Restoring medieval chants from scratch - how hard is it?
  • Coemgen
    Posts: 34
    This is mostly a thought experiment, but here it goes:

    Let's say I intend to type the electronic contents of an upcoming new-and-improved antiphon book for a science project.
    The catch of the experiment is to draft these antiphons from scratch, i.e. from medieval manuscripts.
    To make it challenging, there is a requirement of musicological analysis: I must compare medieval forms to modern forms, and to variants, and make a judgment call, or else hybridize, into a new and improved version, all depending on the circumstances of each antiphon. The method, oversimplified, is:

    1. Get melodic shape from a Solesmes antiphoner.
    2. Get similar melodic shape from an 11th-century antiphoner.
    3. Get rhythmic shape from a 10th-century antiphoner.
    4. Do musicological analysis. (Magic!)
    5. Write 'restored' melody into a notebook that can be passed on to a typist, who will electronify it for use in new publications.

    But how to go about doing all this efficiently? I could pull this off in, say, three years, by diligently working one page per night, five nights per week. But the keyword is 'diligently'. With family, full-time job, and procrastination, it's hard to stick to it!

    Plus, this is the kind of work one would commission to a monastery or a group of grad students or to one's own children if one is so twisted. And most monks, grad students, and children don't have the wizardry (i.e. musicology, semiography, paleography training) to pull off the 'magic' step. So it's nigh impossible to find help.

    Tips? Thoughts?
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,198
    Cantus is your friend...

    This may also help,

    Useful Antiphonale, easy to read!
    Paris Breviary 1201-1300

    Salzinnes Antiphonal 1554

    The Augsburg Antiphonal, 1580 (DK-Kk 3449 8o [01] etc.)

    An easy to use Font so you can type the chant, it may not work in Word!

    OR gabc
    Thanked by 1Coemgen
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,946
    For the diligence aspect, this is a great book.
    Thanked by 1Coemgen
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 631
    Why are you trying to reinvent the wheel. The monks at Solesmes already did all of that for you.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,279
    The classic Solesmes editions (through the 1974 Graduale) are based on the melodies in the Vatican Graduale of 1902, so I think it may be possible to draw on materials newly found or reinterpreted since then.

    On the other hand, there is also the scholarly work which produced the Graduale Novum.
  • joerg
    Posts: 64
    I know of only one antiphon book where the process is made transparent by which the editor arrived at a specific melody for all the antiphons: it's the recent (2016) "Antiphonae et Responsoria pro diurnis horis ..., Tomus I -- Tempus Adventus et Nativitatis." The editor is an anonymous Gruppo di Studio from Verona (most probably lead by Alberto Turco). According to this book justifying a melody for an antiphon is very, very hard. You have to compare not only the melodies of different manuscripts but in many cases you have to compare also similar melodies for other antiphons. In some cases an entire page of this book is devoted to the justification of a single antiphon melody.
  • VilyanorVilyanor
    Posts: 329
    I followed a very similar process to restore the melodies for the Nuptial Mass propers from a 13th century manuscript over the summer, and this is the stuff I really love doing, so if you're open to or able to commission help, I'd love to.
  • The Antiphonale Synopticum has done something similar:

    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Coemgen
  • JesJes
    Posts: 419
    Seconding the statement cantus is your friend.
    Also what Chonak said...
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,279
    cantus is your friend

    Oh, yes. Didn't Maria Muldaur sing that in "Midnight at the Oasis"?
  • Coemgen
    Posts: 34
    All wonderful stuff. Thanks, guys. I'm aware of Cantus, but the straightforward index in that Regensburg link is most attractive.

    I am basically analyzing the collective paleography/semiography method so far, in order to make sense of it all. With all the research I've done, I am not satisfied that Solesmes or anybody out there really knows what he's doing when it comes to interpretation. So I want to learn about the process, to see for myself, how challenging it is, how easy it might be to misinterpret the data, what kind of minds it should take to pull off a faithful reconstruction, and to what degree that actually has or hasn't been done.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,292
    I am not satisfied that Solesmes or anybody out there really knows what he's doing when it comes to interpretation.

    No comment necessary.
    Thanked by 1igneus
  • Coemgen
    Posts: 34
    Only healthy skepticism, my friend. I love the chant of St. Gregory, and so I want to trace the mainstream methods of scholastic reconstruction because I don't trust what I've seen so far is faithful to the first-millennium tradition.

    For instance, general naivety in note choices, coupled with lack of sound comparative analysis. If a manuscript has a significative letter marking it 'high', that doesn't always mean it's higher than it normally was. Same with rhythmic signs, which are always assumed accurate, ignoring the very real prospects of slovenliness (only partly accounted for by semiologists) and corruption in the memory (not accounted for at all). An incorrect a-priori assumption that the earliest manuscripts were nigh flawless blinds modern scholars from seeing mnemonic corruptions in the music that any musicologist would notice immediately. Heavy disjointedness with Old Roman chant. Has anybody bothered to ask how in the world we got the tristropha, which is almost always parallel to a torculus? Not to mention an utter silence on the ancient Theorists in semiology literature over the past 50 years.

    It baffles me how we got to today's interpretations, so I'm looking to see where we went wrong since 1960. Of course, I don't need to explain my skepticism, since this is to satisfy my own curiosity, unless you're genuinely curious about details. I know everyone else here loves the chant as much as I do, and so it wouldn't be off topic, I think.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn