How does one teach semiology?
  • Coemgen
    Posts: 8
    I want to 'raise awareness' among my friends of medieval performance of plainsong. I imagine the best starting place is in the paleography of the medieval notations, but I have a hard time deciding what to communicate in what order. No matter which angle I approach it from, it's just too easy to get mired in details that don't matter to the unscholar.

    Are there teaching tools out there, tutorials, curricula, that kind of thing, actually accessible to the public? I've read in articles mention of Cardine's and Agustoni's methods of teaching their students about this stuff, but where can I learn those methods of pedagogy so that I can reproduce them? Ideas?
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • Hugh
    Posts: 156
    I base my semiological interpretations on Ensemble Organum's rendition of the offertory antiphon "Tui Sunt Caeli" which is on their recording "Messe du Jour de Noel" (youtube has this). I don't know if it's authentically medieval or not, but I love it, so what the heck.
    Thanked by 2Jes Arthur Connick
  • Priestboi
    Posts: 132
    I would be happy to assist putting a brief curriculum together, but that would mean that you will have to guide me on what the outcome is and take it from there. I am sure that i would learn a great deal, so i am very keen. PM me when you have a moment.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • JesJes
    Posts: 374
    I often use this poster when looking at my triplex. Which reminds me I have to send this on.

    I read up on cardine but follow Hugh's inspiration so my posters are based on cardine articles but I sing the chant based off what Hugh taught me.
    I guess the thing that helped me learn from him was that he was consistent in his approach to episemas etc. it was easy to get a hang of that way. Now I'd rather follow a semiology conductor than a solesmes one.

    2448 x 3264 - 2M
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 271
    What? No repercussions? This will have many repercussions!
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  • Andrew Malton
    Posts: 589
    When you write a mordant or trill sign under a round note in five line notation, it means a trill. Only in transcriptions of Gregorian have I seen it used for anything else -- namely "do here whatever you him a quilisma is".

    Why not interpret the quilisma a bit -- at least write a tiny round note, like an appogiatura sign -- to suggest the usual performance?
  • Priestboi
    Posts: 132
    I like both Solesmes and the many other ways of singing chant. I feel that we need a standard and then allow for "local custom". I generally like using Solesmes notation, speed it up, move towards the highest note in a quilisma and only really pause on a dotted note or "grow/swell" on an episma. Probably not a great way to do things, but the result is pleasing. Unfortunately 99% of chant that I hear is way too slow, no wonder people do not enjoy it. Allow the words to speak and the melody to ebb and flow as it wishes.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,660
    Why not interpret the quilisma a bit -- at least write a tiny round note, like an appogiatura sign -- to suggest the usual performance?

    Since the quilisma predates the modern-notation trill symbol, it is not obvious that the latter gives us a model of how to perform the former.
    Thanked by 2bhcordova JonathanKK
  • "99% of chant ... is way too slow." The Solesmes books indicate an approximate tempo of 144-160 notes per minute, depending on the chant. Is this too slow, or are choirs you are hearing singing slower than this?
  • "99% of chant... "
    Much of it is indeed too slow. Not actually 99%, but quite a bit. Especially that which often is heard being done according to what is supposed to be the so-called 'Solesmes method'. Chant done by this method does not, really, have to be slow, but very often it is sung at a snail's pace - and it is astonishing that, inspired by its glacial tempo, snickers are not heard. (Is it any wonder that people don't like chant when this is what they hear? [No, it isn't!].) Further, any books that suggest 'an approximate tempo of 144-160 notes per minute' is inviting a kabuki-like performance. This is as ridiculous in respect to chant as it is for a Beethoven sonata. Chant, like any other music, must live and breathe. There is elasticity in every chant, often within a single word. Imposing any tempo norms on it is to put it into shackles. Weather, the room, acoustics, the text, its meaning, message, or tale, the voices singing it, the choirmaster's expertise, the occasion, and on and on are the arbiters of chant tempo - NOT the metronome, nor any book's presumed parameters.

    The title of this thread is 'How does one teach semiology'. If the CMAA were really interested in real chant, it would have Fr Columba teaching semiology at its colloquia, and be publishing his chant literature and chant. It would have daily lectures and study sessions on Cardine's Gregorian Semiology. It would feature the likes of Marcel Perez and Alberto Turco at its colloquia. It would stop perpetrating the in-credible fiction that the 'solesmes-method'-that-isn't-the-Solesmes-method represents the last word in scholarship and anywhere-near-'correct' chant performance. Like Medicean chant, so called 'Solesmes method' chant is a period piece, that and nothing more. The last place to look for scholarly, authoritative, chant tutelage is in Liber Usualis.

    (I wish that I could place that passage in which Dom Saulnier defines 'the Solesmes method'. It sounds like semiology and would immediately discredit any claim on the Solesmes name by those who like to bandy 'Solesmes method' about as if it legitimised their academic cul de sac.)

    Back to learning semiology - look up Fr Columba's week long workshop at St Meinrad's Archabbey this summer and go to it. There is a bonus if you are an organist - you will get to play the abbey's large Goulding and Wood organ - a treat!

    Semiology is what Mocquereau would have developed had he outlived his times. It is the answer to his on-going studies that his successors discovered. Paleography leads ineluctibly to semiology. They are inseparable.
    Thanked by 1Vilyanor
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 271
    Aye, MJO. As Cardine repeatedly says, the tempo of chant is inherently contingent upon the rhythm of the text and of the syllable thereof.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Coemgen
    Posts: 8
    Such colloquium would entice me for sure! I have heard Fr. Columba Kelly has English materials. Has he provided any decent 'starter' material? I've seen his translation of Agustoni's book, and it's not bad but still a bit too academic.

    I am really more interested in ascertaining how to teach a semiological interpretion to newbies from scratch, on its own merit, than basing it on a constant comparison with the Solesmes method like many people seem to do (admittedly, it's too easy to do so). For instance, I can teach basic neums, and build up the complexity, but simple orderly examples are scant. Paleographie Musicale doesn't exactly make for a good "semiological chant starter kit". The Antiphonale volumes might give something to start with if Solesmes had only included the neums, and then I could draft a gameplan from it.

    Jes's chart is nice and simple, but would like to see things taken further than just the rudiments.
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 298
    Historically, the system of chant theory which involves the rhythmic signs (ictus, etc.) and the arsis / thesis chironomy was promulgated and jealously guarded by the monks of Solesmes, and was in fact known in that time as the "Solesmes method".

    If you wish to say "old Solesmes method", well and good: but that the system proceeded forth into the world under the banner of Solesmes is undoubtable; this is borne out by the editions themselves, as well as by the literature expounding these ideas.

    * * * * *

    A strong point of this Solesmes method is that it really is a method.

    This method is comprehensive, flexible, follows a certain logic, and is also simple.

    This is possible, because it is theoretical / philosophical, rather than being strictly a historical reconstruction; nevertheless, this method was meant to be applied semiologically, and this is indeed possible.

    * * * * *

    But really, in what does this "Solesmes method" consist? Fundamentally, I think it is just a way of understanding 1) the idea that you must always have some kind of alighting point somewhere, lest you have a string of single pitches, with no hierarchy; and 2) that you must always have in the motion of the chant at least some kind of distinguishable rise and fall, lest you sing in a manner without life.
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