Old Solesmes, anti-Solesmes, New Solesmes: The Eternal Question
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,696
    Which sounds the best? What kind of "best?"

    Which is best for teaching a beginning schola?

    Which is best for leading a congregation that is chanting, for example an ordinary or the Adoro Te?

    Which is best for a schola singing by itself, for example an Offertory?

    Which is best for a solo singer?

    Also, why?
  • igneusigneus
    Posts: 197
    Medicea!
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 5,109
    The interesting (or, an interesting) aspect of the Solesmes disputes is the degree of ossification involved. There is little or no evolution. To most self-styled Solesmes people there is The Solesmes Method, which to wiser folk is the Old Solesmes Method, which to more wiser folk is but a phase of an ongoing phenomenon. Doms Saulnier and Cardine? Um, who are they to tell us what is Solesmes!? Champions of the OSM seem actually to believe that it is the timeless and non-time-specific method for the correct singing of chant from now to the end of time. This is rather akin to a proponent of Medicean chant or XVIIth century French Plain chant musical who could not grant legitimacy to any other manner of chant and believed that it could never change. All of these 'methods' are historical relics which are of equal historical but of no academic or scholarly worth in relation to the earliest recorded chant notation.

    This is my impression of OSM people (and, I'm trying to be fair-minded). This method seems to me to have a strangle hold on the CMAA and any chant books it produces, such as the vaunted Parish Book of Chant. It is a given that other methods are of no particular scholastic value or practical interest, that everyone will learn the (classic, or old, or whatever) Solesmes method. No effort is made by the CMAA elites to correct this blatant preference for a method that is an historical relic, non-informed by current chant scholarship. It matters little whether the modifier 'old', 'classic', or whatever is used. It is the all-important usurpation of that great word 'Solesmes' which is essential to them to justify to the credulous unknowing their scholarly myopia.

    Kathy asks which sounds best - 'old', 'new', 'anti-', etc. I think that 'Mocquereau method' (or, even, 'the Liber Usualis method') would be the most honest and historically accurate. There is no 'Solesmes method' because Solesmes has gone through an evolutionary process in its chant and no wayside in the process can justifiably be called definitively 'Solesmes'.

    I shant go further into a discussion of semiology and its claim to the banner of legitimate chant research and scholarly progress in the past few decades. That would, perhaps, be to traduce Kathy's theme. But, the spectre of it cannot be ignored by genuine chant scholars.
    Thanked by 3Kathy CCooze CHGiffen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,696
    I'm not sure it's fair to suggest that all CMAA publications are old/classic/whatever Solesmes.

    And thank you for hearing my real questions, which are what sounds best? What works best?
  • JahazaJahaza
    Posts: 454
    To my mind, the advantages of the Old Solesmes method are two. 1) You can teach musically educated people to understand the basics in a short amount of time. 2) You can put together a choir of people who don't sing together regularly and make music, because you have roughly the same rhythmic understanding. The realities of a parish where you sing many chant services together with volunteers and not a huge amount of rehearsal... or a religious house where people don't stay for decades... or a seminary/college where people cycle in and out. Gives this advantages.

    All of these 'methods' are historical relics which are of equal historical but of no academic or scholarly worth in relation to the earliest recorded chant notation.

    Liturgical music isn't (as I'm sure you'd agree) about reconstructing the earliest practice. Certainly scholarship is important and historically informed performance can be great when it's something that can be done, but there will inevitably be compromises.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,057
    Just FYI : at the past Colloquia, there have been three semiologists on faculty: Jeffrey Morse, Charles Cole, and Edward Shaffer; and other people include elements of semiology in the basic framework of the OSM, such as Dr. Mahrt.

    I suppose that one of the things that OSM has going for it for beginners is a standardized method of conducting -- as modern music does. Morse, Cole, and Shaffer, while all completely clear in their execution and intent, have completely different methods of directing, which could potentially be confusing for a chant novice used to modern music.
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 5,109
    Well-founded points, Jahaza;

    With respect -
    Does the so-called Solesmes method have a monopoly on being easily apprehended by amateurs in the ways you describe above? I think not. Of course, you are quite correct in your virtual assertion that chant for liturgy is not (necessarily) an exercise in what would be a 'correct' historical performance. Is the so-called Solesmes method itself not understood to be just such a 'reconstruction'? Even revered as The Infallible Reconstruction at the hands of the chant musicologist, Mocquereau? I believe that the basic premise is that it is. And, given that, what exempts it, as opposed to more currently educated 'methods', from being dismissed as a musicological exercise unsuited to liturgy? Nothing, I would suggest.
    _________________________________________________

