I posted this question on Wikipedia a year ago, with no answers. These two musical signs look eerily similar.

  1. The Baroque Schleifer or slide (see Wikipedia page):

    slide sign, modern glissando slide sign, handwritten schleifer

  2. The quilisma in Gregorian chant (see French Wikipedia page):

    quilisma sign, square notation quilisma sign, neum notation

Coincidentally, their performance is nearly identical. The Gregorian quilisma is now known to have been originally sung as a quick sliding glissando or portamento towards a higher note, or, equivalently, as a quick rising grace or passing tone towards that note.

In the picture above, the two signs above the staff are the quilisma as it appears in ninth-century Laon/Lorraine/Metz notation of Gregorian chant, where it is depicted as a medieval question mark ('?' upside-down) to indicate the rising of the voice.

The four signs below the staff are the quilisma in ninth- and tenth-century St. Gall notation. I highly suspect this is the ancestor of the Schleifer sign, on account of

  1. identical shape,
  2. identical performance, and
  3. St. Gall notation being regional to Germany and Switzerland at the end of the first millennium.

Could this be a pure coincidence? Is it possible to conclude from any evidence a true ancestral relationship here?

Do we have samples of similar signs used in music between 1100 and 1600 that could suggest a continuity of the symbols' application?

  • 5
    You would ask Prof. Hartmut Krones from the music university of Vienna. He has a quite big knowledge in this area.
    – tommsch
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 13:38
  • Good recommendation. I reached out the other day, but no reply yet. I saw he is 'Emeritus'.
    – Coemgenus
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 3:34
  • Did he reply to you in the meantime?
    – tommsch
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 20:52
  • Nope. Dead end.
    – Coemgenus
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 3:56
  • the answers of craig are not so wrong. upvote! Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:45

3 Answers 3


No, this is not an accidental coincidence:

There is enough evidence from your wiki site to answer all other questions in your post with yes!

The quilisma and the schleifer are both a graphic sign to illustrate a glissando in singing or instrumental music. As it was used in the notation of Gregorian chant it will be obvious that it was took over in the square notation like all other signs as the torculus and the porrectus etc. and was always used in music notation to anytime after Gregorian chant. The glissando in human speaking, singing and instrumental playing is ubiquitous and was a use long before the notation of Greg. Chant. So the Schleifer is 100 % developed by this. (But if any newbie, a composer of New music or a primary schoolteacher had to think about a graphic notation of something like a slide or a glissando he would surely came to a similar result of a sign. So in this case you might speak about an coincidence, if someone doesn't know the use in history of music...)

Karl H. Wörner:[![enter image description here Geschichte der Musik"]2]2 dtv-Atlas zur Musik (transcription of Gregorian chant sign forms)enter image description here

  • There is enough evidence from your wiki site to answer all other questions in your post with yes! (and to proof this we don't need the answers of a Prof. Dr. in music and arts of Vienna): music theory and music history is not an exact science. questions like this mayl never be answered in an objective way. would it more objective if a monk in the middle age, or a Flemish composer, or Fux or C. Ph. E. Bach himself would have mentioned that a sign is developed of another sign from the Gregorian chant? it would be the same subjective as when I declare it! Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 9:38
  • Thanks, but can you back up your "100%" confidence? The scientist in me just doesn't find near-identical shape and performance to be enough, given that Baroque and Gregorian chant are two very different genres with 4 to 5 centuries between them. I imagine the kind of evidence to support this continuity hypothesis would be, say, if the sign could be found in certain musical books or folios from each of the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, where it might have been applied in the same manner. That would help diminish the likelihood of mere or even partial coincidence.
    – Coemgenus
    Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 3:32
  • Also, unless I missed something, the French Wikipedia article hardly says a thing about the tradition of the symbol outside Gregorian chant.
    – Coemgenus
    Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 3:33

I'm afraid I have to take the skeptical view and say that Baroque musicians chose the most suitable symbol for the job, which it turned out the medievals had chosen eight centuries earlier.

