 146 Sharp with hook (plus onethird interval) [dot 5][sh] — dot 5, dots 146 Sharp with hook and one crossbeam (plus twothirds interval) [letter sign][sh] — dots 56, dots 146 Flat (minus half interval) [gh] — dots 126 Flat with one crossbeam (minus onefourth interval) [dot 4][gh] — dot 4, dots 126 Flat with two crossbeams (minus threefourths interval) [dots 45][gh] — dots 45, dots 126 Flat with hook (minus onethird interval) [dot 5][gh] — dot 5, dots 126 Flat with hook and one crossbeam (minus twothirds interval) [letter sign][gh] — dots 56, dots 126
Permanent sharps and flats: (must be preceded by a hyphen [dots 36]) Permanent Sharp [er] — dots 12456 Permanent Flat [ow] — dots 246
Comments on Special Symbols: The cross is a symbol that indicates where one may take a breath. In some books in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, it is also inserted before a note when that note begins with the same vowel as the previous note in order to indicate that a new syllable has begun. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, however, there is no need to use the cross symbol for that purpose, since there is no room for confusion as to where one syllable ends and another begins. The korona (pronounced "kohROHnah") is a relatively recent addition to Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, and it is equivalent to a fermata in Western music. In other words, it indicates that the note associated with it may be held for several beats—the precise duration is left up to the judgment of the chanter. The yphen (eePHEN) is also a relatively recent addition to Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, and it is equivalent to a tie in Western music. It ties together two notes so that they are joined smoothly together.
Special Symbols: Cross (place to inhale) x — dots 1346 Korona (fermata) [gh]l — dots 126, dots 123 Yphen (a tie) [dot 4]c — dot 4, dots 14
Comments on Rests: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, a rest (i.e., a pause) is written as a variea followed by a number of dots. The number of "aples" (dots) determines how long the rest will be held. If it is followed by one dot, the rest will last one beat. If it is followed by two dots, the rest will be held for two beats, etc. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, a similar method is used. Dot 3 is added after the vareia to indicate a onebeat rest. To indicate a twobeat rest, the vareia is followed by the braille number 2 (dots 12) without the braille number sign. To indicate a threebeat rest, the vareia is followed by the braille number 3 (dots 14) without the braille number sign.
Rests: Vareia with Aple [i.e., with one dot] (a onebeat rest) [in]' —dots 35, dot 3 Vareia with Diple [i.e., with two dots] (a twobeat rest) [in]b —dots 35, dots 12 Vareia with Triple [i.e., with three dots] (a threebeat rest) [in]c —dots 35, dots 14 Vareia with Aple and Gorgon (a halfbeat rest) [ea][in] — dot 2, dots 35 Vareia with Aple and Digorgon (a onethirdbeat rest) [be][in] — dots 23, dots 35
Comments on Warning Symbols: Previous sections discussing the Ison, Oligon, etc. have already explained how time symbols (i.e., the Gorgon, Digorgon, etc.) are added to those neumes. Whenever the first note for a syllable has a gorgon, digorgon, trigorgon, or syneches elaphron (all of which shorten the duration of the last note of the previous syllable), a special "gorgon warning" is inserted at the end of the previous syllable. This is done only in Braille Byzantine Music notation (and not in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted) because it is harder to be aware of upcoming notes in braille than it is in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted.