    I think that it is a disservice to Mocquereau to freeze his work and conclusions into what some fondly call 'the (fill in the blank) Solesmes method'. Surely, had he had more birthdays, as new documentation and understanding came to light his views and conclusions would have matured and evolved, as happened with his successors at Solesmes. It is unthinkable to me that he wouldn't have embraced the onging research that has resulted in what we call semiology. Surely, he would not have insisted that the system sadly enshrined in Liber Usualis was the final word in chant knowledge. I do not believe that he thought that the research of his given time was the last word. He certainly did not believe that what went into Liber Usualis was the last word. It represents what he was able to do in the five years he was given by the pope instead of the fifty years and more that he had said would be required.
    ___________________________________________________

    And, with that, returning to Kathy's query - I think that...

    'Old Solesmes' is not altogether accurate.
    'Anti-Solesmes' is a bit cruel... rather unkind... and not altogether accurate.
    'New Solesmes' it seems to me would imply Cardinian methods - which are repudiated by 'Solesmes' folks of any stripe.
    'Eternal Solesmes' is, well, a patently bald and pretentious exaggeration!

    As I suggested way up above, it seems to me that, realistically, Solesmes chant is an historical process, an evolution begun by its XIXth century initiators and continued into the XXth and XXIst centuries. It cannot be understood with reference only to its earliest proponents, to Pothier, to Mocquereau, or, even, to Cardine and Saulnier. Its raison d'etre from the beginning was to restore chant performance as nearly as possible to its earliest manifestations, based upon painstaking study of the paleographic record. As such, it is an ever developing process based upon the earliest documentation and the timely scholarship which makes ever-expanding sense of it. So, there is no 'Solesmes method', no 'old Solesmes' nor any other Solesmes method, but an historical process which is not over. The real Solesmes method is this methodical, scholarly continuum of unfolding the musical import of the paleographic sources. Anyone who fails to assimilate current and evolving scholarship into his and her chanting is unworthy of being called Solesmes anything. In our day, to pick but one or two glaring examples of many that could be proffered, for people to insist on performing the quilisma precisely backwards and slavishly follow highly subjective 'rhythmic signs' that have no parallel in seminal documentation is astonishing. That they should tack the name of Solesmes onto their dated methodology as if nothing had evolved there (or anywhere else) in a century of years is a shameful pretense - and an insult to the goals and methods of the original Solesmes scholars.

    So, Kathy,
    I again suggest 'Mocquereau Method', or 'Liber Usualis Method', preferably the latter.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,057
    Perhaps "Non-Solesmes Method" would work, too.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,399
    Unfortunately, I encounter far too many people who say, "I hate chant." They don't distinguish between, or have any interest in, types of chant. They just hate it, period.
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  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 5,109
    Such is the nature of people who hate.
    Hate is hate.
    It is fundamentally irrational.
    It doesn't discriminate, nor can it.
    Those who hate are to be pitied.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,023
    CharlesW

    That's the SoLames School.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,399
    As one priest said about chant, "I hate that music. It makes my toes curl."
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 5,109
    .
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,210
    Told this story a million times. Before an ACDA convention, spent a couple of hours drinking Scotch and bs-ing with Roger Wagner. Asked him about all those rules in the preface to the Liber Usualis, said "...how does one interpret all that?"

    Roger was VERY clear: "Sing it as though it were MUSIC."

    Between that advice and understanding the pre-eminence of the Word (text), it becomes a lot easier to understand/sing, and easier to impart to singers, too. To the 'text' end, one might have a copy of Solesmes' Gregorian Missal handy; very good translations of the Propers. Yes, it also helps to know some Latin.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,000
    Having always known about episemas and quilismas, and having discovered the salicus, I have grown to feel the chant texts much better when all of these are used. Quilismas occur even during the Sursum corda, in all forms. Those sound silly without them. The salicus only reverses the first two notes' timings compared to the quilisma. If a congregation can handle an occasional episema or quilisma, then certainly a schola can hande a salicus!
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  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,417
    If a congregation can handle an occasional episema or quilisma, then certainly a schola can hande a salicus!


