Gregorian chant originates from ancient Jewish psalmody?
  • Geremia
    Posts: 264
    "The Mass of Vatican II" by Joseph Fessio, S.J.
    the Psalms are songs. Every one of the 150 Psalms is meant to be sung; and was sung by the Jews. When this thought came to me, I immediately called a friend, a rabbi in San Francisco who runs the Hebrew School, and I asked, "Do you sing the Psalms at your synagogue?" "Well, no, we recite them," he said. "Do you know what they sounded like when they were sung in the Old Testament times and the time of Jesus and the Apostles?" I asked. He said, "No, but why don't you call this company in Upstate New York. They publish Hebrew music, and they may know."

    So, I called the company and they said, "We don't know; call 1-800-JUDAISM." So I did. And I got an information center for Jewish traditions, and they didn't know either. But they said, "You call this music teacher in Manhattan. He will know." So, I called this wonderful rabbi in Manhattan and we had a long conversation. At the end, I said, "I want to bring some focus to this, can you give me any idea what it sounded like when Jesus and his Apostles sang the Psalms?" He said, "Of course, Father. It sounded like Gregorian Chant. You got it from us."

    I was amazed. I called Professor William Mart, a Professor of Music at Stanford University and a friend. I said, "Bill, is this true?" He said, "Yes. The Psalm tones have their roots in ancient Jewish hymnody and psalmody." So, you know something? If you sing the Psalms at Mass with the Gregorian tones, you are as close as you can get to praying with Jesus and Mary. They sang the Psalms in tones that have come down to us today in Gregorian Chant.

    Researcher Julieta Vega García claims that Gregorian chant's "origin is in Jewish psalmody". Is this true?

    These seem to be very speculative assertions (we don't even know what sort of lyre King David would've played, do we?), but they do make sense.
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  • Geremia,

    Fr. Joseph Fessio, in a talk entitled The Mass of Vatican II, asked the question, "What did music sound like at the time of Jesus?", and told the story of consulting a rabbi friend of his, who said that it sounded like Gregorian chant melodies. The implication (directly contradicted by the comment to which Liam has linked) was that Gregorian chant came out of worship in the Temple. I'm not qualified to judge the validity of the arguments, but they do both exist.
    Thanked by 3Liam CharlesW Geremia
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,781
    It seems perfectly reasonable to assume that the jewish manner of chanting the psalter would have heavily influenced early Christian chant. It's simple common sense.
  • Geremia
    Posts: 264
    @ChrisGarton-Zavesky Thanks for reminding me of where I first read this! I've put the full quote in the OP.
  • Liam
    Posts: 5,005
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,411
    The counter argument in McKinnon's "The Fourth-Century Origin of the Gradual" in Early Music History, Vol. 7 (1987), pp. 91-106 , is based on the lack of evidence of singing in synagogues until well after the diaspora. However I guess Christians could just have adopted Temple chant, without the intermediary of the synagogue.
    The other leg of Mckinnon's argument, that the Gradual does not appear at Mass until the 4th century, does not disprove the connection with the agape where we know psalms were sung.
    Thanked by 2Chrism Paul F. Ford
  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    This recording proves nothing at all, but it may be of general interest nonetheless:
    Coincidence or borrowing? If the latter, then in which direction? And in which century?
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 321
    Out of all the liturgical-chant traditions currently practised into the modern age across the various apostolic churches, I would not be surprised if one of them more closely resembles what was sung in the ancient Jewish temple. My uninformed guess would land on the Antiochene or Syriac Rites, but I do not know enough to say more.

    How closely related is Gregorian chant to chant in the Syriac liturgy or some other rite? Maybe that is however close any church chant tradition is to the ancient Jewish musical psalmody. If one of them is even closer - I'd love to know.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,041
    There are a handful of "lost melodies" videos on YouTube of what purport to be the original melodies of the psalm chants from the First Temple Era. Here's one example:
  • Indeed, the sample given by madorganist illustrates that the tonus peregrinus did, in fact, develop from the ancient Jewish chant for In exitu Israel. It is sung to this day by Jews in the hinterlands of Yemen. The tone was adopted by the Lutherans for Magnificat.