The quilisma (and other ornamental neumes, such as the oriscus and trigon) are found only in the oldest traditions of neumatic notation for monophonic liturgical chant, current c. 800-1200. Around 1100, composers turned their greatest efforts toward polyphony, developing the art of (mainly contrary) motion between stable intervals: fifths, fourths, octaves, and some thirds. Now these stable intervals lose their striking purity unless each voice sings a steady pitch. Hence the systematic purging of quilismas and other ornamental neumes from the chant melodies used as tenors for polyphony, and eventually in monophonic music as well.

Thus in the Montpellier Codex, our biggest source for 12th-century polyphony, one looks in vain for the quilisma; when music printing hit the world stage in 1501, no type case included it; and it wasn't until the 1600s that the harmonic, monodic hearing of music was sufficiently grounded (and culture's appetite for novelty sufficiently voracious) that the Schleifer could be invented, or some would say reinvented.

  • Great info, but can you provide sources? Also, which Montpellier Codex? Can you provide the manuscript number?
    – Coemgenus
    Commented Jul 4, 2019 at 13:06
  • 1
    By "Montpellier Codex" I mean this manuscript: imslp.org/wiki/Montpellier_Codex_(Various).
    – Mirlan
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 17:41
  • 1
    A good source for medieval notation is Apel: archive.org/details/notationofpolyph00apel/page/87 The quilisma is conspicuous by its absence. I conjecture that the reason is that the neumes of Gregorian chant (indicators of phrasing) were repurposed as the ligatures of mensural notation (indicators of note length), and the quilisma, having never had a very definite rhythm, was dropped.
    – Mirlan
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 17:46

I did not bother with Wikipedia, however from what I learned in college I can list for you the direct ancestry the issues you brought into question:

BAROQUEN- A reference to the "Church Mode" scales and chords. Although these scales were used in much of music, they were made famous in the modern world by blues gutairist "Eric Clapton", (then later, by an exclusive Clapton stylist, "Eddie Van Halen"). Today they are taught by virtually all gutairist as beginning gutair.

SLIDE- Is a slide is a slide. More or less established and recognized in the 19th and 20th centuries.

GLISSANDO- A reference to establish the way(or technique) one is to play the section or piece

GREGORIAN- An interval or harmony once thought to be EVIL! At one point in history this combination of notes carried the death penalty

SO - ANSWER TO QUESTION -Unlikely, since dates don't align with the creation of such musical technology (joke) or development through the centuries

Don't get too focused on the similarly in notation. Some was established as long as 300-400 years ago, and some as recent as 50. Anything earlier than the 15th century is either written on a scroll or has been translated numerous times. That is most likely why you didn't get many replies to your questions, people probably thought the questions had complicated answers.

A great deal of your secondary data is based on speculation. While it might make for interesting conversation material, it needs some heavyweight reformatting before it would make for clear question and answer material.



  • 2
    It may have been a while since you were at college. It may be that your tutors told you misinformation. It may be that you weren't listening properly. There is a fair bit of inaccuracy here. Please check details before broadcasting answers like this. And Wikipedia may not be perfect, but it's worth consulting...
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 13:47
  • 1
    @Craig Wilson With all due respect, I don't think this is a very helpful response. There are many vague terms like "more or less established" and "anything earlier than the 15th century is ... written on a scroll". Since Coemgenus is asking for proof of his insightful conjecture, which it appears you cannot prove or disprove, I'm sorry, but I have to give you -1 on that.
    – user45266
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 20:27
  • music theory and music history is not an exact science. questions like this mayl never be answered in an objective way. would it more objective if a monk in the middle age, or a Flemish composer, or Fux or C. Ph. E. Bach himself would have mentioned that a sign is developed of another sign from the Gregorian chant? it would be the same subjective as when I declare it! and in 200 years one will cite my post here and say there is proof that the baroque Schleifer is evolved by the quilisma of Gregorian chant as Albrecht Hügli posted this already in 2019 in stack overflow! look up my anwer ;) Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 9:08

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