    It's not about if they can - it's about if they should.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,000
    Can? Should?

    I have decided, as it was taught to me at Coloquium, that the salicus is correct. I have been observing those rhythms for 10+ years. I'm willing to agree to disagree.

    There are also those who are so completely strict when playing hymns that the poor congregations sing Melita with 47 straight quarter-notes before getting a half-note. Even Navy midshipmen know that's not musical!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,485
    Musical. Sing it as a prayer. Don't over complicate what is so profoundly simple and natural.

    This is the same as asking "which crucifix is more correct?" How far should the knees of the corpus extend from the cross? How many thorns should grace that crown? Should the left foot be nailed atop the right or vice versa.

    Dont strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. In childlike fashion give praise to the Almighty with a pure heart from which comes a pleasing voice.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,399
    Dont strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.


    But then there would be no Latin theology left.

  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 5,109
    I'm confused, Charles - is the, um, Latin theology the gnat or the camel?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,399
    Both, if you take a Jesuitical approach.
  • Andrew Malton
    Posts: 619
    Not purple enough, @CharlesW.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,485
    in things doctrinal we must follow the law to the letter

    in things artistic we have great expanse of latitude

    with Latin we have the marriage of the two

    Follow the law
    Sing the chant (choose a school) in
    Latin... the language of our liturgy.
    Thanked by 1dad29
  • BGP
    Posts: 199
    Kathy, are you trying to stir turds? ;-) My take-

    Old Solesmes – by this I take it to mean the practical ideas of Dom Mocquereau including further and continual development by Gajard and others until about the early 1960s or so at which point all hell broke loose. I consider this http://media.musicasacra.com/books/applied_course_chant_carroll.pdf to represent it at near its most developed point. Some associate certain practices of Justine Ward with it such as counting 2s/3s (I believe this is Wardian I havn’t found evidence otherwise) I don’t consider this part of the method. Mocquereau himself was a musicologist/scholar on one hand and a musician on the other. His research is distinct from his practical method. In ‘old-Solesmes’ I find a practical way of harmonizing the different structural elements of the chant, paleographical/neum shape information, melodic movement, textual structure into a cohesive whole; it took me a long time to understand the underlying ideas.

    anti-Solesmes – I don’t know what you mean? Early-mid 20th century pre-Mocquereau style anti-neo(old) Solesmes? Germanic anti-French resistance to Solesmes? More recent musicological ‘it’s obsolete’ anti-Solesmes

    New Solesmes – Is what? Trying to incorporate recent musicological theory’s is fine but also to a degree a million things to a million different people. If we are talking about Cardine, well I think he is misrepresented. His research seemed to be concerned with proving, finally and decisively, that the rhythm of chant comes from the text and different neums don’t have fixed time values. Also, finding the most accurate interpretation of neums and standardizing them,( repercussion always on the strophae for example) and implementing them in actual performance. I think he succeeded at the first he wanted others to continue his work with the second but it seems to have been abandoned.

    The Eternal Question- where will you spend eternity? Hopefully chant interpretation choices are of minimal impact on the outcome.

    Which sounds the best? What kind of "best?" – Rather subjective, There are good and beautiful as well as poor performances from the various schools of interpretation. In my personal opinion well executed “old Solesmes” and “new Solesmes” are nearly nose to nose. Newer is maybe just a little more free and expressive, hard to get that slight edge cohesive enough with a group of ordinary non-pro folk though.

    Which is best for teaching a beginning schola? - I think that the leader of a new schola should get familiar with “old Solesmes” (even if they don’t prefer it they should understand what it is at the least) and get to where the principals are understood. I don’t think the ordinary singer needs to know much about it, I don’t think that counting rhythms are of strict necessity. For new scholas I feel the most important skills to develop are use of solfege and good vocalization (pronunciation, phrasing and accentuation) of Latin.
    Why?- 1. The leader of a schola will only benefit from understanding the different elements at play in the chant and how they interact. 2. Standardized treatment of neums. 3. It’s a systematic approach. 4. A new schola will start off with syllabic and neumatic chants all that is necessary for beautiful coherent performance is good phrasing and accentuation of the text ( I have yet to encounter any adherents of “old Solesmes” who mark up syllabic chants with ictuses). Good vocalization of the text is a prerequisite for decent performance regardless of interpretive school.