Gorgon Warning 1 — dot 2 Gorgon Warning for a Syneches Elaphron "— dot 5
Comments on Unequal Gorgons: In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, a plain gorgon removes an equal amount of time (half a beat) from the neume it is above (or below) and the previous neume. To remove unequal amounts of time from those neumes, the gorgon is written with a small dot to the right or left of it. When written to the left of it, onethird of a beat is removed from the previous neume, and twothirds of a beat is removed from the current neume. When the small dot is written to the right of the gorgon, twothirds of a beat is removed from the previous neume, and onethird of a beat is removed from the current neume. To write this in Braille Byzantine Music notation, a braille cell consisting only of dot 1 is inserted beside the braille character containing a gorgon. It is inserted to the left of it to indicate a gorgon written with a small dot to the left of it, and it is inserted to the right of it to indicate a gorgon written with a small dot to the right of it. For example, an ison followed by an apostrophos with a gorgon is written in braille as: dots 246, dots 125. The same neumes with a small dot to the left of the gorgon would be written in braille as: dots 246, dot 1, dots 125. The same neumes with a small dot to the right of the gorgon would be written in braille as: dots 246, dots 125, dot 1. Although it is extremely rare, one may write two small dots to the right or left of a gorgon in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted. This subtracts onefourth of a beat from one neume and threefourths of a beat from the other neume. To write this in Braille Byzantine Music notation, two consecutive braille cells containing only dot 1 are inserted either before or after the braille character containing a gorgon. As with the gorgon, the same small dot may be written beside a digorgon, trigorgon, or tetragorgon in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted. A small dot beside a digorgon makes two of the affected neumes lose threefourths of a beat and the other affected neume lose half a beat. The position of the small dot relative to the digorgon determines which of the affect three neumes will be the one to lose only half a beat: When the small dot is written to the left of the digorgon, the first of the three affected neumes is the one to lose half a beat. When the small dot is written in the middle of the digorgon, the second of the three affected neumes is the one to lose half a beat. And when the small dot is written to the right of the digorgon, the third of the three affected neumes is the one to lose half a beat. To write this in Braille Byzantine Music notation, a braille cell consisting of only dot 1 is placed to the right of the neume that will lose only half a beat (i.e., will be held twice as long as the others). As with the gorgon and digorgon, a trigorgon may also be written with a small dot beside it in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted. This makes three of the affected neumes lose fourfifths of a beat and one of the affected neumes lose threefifths of a beat. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, the same implementation is used for a trigorgon with a small dot that is used for a digorgon with a small dot. Namely, a braille "a" (dot 1) is placed to the right of the braille neume that will be lose threefifths of a beat (i.e., will be held twice as long as the others. The same logic is applied for writing a tetragorgon with a small dot. Bear in mind, though, that tetragorgons are extremely rare in Byzantine Music notation.
Unequal Gorgons: One small dot (beside a gorgon) a — dot 1 Two small dots (beside a gorgon) aa — dot 1, dot 1 One small dot (beside a digorgon) a — dot 1 One small dot (beside a trigorgon) a — dot 1 One small dot (beside a tetragorgon) a — dot 1
Comments on Meaningless "N's": An ancient tradition in Byzantine chant is to insert meaningless consonants (usually an "n" or the letter "chi") when a vowel is held for a long time. This was done merely for the aesthetics, i.e., to erase the unpleasantness of a sustained vowel. In order to differentiate an "n" that was inserted for this reason from an "n" that is part of the lyrics, composers used two different symbols (even though one different symbol would have been sufficient). In particular, they used a symbol shaped like the Greek letter "eta" after it has been rotated 180 degrees to indicate a meaningless "n" before an epsilon; whereas to indicate a meaningless "n" before all other vowels, they used a symbol that looks like an English question mark that is missing its dot.
Meaningless "N's": Rotated "eta" “n —dots 236, dots 1345 "Question mark" without a dot )n — dots 2356, dots 1345
Comments on Tempo Symbols: Tempo symbols are used primarily to indicate a change of tempo. Some books also write them at the beginning of every hymn to indicate its proper tempo. The Patriarchal Musical Committee of 1881 decided on the following values:
It is worth mentioning that several Byzantine Music theory books written after 1881 have disregarded that committee's definitions and have assigned their own slightly different numerical values to those symbols.
