Cheironomy (or Chironomy) is the use of hand signals to direct vocal music performance. Whereas in modern conducting the notes are already specified in a written score, in cheironomy the hand signs indicate melodic curves and ornaments.


Early music (vocal church music), as far back as the 5th century, required some central direction from a leader in the coordination of singers in their delivery of melodic lines of mostly free rhythm. Traced back to early Egyptian performances through hieroglyphic documentation (etchings in stone depicting a leader employing hand signals to indicate pitch and rhythm details for wind instrument players), this form of conducting seems to predate Guido of Arezzo's designation of joints of the fingers for indicating pitches, and seems to have offered more than limited pitch instruction. These early leaders, or cheironomers, though possessing none of the modern conducting skills developed in the 17th century, using a form of choreographed hand signals, adeptly controlled the movement of the melodic lines, producing incredibly well-synchronized performances.

Cheironomy, though not a commonly used term in today’s reference to conducting, serves, as it did in early music, as the model for the motions necessary to direct some modern music which require individualized direction to specific players, within less metrically structured musical compositions. It is still in use in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church (despite a decline of chant in the late twentieth century), of some Middle Eastern sects and in synagogues to direct the singing of liturgical songs (Hebrews probably learned cheironomy from Egyptians), and, more rarely, in some ancient Western religions.

The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians comments that the method is particularly developed in traditions lacking a written notation, including Vedic, Byzantine and Roman chants.

Jewish religious cheironomy can also be found as mnemonic signs in printed Hebrew Bibles, hanging above the text to be sung, in order to guide the cantor in his rendition of Biblical readings: see Cantillation.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • cheironomy — variant of chironomy …   Useful english dictionary

  • Conducting — For other uses, see Conduct (disambiguation) and Conductor (disambiguation). A conductor conducting at a ceremony …   Wikipedia

  • Хормейстер — (от хор и нем. Meister  мастер, начальник; нем. эквивалент Chorleiter)  руководитель хора, хоровой дирижёр. Хормейстер управляет (дирижирует) хором при разучивании новых и репетировании и исполнении новых и старых хоровых партий.… …   Википедия

  • Cantillation — is the ritual chanting of readings from the Bible in synagogue services.The chants are rendered in accordance with the special signs or marks printed in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh) to complement the letters and vowel points …   Wikipedia

  • Cherology — Not to be confused with Cheironomy or musical gestures. Cherology and chereme, sometimes chireme, (from Ancient Greek: χείρ hand ) are synonyms of phonology and phoneme previously used in the study of sign languages. A chereme, as the basic unit… …   Wikipedia

  • Hans Hickmann — Hans Robert Hermann Hickmann (b. Roßlau, Germany, May 19, 1908; d. Blandford Forum, England, September 4, 1968) was an eminent German musicologist. He lived in Egypt and specialized in the music and organology of Ancient Egypt, and survivals… …   Wikipedia

  • chi|ron|o|my — «ky RON uh mee», noun. the art of indicating a melody to a choir by hand motions, used in directing Gregorian chant. Also, cheironomy. ╂[< Greek cheironómos pantomimist < cheír, os hand + nómos (related to némein manage)] …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.