    Which is best for leading a congregation that is chanting, for example an ordinary or the Adoro Te? - Rote.
    Why?- They learn by rote imitating the choir, however the choir sings it, that’s it. What else realistically would you have them do?

    Which is best for a schola singing by itself, for example an Offertory? – Either, ‘Old-Solesmes’ or a responsible Semiological approach are good. I have come to conclude that ‘old Solesmes’ has an edge. It depends somewhat on situation and preferences. I would advocate that “OS” is the better choice.
    Why?- It is a system. My schola of ordinary people and mixed ability/experience can learn a new offertory (or Gradual or comparable level chant) to an at least acceptable level in 15-20 minutes. I can conduct on the fly without much, if any, preliminary work. If one adds over the next couple of weeks a couple of additional rehearsals the music becomes internalized and more polished, nuance can be incorporated and refined. It is my opinion that a practical approach is necessary to restore chant to actual liturgical practice and that being excessively scholarly limits the chant in actually getting out into the world.

    Which is best for a solo singer?- A free flowing expression of the text, study of the paleography can really bring out wonderful nuance and expression. This involves trial and error feeling out of the music from the page and giving it life.
    Why?- it is most expressive, fluid and free which is also most beautiful. It is considerably easier for a soloist to do this than a group.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 5,109
    BGP -

    Well and sensitively argued.

    We would have a good nuanced time agreeing and disagreeing about the aspects your address.

    As I outlined basically far above, I believe that 'Solesmes method', as a concept, is best understood as an historical scholarly continuum, not a thing frozen into just one scholar's conclusions limited by the understanding of his particular decade. I think that most of those who identify as 'Solesmes this or that' fail to appreciate that very continuum, but are frozen, petrified, into what, properly understood, is a mere hilltop in that continuum which has yet to reach the mountain top. Invaluable as Liber Usualis is, it is unfortunate that it has had the effect of making generations believe that its 'method' is infallible and final.

    I do appreciate your finely nuanced arguments. Ultimately, each choirmaster has to decide what approach to chant is most desirable for him and his people. The wise ones, though, will know that we are on a scholarly journey which is far from over. And, they will know that there is, these days, respectable scholarship about chant that originates elsewhere than from Solesmes. Myopia is the mother of Ignorance, the antithesis of all learning.
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  • BGP
    Posts: 199
    Thank you M. Jackson Osborn.

    Yes I think we could have an interesting conversation... I believe we have bumped noses on this subject on here in the past and I remember feeling somewhat misunderstood, of course this medium has it's limits for exchanging ideas.

    I think that if the collapse hadn't happened in the 60s the 'method' (I think 'system' is more accurate than 'method) would have continued to develop organically. Perhaps Cardine's work would have shaped it, I don't know.
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  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Justine Ward hindered development. Jeffrey Morse regularly reminds Colloquium attendees of this, and for what it is worth, his mentor, Dr. Berry, practiced the classical Solesmes method informed by semiology. I would add that the salicus according to the Solesmes editions is a real problem, even if practitioners of different schools find ways to chant in an agreeable manner. The manuscripts need to be resolved. If Solesmes thought better of adding some of its dots, which you can see were replaced by the episema, then one day it will rectify not only all of its dots (already attempted by Dr. Saulnier) but also other things like the salicus.
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  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,285
    I am reminded of all those detailed analyses of and debates on How to Chant, published in the early 1960s in the Caecilia and elsewhere. It was like standing on the deck of the Titanic, arguing about which intonation system the orchestra was using.

    We know Old Solesmes gives solid musical results (when used by real musicians). I have not heard other methods giving appreciably more musical results. The worst chant tradition is that held by those who are paralyzed by the notion that there's a right and wrong way to sing chant, and are paralyzed by that knowledge into not singing chant at all.

  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    I do wish that some apologists for Solesmes would stop saying that organum is illegitimate, that it’s too theatrical and dead or unmusical, or perhaps worst of all, ahistorical.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 5,109
    The worst chant tradition is that held by those who are paralyzed by the notion that there's a right and wrong way to sing chant.

    Hear, hear!
    Those who know it all don't and therefore can't learn it all.
    (Pity!)
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 429
    Hey! Those of us who know everything (and we are few and far between) don't need to learn anything else! We already know it all!
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