Tempo Symbols: Very Slow xc — dots 1346, dots 14 Medium Slow xb — dots 1346, dots 12 Medium xa — dots 1346, dot 1 Fast x1— dots 1346, dot 2 Very Fast x[be] — dots 1346, dots 23
Comments on Qualitative Neumes: Most qualitative neumes in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted are written beneath the quantitive neume they affect. Since, however, Braille Byzantine Music notation has no room to stack braille symbols on top of one another, those qualitative neumes are instead written beside the quantitative neume they affect. The first four listed here are written before the neume they affect, while the last five are written after the neume they affect. The following descriptions of these qualitative neumes should not be taken too literally or absolutely. In practice, the execution of these symbols by traditional chanters depends on their context. In other words, it depends on what musical phrase they are a part of. This is one of the many reasons why it is imperative for a student learning the art of Byzantine Music to listen carefully to a traditional chanter who hails from a respectable lineage of chanters. Many qualitative neumes, instead of being executed as described below, make quantitative changes to the melody. For example, when a vareia is followed by an ison followed by an apostrophos, this combination is usually interpreted as an ison followed by kentemata with a gorgon followed by an elaphron. Demetrios Nerantzis has published a 200page book that gives analytical explanations for dozens of such interpretations. The title of this book is: Symbole Stin Ermeneia tou Ekklesiastikou Melous. The omalon (pronounced "ohmahLOHN") adds a ripple to the neume it is written with. When the omalon applies to a single neume, in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted it is placed beneath that neume it affects, whereas in Braille Byzantine Music notation it is written after the neume it affects. But when the omalon applies to two neumes (the second of which must be an ison) in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted it is placed between and beneath those two neumes, whereas in Braille Byzantine Music notation it is placed between those two neumes. The antikenoma (pronounced "ahndeeKEHnohmah") adds a brief shake to the neume it is written with. In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, it is placed beneath the affected neume, but in Braille Byzantine Music notation, it is written after the neume it affects. The syndesmos (pronounced "SEENdhezmos") is also named "Eteron" (pronounced "EHtehrohn"). It is used to link two notes together and also place a flutter on the first of the two. In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, it is placed between and beneath the neumes it links, but in Braille Byzantine Music notation, it is written merely between the neumes it links. The vareia (pronounced "vahREEah") is used to accentuate a neume, although it frequently has a quantitative interpretation, as mentioned above. It is placed before the neume it affects. The psefiston (pronounced "pseefeeSTOHN") is also used to accentuate a neume. The orthographical rules of Byzantine Music notation dictate that it must be written when an emphasized note is followed by two or more descending syllables. In Byzantine Music notation for the sighted, it is placed beneath the affected neume, but in Braille Byzantine Music notation, it is written before the neume it affects. The endofonon (pronounced "enDHOHfohnohn") is a symbol that indicates that a neume is sung through the nose with the mouth closed. It is so rare that many theory books of Byzantine Music don't even bother to mention it. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, it is written before the neume it affects. The orthographical rules of Byzantine Music notation dictate that when kentemata are followed by a descending neume and preceded by a neume other than an oligon, that neume and the kentemata are placed above an oligon. An oligon used in this manner has no quantitative effect on the melody, and some would say that it has no qualitative effect on the melody either. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, this kind of oligon is written as dots 16, and it is inserted before the two notes that it would be written beneath in Byzanitne Music notation for the sighted. The orthographical rules of Byzantine Music notation also dictate that when an ison or a descending neume is associated with an accented syllable and followed by an ison, an oligon must be placed beneath the neume for that accented syllable. This kind of oligon has no quantitative effect, but it does increase the volume of the note it is associated with. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, this kind of oligon is also written as dots 16 and is inserted before the note it affects. When a note needs to be modified by both a psefiston and an oligon, the psefiston is written first. For example, an ison and kentemata above oligon above psefiston would be wrtten as: [dot 6][ch][ow]# —dot 6, dots 16, dots 246, dots 3456 As seen above, ascending neumes with a flutter are written as a petaste. When an ison or a descending neume is to be executed with a flutter, a petaste is written beneath it in Byzantine Music notation for the sighted. In Braille Byzantine Music notation, this petaste is written as dots 236 and is inserted before the neume it affects. For example, an ison above a petaste would be written: “[ow] —dots 236, dots 246
Qualitative Neumes: (that affect the preceding quantitatve neume) Omalon ! — dots 235 Antikenoma [en] — dots 26 Antikenoma above an Aple (i.e., a dot) [en]' — dots 26, dot 3 Syndesmos (also called "Eteron") c — dots 14
Qualitative Neumes: (that affect the following quantitatve neume) Vareia [in] — dots 35 Psefiston dot 6 Endofonon ” —dots 356 (close quotation mark) Oligon used for "support" beneath other neumes [ch] — dots 16 Petaste used as a modifier beneath a quantitative neume “ —dots 236 (open quotation mark) 