    The example given by Mark is also interesting and perhaps represents a semblance of the temple music. One wonders, though, if it was that metrical and that tame. Likely not!

    I've never heard chant in modern synagogues that could possibly represent anything very old, let alone ancient. It is characterized by faux oriental chromaticisms and has anything but the air of antiquity.
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  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    It is sung to this day by Jews in the hinterlands of Yeme.
    And elsewhere...
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,225
    The tone was adopted by the Lutherans for Magnificat.

    And used by JSB in his Magnificat.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,182
    And by Mozart in the Introit verse of his Requiem.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • jcr
    Posts: 132
    Consult "The Sacred Bridge" by Eric Werner a book written about 1959 dealing with liturgies(Jewish through Christian). This is the best work on this I know of and some of our questions are addressed here. It can be downloaded from the Digital Archive website, I believe. There is a Psalm 8 recorded on the History of Music in Sound that we old guys remember from college that should be heard and compared with the Latin one, also recorded on the same disc.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 2,088
    Indeed, the sample given by madorganist illustrates that the tonus peregrinus did, in fact, develop from the ancient Jewish chant for In exitu Israel. It is sung to this day by Jews in the hinterlands of Yemen

    I like to think this is true, but the scholarship in that book where this claim originates has been questioned.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • My source was not the above referenced book, which I have not read. Where I did read it I cannot recall, but have no doubt that there is truth to it. The world is full of little pockets of people here and there whom time has left behind and who maintain traditions that the world passed by and forgot centuries ago. It is highly probable that this tone was anciently identified with in exitu, and that this is the source of the Church's tradition of the same relationship.
    Thanked by 2a_f_hawkins tomjaw
  • Maybe early Christians actually "sang a new song". Could explain their expulsion from the Synagogues. The musical source/foundation/influence of the new song might have been the broader societal milieu ("Greek"). Through an historical process, this was shaped by a creative element from the community and a purifying element from the Apostles and their successors.

    In other words, the early Christians were musical innovators.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,735
    Maybe early Christians actually "sang a new song".

    Well we do know where the Pange lingua (Crux fideles) comes from...
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 264
    A French scholar thought that certain markings in the Hebrew Psalms were actually pitch values.ïk-Vantoura

    She then attempted to reconstruct what she thought were the original melodies for the psalms.

    Whether she was correct or simply going down a rabbit hole . . .
    Thanked by 2hilluminar tomjaw
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,225
    A friend who is a heavy-duty scholar of liturgical music is chary of the idea. He does not DIS-believe it, but he doesn't 'swallow it whole'. Based on his reaction and comments, it is probably true that SOME Chant is derived from (or a copy of) Hebrew Temple chant.

    Talk about splitting babies.......
  • Such guarded speculative musicology it the best we can do in many areas, so I suspect that dad29's Friend is quite right. Even a very well educated guess, which is really a speculative (and, inevitably subjective) reconstruction (such al those of Marcel Perez and others), far more likely to get us nearer to early performance practice than most any standard chant book, including LU, which didn't appear until around 1908 and is remarkably different from anything that preceded it, ever - Carolingian or otherwise. So very, very much preceded this, and did so with quite different aesthetics and performance results than those encouraged by the LU.

    Performing alternatim chant with organ using the LU as a chant source is every much as amusing as performing Handel's Julius Caesar set in Mussolini's aeroplane factory (Houston Grand Opera actually did this) - or using an Ondes-Martinu in a Mozart quartet.
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  • Geremia
    Posts: 264
    My Scripture scholar friend, who's an expert in the sacred languages, says this about Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura and her work La Musique de la Bible Révélée, where she tried to decode/interpret Hebrew cantillation marks as musical notes:

    Yes, she was a Jewish musicologist […], but did also play the organ in Catholic churches while living in Paris. Her work is a reconstruction (one can also reconstruct something of the manner in which pre-Syriac, NT Western Aramaic was sung using ancient Palestinian cantillations), but likely a pretty fair one. The link between the original Davidic chant of the Psalms and Gregorian chant is not a stretch, and it seems to have occurred to her through both intuitive hearing and speculative application to deciphering diacritical signs as intonation marks.

