The word "Chant" in the GIRM (USA)
  • Elmar
    Posts: 134
    While looking into the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (3rd edition) for a discussion about the Offertory I got intrigued by the use of the word "chant" in the GIRM for the USA as a translation for "cantus" in the Latin version (for the Universal Church). As an example, I take the articles about the Entrance (47-48).

    The Latin "cantus" can mean either the (action of) singing or that which is being sung. When the former fits, the USA-GIRM does translate with "singing" (48 last sentence):
    "Si ad introitum non habetur cantus, ..." = "If there is no singing at the Entrance, ..."
    But when the latter fits, the translation is throughout "chant", sometimes even with a capital letter.
    47: "... dum ingreditur sacerdos ... cantus ad introitum incipitur" = "... as the Priest enters ... the Entrance Chant begins"
    48: "Peragitur autem a ... vel simili modo ... vel ... vel ..." = "This chant is sung ... or similarly ... or ... or ..." ("cantus" is only implied in Latin, so why not translate by "it"?)
    "Adhiberi potest sive ... sive alius cantus ... congruus ..." = "... options for the Entrance Chant: (1) ... (4) another liturgical chant that is suited ..." (again in the beginning "cantus" only implied)

    In my understanding, the English word "chant" describes a style (or rather, a bunch of them) of sacred music: in unison, following text rythm rather than a meter, modal melodies etc., with Gregorian chant, Ambrosian chant or Anglican chant as typical examples.
    Is this meant to be implied in the GIRM? I doubt it, as it says e.g. in no. 48 about the 3rd option: "a chant ... including Psalms arranged in ... metrical forms" (no corresponding sentence in Latin) - that would be a contradiction in terms.

    I can imagine that translating "cantus" by "song" souds too profane, but "chant" souds too musically restrictive on the other hand. Or is that intended? The USCCB document Sing to the Lord:Music in Divine Worship calls it "Entrance chant or song" (no.139-144) in reference to GIRM 48, which to me seems to better match the Latin original.

    Anyone who can help further?
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,756
    This was mooted back in 2011 or thereabouts as some others preceded you in your interest on this point, and the relevant staff at the USCCB indicated the use of the term intended no such restrictive meaning. (Which was not shocking given that one of the tics in the final translation process was a habit of using homophonic Latinate English words.) And that was that. If you search, you might be able to find a discussion of this on these boards from that time. In general, hopes of finding magical silver bullet word choices have proven to be in vain.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • [I'm chuckling at your use of "mooted", Liam, in a thread about how words are multifaceted. In America, the expression "a moot point" means not "one up for discussion", but "a point which has no useful contribution to make"]

    Elmar,

    We can usefully search, I think, in a chest marked " sacral language". Chant is the special kind of singing proper to and appointed for the august ceremonies which the Church proposes for the worship of Almighty God. American bishops going back decades (and, it turns out, translators of missals) have an aversion to sacral language and beautiful translations.

    In another situation, we have the word for "say". I don't think you would be on a strong footing if you claimed that the Sursum Corda dialogue shouldor mustbe followed by a spoken Sanctus, merely because the text has the word "dicentes".
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,756
    I was aware of that and used the verb (not adjective) in a conventional process sense as one might in a board or committee: to bring up something for discussion, chew through it, but without any change ensuing. The opposite sensibility comes from the adjective "unripe": something that is not yet ready to be considered. (The relevant specific US legal context is that, other than state supreme courts in Massachusetts and its daughter state of Maine (which can and do issue advisory opinions to their respective sister governmental branches), courts only adjudicate active cases and controversies, and mootness and unripeness are disqualifiers.)

    Btw, among other things, were one to read "chant" in the restrictive way, it would likewise eliminate polyphonic propers. Et cet.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Elmar
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    I think there is far too much parsing of documents to justify whatever one wants them to say.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,756
    Charles

    It's a magical view of documents. Across the spectrum. It's an understandable reaction to treating documents as a reference point rather than as something that binds, but in the end it's something of a reactive tendency that can blind us to how we as humans tend to get in our own way. Because I've spent decades counseling clients, I have a habit of warning people to understand how the way they want to interpret/read a document may come back to bite them in unwelcome ways; it's rarer than we imagine to find an interpretive rule that does not carry that risk. Put your big boy pants on, as it were, and be prepared to accept consequences: no, people don't want that, but, to mix metaphors, try adding interpretive epicycles to make their Ptolemaic logical cosmos still seem to work.

