from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A melodic phrase or division, sung to a single syllable, especially at the end of a clause or sentence; a sequence.
- n. A sign or character used in early medieval music to indicate a tone or a phrase.
- n. Modulation of the voice in singing.
Neume notation was used mostly in connection with the 'plain-song melodies' of the Church, and since the words of these chants were sung as they would be pronounced in reading, the deficiency of the neume system in not expressing definite duration values was not felt.
Choir singers of the 9th century had small marks called 'neumes' above the words to show the notes that went with them.
It may well be that the old Neume notation, the earliest written musical signs, from which the turn and trill signs come, had its origin in the Italian monastaries, Mrs. Palmer said.
'Neume' comes from the Greek word for 'breath.'