Organum Theory
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    For a Music History project, I'm going to attempt to write organal settings of some chants. Can anyone recommend any good resources for theory of organum?
  • Hanning's Concise Histrory of Western Music 2nd Edition has some simple analysis and samples of early organum starting on page 45. You could do something like simple parallell organum or use oblique motion for the vox organalis . . .
  • Gavin,

    Actually I have my students do exactly this for their first MH 1 project. If you are using the Grout/Palisca/Burkholder History of Western Music, look at the organum duplum setting in the anthology by Leonin. Take any gradual and treat it in the same way. As far as theory references, that's a good question. I'll look around and see what I can find. Micrologus by Guido talks about organum, for a period theory treatise.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    There's a step by step method for this that I just read... I'll see if I can find it.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    My schola wanted to try organum for Christmas chant. We are trying organum some parts of the chant, but it seems be hard for for the group who has to sing 4th below the melody suddenly at certain points. Awkard for their voice line. Incantu, did you find that step by step method you mentioned above?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I'd love to see that method too, incantu.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Glad this got bumped; I had forgotten all about it. Here is the bibliographic reference (from an article by Alejandro Enrique Planchart in A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music, ed. Duffin):

    Anonymous I. "Tractatus de Consonantiis Musicalibus," in Edmond de Coussemaker, Scriptorum de Musica Medii Aevi, 4 vols. (Paris, 1864-76; reprint Hildesheim, 1963), I, p. 300.

    The whole article is about organum and mentions several other prime sources on the subject.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Oh, blast. Those four volumes are non-circulating in my library. Do you know if that series has been digitized?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I just ordered Alejandro one. It looks good.
    Thanks
    Mia
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I'm not even sure it's been translated. The original quotation is in Latin, but there are musical examples.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    In my limited experience with organum and single-sex ensembles, it seems to be easier for folks to sing a 5th above as opposed to a 4th below.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    Taking the theory into practice, I'd like recommendations of good recordings of chant with organum added. Leontin and Perotin need not apply. I've heard some from Spain, but more would be good.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    So Mary Jane, when the group sings the 5th above only in certain parts of the chant, do you have them sing the melody and jump to 5th above melody when it's time, or they just join only for that parts? I hope I'm making any sense to you.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    This isn't parallel fourths or fifths, but it's very attractive:

    Ave Maria I (Psallentes, from Belgium)

    Just a pedal tone in places. Easy. Effective. A bit like gilding the text with gold.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    For Advent Sunday Mass, we add a drome note to the 'Mary Berry' version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel & On Jordan's Bank (Praetorius). This works out well since we use no organ for any part of our EF Mass with the exception of the Third Sunday. The drone note can work well with some short propers as long as the piece does not wander far from its original tonal center. However adding a drone could sound 'gimicky' if used too often.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    I'm a big drone/ison fan. However, it does need to be very judicious in its use. When you "go byzantine" and use it heavily, you'll find the singers often have trouble truly holding the pitch. Their first instinct is to open their mouths and quite literally "drone," slowly flatting as the piece progresses. They need to put the rhythm into the ison, either by using the text or learning how to add the pulse to an open sound. Put the good singers down there.

    Miacoyne - It's nice if you just add the singers and take them in and out, rather than diverting resources from the main chant. Of course, if you don't have that luxury....
  • Are we only talking parallel organum here? Gets kind of old. I'll take that Leonin and Perotin discant organum that MJ doesn't want any old time!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I thought the parallel organum is the easiest for a beginning schola. But not as easy as I thought. If the orgnum group have to jump up and down to reinforce the melody because there aren't enough people, it seems that it's harder than singing just 4 part music. At least 4 part music has nice voice line for their harmony parts. I was hoping some sort of magic trick to make it easier to sing.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    There's a whole lot of improvised organum between strict parallel and composed discant. But parallel should be easy enough to accomplish. Try it on the verses only of Veni Emmanuel. I'd start on D, so it doesn't get too high for the tenors (who sing with the altos "below" the melody).
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    What I try to do was Puer natus, since it's Christmas, something different. Instead of organum all the way, I wanted to do it on 'Alleluia ' to highlight and and maybe the last phrase. (just for a few verses to give a variety) I have men and women, so men can have 4th below. (I don't have enough ladies to go 5th up) Anyway the men had a hard time singing melodies and doing 4th on Alleluia. Bad idea? Maybe it's better to have men come in only those parts.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I picked up that treatise at the university library. Should be a fun weekend. I get to translate Latin on the fly!
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Here's an interesting wiki on the Magnus Liber Organi. Notice this part:
    As stated before, organa were reliquaries. They held the holy chant. For this reason, the music was written to praise God rather than to edify participants of the service. The words are unintelligible, but that did not matter because the songs of the Magnus Liber were directed to the Divine.
    If true, that is a very interesting concept.

    Also, in the wiki on the Notre Dame School of polyphony, we find this:
    Contemporary composers such as Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt cite the music of the Notre Dame School as an influence on their work.
    So medieval music isn't a "throwback," but a set of musical values and procedures that contemporary composers can use. They remain perfectly valid, and obviously inspiring.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Gustave Reese has a lot of examples in his Music in the Middle Ages (1940, Norton).

    And by the way, "organum" is a variety of techniques, not just parallel melody a fourth or fifth below/above. The Enchiriadis for example describes a free organum that uses oblique motion at the opening until an interval of a fourth is reached, after which the piece proceeds in parallel until closing on the unison.

    "John Cotton" calls free organum "diaphony" and observes that it mixes unisons, octaves, fifths, and fourths, all while valuing contrary motion (!) and voice crossing, and describing various ways of dealing with spacing.

    A French description in Ad organum faciendum puts the organal part above the chant and recommends avoiding the tritone by consistently using the b-flat. (Others tried to avoid it by prohibiting the organal voice from descending below the fourth or third tone in the lowest tetrachord.)

    The Winchester Tropers has 150 two-part organa for responsorial chants of the Mass and Office, Ordinary, tropes, and sequences. Surely someone has made a modern transcription of it.
  • There is a 1973 AMS reprint of Walter H Frere's 1894 edition with commentary of the Winchester Troper. Though it is likely not now in print, a used copy, if one could find it, would be a treasure.