Are the Solesmes Editions Justifiable (1957) - Robert Carroll
  • In the February, 1957, number of Caecilia, ... an article appeared under the by-line of Dom Gregory Murray, O.S.B., which took as its subject the question of chant rhythm, and which also spent a considerable amount of its allotted space in discussing the Solesmes method. While we cannot enter into the various aspects of the problem as set forth by Dom Gregory, ... we should, for the sake of clarification, discuss two points which, it seems to us, have been left unclear in the wake of this article, and which are vital in the very discussion proposed by Dom Gregory.

    The first point is Dom Gregory Murray's concern that many place "blind trust" in the Solesmes editions. The second is whether the Solesmes editions adequately represent the ancient rhythmic signs. Robert Carroll responds to this second point by discussing the Solesmes annotation of the Gradual Eripe me as an example of their faithfulness to the manuscripts. Especially interesting to me is his explanation of the roles of the vertical episema (the "ictus") and more generally the Solesmes method in achieving this fidelity.
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  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,494
    I'm always fascinated by what a hot topic the finer points of Gregorian interpretation was in the 50s. Now, it sounds like a discussion of inner-voice balance of the Titanic deck orchestra.
    Thanked by 2Liam Andrew Malton
  • In reference to the melisma on the last syllable of méis in the graduale Eripe me, Carroll says
    The printed edition gives the distropha, the clivis with a short first note, and an editorial sign indicating the deliberate thetic fall of the final note which is what Solesmes considers to be a good interpretation of the somewhat indefinite episema of the MS. (p. 18)
    The "editorial sign" is an example of the "ictus" mark being used to represent a rhythmic sign found in the manuscripts.

    The monograph, Are the Solesmes Editions Justifiable, was the second of three responses penned by Carroll to Dom Gregory Murray's article, "Plainsong Rhythm", which appeared in the February 1957 issue of Caecilia. Carroll also wrote the relatively irenic response "The Forest and the Trees" (Caecilia, May 1957), and a somewhat more terse Editorial in the Mar-April 1957 Gregorian Review. The editor of Caecilia, Rev. Francis Schmitt, responded to the latter with his own dyspeptic editorial, "The Bunny Hop" in the August 1957 Caecilia to which Carroll answered with apologies in the Sept.-Oct. Gregorian Review. The booklet attached to this thread should really be included in the journal archives for 1957 to provide a complete picture of this exchange of views.
    Thanked by 2Andrew Malton Elmar
  • Well, that was a fun read for an otherwise sleepy Sunday afternoon!

    "...to what depths of musical insensitivity it is possible to be reduced by living exclusively on the self-administered drug of a home-made theory..."

    "If the ictus were to draw intensity to itself, in the manner of modern metrical downbeats in our more vigorous dance music, what would be the point in discussing the accent at all?"

    "We do not have, at this printing, the proper accent marks for either French or German quotations. We beg your temporary forbearance in this matter. Meanwhile, we are sure that readers of these languages will know what the accents an impacts ought to be."

    Good times.