Stress of syllables
  • I watched a video about Gregorian rhythm.The expert in the video was Father Eduard Perrone.
    He said that one would say DI-es IR-ae but sing di-ES ir-AE.
    Do you agree with this?
  • While I certainly would agree that singing text can be different than spoken text in very specific ways, I would not really agree with his particular example, although I can see how one could consider it to be that way, particularly if using the Solesmes counting. But then I am not a big fan of Solesmes counting!

    I think - at the least - you would likely find other experts who would focus on using the natural rhythm of the text over a somewhat artificial construction from the music.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • Henrik,

    I know Father Perrone -- not well, but I have seen him in the flesh, live, at his parish in Detroit, have heard him preach at Mass, and have read his Pastor's Descant.


    What was the context of the statement? Was he discussing one way of understanding the ictus, or was he setting up the idea of tension between the syllables in the language and the accent as suggested by the ictus, or something else?
  • Ictus, yes.
    I quote him:
    "The word accent should not coincide with the ictus in syllabic chant".
    I find this wierd. I have only sung but never knew that one should sing like this.
    Why not just sing like we speak?
    Thanked by 132ContraBombarde
  • In the Solesmes tradition of syllabic chant rhythm, placement of the ictus on the final syllable of a word is preferred in an effort to create a smooth recitation which does not overemphasize the word accent. By musically stressing the non-accented syllable, it compensates for any natural tendency to overstress the primary word accent. This is specifically referenced in the so-called "rules" for interpretation in the Liber, which states that the ictus shall be placed " by following the melody, and preferring, first the endings of the words, secondly the accented syllables, while avoiding as much a possible the weak penultimate syllables. This is often the more excellent way for those who are musically alert." More excellent, that is, than the first simple option of simply counting back by two from the last known ictus as referenced earlier in the "rules."

    It can produce a nice, smooth recitation of more syllabic chants like the Dies Irae, if that's your goal. But I certainly wouldn't consider it the ideal in every scenario, and definitely don't follow it as a hard & fast rule. For singers unfamiliar or uncomfortable with Latin, it's often quite helpful to stress the word accent a bit, so maybe you want to align the musical and the primary word accent in that case. It's up to the director to interpret many aspects of the rhythm.

    For a deeper look into the thought process behind the Solesmes notions, here's their explanatory note on the topic from the Liber:

    IMPORTANT NOTE. - As we have already said, the dynamic value or
    strength of the ictus or rhythmic step varies considerably. Sometimes it is strong, sometimes weak; everything depends on the syllable to which it corresponds and the position it occupies in the melody (a). The fact therefore that this intensity varies is a proof that the ictus belongs not to the dynamic but to the rhythmic order; its being and influence are contributed and felt by elements from the melody and the text. The expression " the ictus is more in the mind than in the voice", has sometimes been misunderstood. The meaning will, perhaps, be clearer if we say that it is felt and intimated by tone of voice rather than expressed by any material emphasis. "When in addition to the independence of rhythm and intensity, we consider that the Latin accent is light, lifted up and rounded off like an arch, is not heavy or strongly stressed, is arsic and not thetic, we shall not be surprised to meet frequently in Plainsong accented syllables outside and independent of the ictus or rhythmic step, (a) Indeed the Plainsong masterpieces of the golden age clearly assert this independence. And this is perfectly musical, in full accord with the genius of the Latin language and the Roman pronunciation and accentuation so much desired by Pius X. To place the ictus or rhythmic step always and necessarily on the accented syllable, as modern musicians are wont to do in another idiom, would be, we maintain, to spoil the rhythm and melody, accent and words of our venerable melodies.

    (a) It is well known that from the text point of view the syllable or syllables after the accent must be relatively weak, while from the melodic point of view the great rule is: a slight and gentle crescendo in the ascending, and a similar decrescendo in the descending parts. This must always be done without sharp contrast! or exaggeration of any kind.
  • davido
    Posts: 121
    Basically, they want you to sing chant with the smoothness of tge French language, not with the lilt of Italian. Think stereotypical bouncy Italian accent - that’s what they are trying to avoid.
    The whole ictus vs stressed syllable thing is a convoluted way to achieve this. Just sing good legato phrases and you’ll be fine.