    This is not helped by the fact the people are strongly disinclined to understand their opponents' arguments in their best and strongest sense, and instead prefer prolepsis against weaker interpretations thereof; that's rife these days.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Elmar
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,113
    Maybe the Ents among us should head to Fangorn Forest for an Entmoot in Derndingle Dell.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,756
    See question 1 on page 2 from the January 2012 USCCB's BCDW newsletter:

    http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/newsletter/upload/newsletter-2012-01.pdf

    Thanked by 2Elmar CHGiffen
  • Elmar
    Posts: 134
    Interesting document, Liam! Point settled.
    I guess, another item needs to be added to the dictionaries to cover this new meaning of "chant".

    I have not found (yet) the earlier discussion of the subject in this forum, but a lot other interesting stuff along the way concerning the introduction of the 3rd edition Missal and its rubrics - great read!
  • They opted for cognates most of the time. That’s about it, unfortunately.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    I have had many folks, mostly of the TLM persuasion, tell me "chant" means only Gregorian and the listing of options from one to four indicates priority. I don't think that was the intent of the writers of GIRM or the folks who revised the missal. Apparently, chant means song and the numbering indicates four possible options, all equally valid. Discuss among yourselves.
  • In English, as all English speakers know, 'chant' means chant, 'plain chant', 'Gregorian chant'! 'Chant' refers strictly to the historic repertory of ritual melody that we call 'chant'. While it may be used to refer to the ritual incantations of other religions it maintains a strictly sacred reference. Only the disingenuous and facetious would feign that it meant 'song', much less any 'apt' song. All in the Anglophone world know what 'chant' is and what it isn't. Schubert's Ave Maria or Erl Konig, or that old favourite, 'By the Light of the Silvery Moon', are songs, not chants. A hymn, such as 'Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven', is a hymn, not a chant. And so on.

    I suspect that the use of the word 'chant' in the English GIRM is yet more of the (most likely deliberate) duplicity of those responsible for our liturgical matters and texts. What is said means the opposite of what is said. These are the same folk who gave us '...or another apt...', knowing full well that 'apt' would be taken to mean whatever any given speaker would wish it to mean, that, being intended to be interpreted in an entirely subjective frame, it has no objective reference. And so it is with 'chant'. It doesn't mean chant.

    In France, by contrast, chant may very well mean chant or a song. Hence a chanteur or chanteuse, of which latter Edith Piaf was an example. It may or may not be so in other languages.
    Thanked by 2Ralph Bednarz dad29
  • This was mooted back in 2011 or thereabouts as some others preceded you in your interest on this point, and the relevant staff at the USCCB indicated the use of the term intended no such restrictive meaning. And that was that.


    . . . "That" was hardly "that." (At least, not for the thoughtful.)

    I rarely agree with the Right Honorable M. Jackson Osborn, but in this case I believe he's dead on target.

    Liam, you reference a statement by the USCCB committee. The problem is, that committee contradicts itself on crucial issues all the time. It is simply insufficient to say “that is that,” although I agree it's tempting to take that route.

    M. Jackson is correct—words have meanings. And (unfortunately for certain committees) decrees that have been issued in the past use other words...which also have meanings.
    Thanked by 1dad29
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,756
    And that was that.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    What all this does to musicians in the loft - or another suitable place - is create stress. Even in what we would consider "good" places to work, the ambiguity from authorities creates unnecessary stress and puts us in the middle. The middle being between factions who can't agree on what church music is or should be. It is, apparently, too much to ask for the bishops to issue clear and authoritative instructions and demand all follow them. Wonder if other denominational musicians have it any better?
  • Example of what Charles identifies (artificially created, to illustrate a point):

    The bishops saidHave you ever heard of anything so stupid as the claim that Gregorian chant should have pride of place in Catholic worship

    gets quoted as

    The bishops affirm "Gregorian chant should have pride of place in Catholic worship"



  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    I think the "pride of place" thing is a dodge, too. They should have said it has first place. Pride of place is easily misunderstood as nothing more than an opinion, not anything binding. The regulations have the tone of you can do X, but also Y and Z, except when the moon is full and it is raining.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • "Our entrance chant is #549 Gather Us In" That's not English. Only academics can twist things like this.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,756
    And bureaucrats fond of relying on cognate/homophonic words for translation.

    And that was that.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Since the first source for the propers is the Graduale Romanum, it's only natural that the term for singing the Mass is "chant".

    The Latin word isn't "canticum", which would readily correspond to "canticle" or "song".
  • Since the first source for the propers is the Graduale Romanum, it's only natural that the term for singing the Mass is "chant." The Latin word isn't "canticum," which would readily correspond to "canticle" or "song."


    Chonak: well said.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    And that is that