The East Frankish and West Frankish chant dialects
During the Middle Ages the Low Countries formed the border line between the regions of the West Frankish and the East Frankish chant dialects. The difference between these two dialects is most manifest in the tendency of the East Frankish repertoire variant to turn b into c, e into f, while in West Frankisch manuscripts b and e are preserved. Besides this, there is a certain exchange of neumes, for instance a torculus in East Frankisch manuscripts and a clivis in West Frankish manuscripts (see M.E. Heisler in Studia Musicologia 27 (1985) pp. 67-82, where the semitone-differences, only discernible in diastematic notations, are considered 'Melodische Variante' and the neume-differences, discernible in all notations, 'Graphische Variante').
On this website, to each manuscript the dialect variant has been added, using the terms 'western' for descendants of the West Frankish repertoire variant, and 'eastern' for those of the East Frankish variant. This is mainly based on the melodic variants, i.e. the tendency to raise the semitones; research on Dutch manuscripts covering the entire subject is lacking. Use of these terms on this home page must be considered to be no more than a first attempt to bring more clarity in this matter, which might perhaps be more complicated than it seems at first sight.
The geographical distribution of the repertoire variants is connected with the spread of notation types. Generally it can be stated that square notation manuscripts display the western variant, while Hufnagelschrift manuscripts and manuscripts with Low Countries notation contain the eastern variant, though many transitional variants can be observed.
Some observations can be of particular interest for the study of the two repertoire dialects.
The manuscript NL-Uc BMH 20, is a Gradual, manufactured in the late 15th century in Zuid-Holland for the Amsterdam Agnesklooster. It os provided with Hufnagelschrift, but with some characteristics that strongly resmind of square notation: staves in red paint, no quilismata, vertical bars drawn in the staves. Besides, the original versions of the melodies show the western repertoire variant, but later these were changed into the eastern variant. All this suggests that this manuscript was copied from a square notation manuscript with only one change: Hufnagelschrift instead of square notation, while keeping the western chant variant - erroneously, because in Amsterdam this variant was unusal. Hence the many corrections in this manuscript; they give us a clear insight in the differences between the two repertoire variants (see: Het gregoriaans in de Lage Landen).
That the tendency of the East Frankish repertoire variant to turn b
into c (and e into f) was still an active process during the late Middle
Ages can be observed in several manuscripts.
Firstly, a difference exists between the older and younger manuscripts of the Utrecht Mariakerk, dating from the 12th up to the 16th century. Whereas the 12th and 13th century manuscripts of this church still have a relatively ancient practice (having kept some e and b inflections), the 14th and 15th century manuscripts display a more modern practice (the e's and b's having developed into f and c).
Secondly, the two 15th century Rijnsburg manuscripts, a summer antiphoner NL-DHk 73 E 8 and a hymnal NL-DHk 71 J 70, have some semitone corrections (b corrected into c, e into f) that may indicate a shift from a more ancient eastern tradition into a more modern one.
The office for St Gudula, that partly has been preserved in both square notation and Hufnagelschrift, displays some characteristic differences between the two dialects, even though this is a relatively young and local repertoire.