Fugal polyphonic chant pieces?
  • Geremia
    Posts: 135
    Polyphonic chant is said to be the precursor to counterpoint like fugues, but are there any fugal polyphonic chant pieces?

    I suppose the technical term for what I'm calling "fugal polyphonic chant" would be "heterophonic chant" (i.e., same or similar melody but staggered over the various voices in time).
  • CGM
    Posts: 462
    I think you may be confusing fugues and canons. With fugues, the thematic motive is usually the same from voice to voice for the first couple of measures, but after that the counterpoint develops differently in different voices. What you describe, the same melody throughout, would be a canon, where the melody is imitated exactly in the different voices (although at different pitch levels). Two that spring to mind: one is the four-voice "In te Domine speravi" of Hassler, and the other is the 24-voice "Qui habitat" by Josquin Desprez. Both are canonic, rather than fugal.
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  • JesJes
    Posts: 521
    Sicut cervus has to be probably the most memorable canonic polyphonic work out there yeah? It's not entirely the same but it's a great example for theory students.
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  • JesJes
    Posts: 521
    As for chant, yes, there is such a thing as chant done in canon. You have to pick very carefully but some that do work are Adoro te devote, veni veni emmanuel, and I have heard dies irae performed somewhat canonically.
    In my improvisations I try to play the chants as canons occasionally and those three have been ones I have managed to do with some success.
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  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,192
    The Antiphon of my Communion setting of Gustate et videte is a strict 3-part canon, with one voice a perfect fourth above the initial voice and the third at the unison.
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  • Geremia
    Posts: 135
    So, nothing strictly fugal, but only canonic?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,493
    The closest things to a fugal chant that I can think of is the opening "Credo" from Bach's B Minor Mass.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJGYtcelH-k

    If I remember correctly, the canonic techniques of the early Renaissance developed from a choral medium to the keyboard 'Ricerecare', and then into what we call today Fugue. So the earliest fugues that I can think of are still keyboard works. I am sure that some were based on chant, but probably just with the opening incipit being used as the fugal subject, rather than the whole chant-melody being employed. If the whole melody is employed in each voice verbatim (or by adjusting intervals to stay in the proper key, as in an interval canon or an inversion canon) it is by definition a canon, not a fugue.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,192
    The lines among canon, fugue, and imitative counterpoint can be rather blurred ones at times. Certainly Palestrina and Josquin, as well as other Renaissance composers engaged in both imitative counterpoint and canon writing that, in some cases, could be called fugal, complete with successive entrances of a subject with departing lines after a certain point to account for the harmonic and other contrapuntal structure.

    And sometimes this was done with a subject taken from chant. One nice example is how Palestrina treats the chant melody in his alternatim setting of "A solus ortis cardine" ... the voices enter in quick succession, similar to those in a canon, but the effect is still rather fugal in structure, thanks to the successive verses and their interpretations,

    http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/images/d/dd/Palestrina-A_solis_ortus_cardine.mp3
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  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Bach motets anyone?
    Polyphony is polyphony.
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  • Geremia
    Posts: 135
    Bach motets anyone?
    Did he write any in Latin?
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Did he write any in Latin?

    There's a smattering of Aramaic sprinkled in, Geremia.
    But being Joe Lutheran, German was his métier.
    The criteria was polyphonic and fugal, mais oui?
  • Jes says, '...somewhat canonically...'

    I should imagine that the 'key word' here is 'somewhat'!
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    It is important to remember that both canon and fugue are procedures, they are not, like sonata allegro form (if we consent to count 'sonata' a form rather than a family of forms), rondo, binary, ternary (if strict ternary exists) etc., 'forms'. Another 'form' that is a 'procedure' and not a 'form' would be chaconne or passacaglia. Another would be theme and variations. Canon is, by definition, the (usually) 'strict' imitation of the entire subject, or melodic progression, at one or more specified intervals, whereas fugue may or may not employ strict imitation, but varies even that with subject development and the possible introduction of ancillary themes, and secondary sections (episodes) with their own subject matter. Canons have a pedigree that reaches into the late mediaeval era. Fugal procedure developed, as Salieri noted, from the renaissance ricercar (there is a direct line from Frescobaldi et al., to Buxtehude et al., to Bach) and has not been surpassed since Bach spoke with infallible and final authority on the matter.

    A canonic or fugal subject must inherently lend itself to any or all the following forms of imitation: strict, harmonic or modal, inversion, stretto, diminution, augmentation, retrograde, etc. Such a 'subject' would be, I think, very difficult to find in our chant repertory. Perhaps one could use just a snipet, or an incipit, of a given chant as a fugal subject. Some hymn tunes work in canon, most don't (though the Lutherans are more talented than others at daring canonical treatment of hymn tunes that others would shrink from - and!, their entire congregations sing them heartily).
  • Somewhere, there's a video of making a fugue subject out of Madonna's Like a Virgin, if we want to see some interesting fugue-related stuff. I can't find it just now.