    Ancient Hebraic cantillation is based on the original orality of the Hebrew Bible. Orality here always implies musicality, the first relying on mnemonic laws and devices, especially formulism and rhythmism, whose influence is found through Scripture; the second on the codification of intonation marks (musical pitches).

    The rhythmic format of Hebraic recitations, the Psalms of David but also of many other oral texts comprising the scriptural corpus, is designed as a mnemonic and arithmetic means of both memorization and sacred (ritual) cantillation.

    שִׁירוּ-לוֹ שִׁיר חָדָשׁ הֵיטִיבוּ נַגֵּן בִּתְרוּעָה

    “Cantate ei canticum novum; bene psallite ei in vociferatione.”

  • jcr
    Posts: 132
    It is likely that Hebrew chant, if it was carried over to the Greek and Roman culture where the apostles took the faith, was modified by singers whose musical formulae were not quite the same as that of the Hebrews. Who knows what shifts of modality might have occurred? Interesting to think that we might have a direct line to the disciples and Jesus through the "Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" they sang, though.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,225
    It is likely that Hebrew chant, if it was carried over to the Greek and Roman culture where the apostles took the faith, was modified by singers whose musical formulae were not quite the same as that of the Hebrews

    Even more important, the language was different; no longer Hebrew or Aramaic, but Greek or Latin. Language drives the music, or as Ratzinger reminded us, the music is the 'enfleshment' of the bones of language.
  • Interesting but so did Jesus chant or not?
  • Of course Jesus chanted! The Rabbi Eugenio Zolli, the famous chief Rabbi of Rome and Catholic convert, says in his book, The Nazarene, that "One does not taste the beauty of the law unless the prescription of reading it with modulation (singing it) is observed...the Bible was studied by singing each passage of it...the ancient preachers read the religious texts to the accompaniment of a melody...the success of a public prayer depends largely on the melody (of it)". And finally, "Jesus often achieved His success not by a simple reading of the prophetic passages, but by a modulated and richly interpretive reading (of them)". In fact, the Rabbi Eugenio Zolli goes so far as to make the case that the root of the word Nazarene, means "to trill, to twitter, to declaim a poem". Jesus was "The Singer" par excellence.
  • Wow, that is excellent. It should be catechized, I mean, the catechism needs expanding thus.
  • jcr
    Posts: 132
    Yes, he language was an important element. Just look over the difficulties when we take a piece of music and translate the text and the rhythm of the original no longer works, or we run out of music and there are words left over or vice versa. The migration is clearly inevitable. Consider even the parish where some guy taught entire masses or hymns incorrectly and they have been singing them that way for a generation.

    Don't look for exact duplication in this matter. The forces for modification are far too powerful to be ignored!
  • All traditions of christian chant have received a lot of influence by the Greek rite of Jerusalem, the first rite to use the oktoechos. And the studies in modality shows that the confluence of the oktoechos with the greek music theory is "a posteriori". The musicality of the modes with melodic formulas is similar to traditions of the east, at least three types of patterns (gregorian I, III, V ) have similar patterns in all oktoechos traditions (chants of all rites that uses a eight mode system). Eric Werner published a paper in wich he cites passages of psalms and of hitite cuneiform texts that may be interpreted as saying about eight modes of chant. The symbolism of the eight (seven heavens and God's place above they all) is very ancient and in the rite of jerusalem there was the shift of the calendar that was based on cycles of 7 weeks (judean calendar) to a calendar based on cycles of 8 weeks (inspired in the symbolism of the 8th day, of ressurrection).

    At least in the fourth century there existed in Jerusalem a Greek rite with a complete calendar of lectures from Holy Scripture and with modes attached to specific psalms used on specific days. And two specific moments of the calendar: the rites of Epiphany and Easter had a huge influence on other rites due to the pilgrims. There are certain texts that appear in different liturgical traditions with the same musical mode attributed and the oldest testimony of use is in the ancient rite of Jerusalem (prior to the Byzantinization process). The Psalm 117 (118) with the verse "Blessed is he who comes in the Name" was used in processions on Palm Sunday and Epiphany.
  • Geremia
    Posts: 264
    @Continuousbass "did Jesus chant or not?"
    "And a hymn being said [sung, or chanted; ὑμνήσαντες, hymnesantes], they went out unto mount Olivet." —Matthew 26:30
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