"Plainchant, Mode V"
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,686
    Here's a question seeking answers.

    I've been puzzled for some time at a bit of odd notation that appears in hymnals when they present chant pieces, whether in square notation or in modern-note transcription. Often in the place where the detail data for a hymn usually appears, there may be no clear indication of what source book the editors drew on, or where the piece has been published; but perhaps something like "Latin, 11th c." for the text, and "Chant, Mode V" for the melody. Does anyone have an idea of what thinking is behind this "Chant, Mode V"? I mean: is knowing the mode supposed to be helpful to readers who want to learn more about a piece? I think this is not very useful: as if the melody info for a hymn were "Chorale, D major".
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 8,017
    An interesting puzzlement, Chonak -

    I would understand 'Chant, Mode V' to be the informational equivalent of King's Weston. All that's ever given in most hymnals (most of them anyway) is the author and the name of the tune - sometimes with dates. The difference is that King's Weston, being the name of a specific tune, tells us something definite. Not so with 'Chant, Mode V'. At least that's something to go on (and 'Sarum chant, mode V' narrows it down a little bit), but the difficulty is that there is only one King's Weston and there are many mode V hymn tunes, nor are most of them original to the texts with which they are paired.. One would need a catalogue of tunes in each mode to reap more information. I think that to do better we would have to have a name for every plainchant hymn tune, especially because the greater portion of them are not original to the (multiple) texts with which they are paired and, in fact, like modern tunes, are adaptable to a variety of texts.

    What we need is a catalogue of all known plainchant hymn tunes arranged according to mode and meter - just like the tune-metrical indices in the back of the 1940 or The English Hymnal. Then they should each get a name, say that of their most common Latin incipit. Perhaps tomjaw knows of such a book?
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,144
    It is a part completed project of mine to have an index of melodies of Chant Hymns arranged according to metre... Sadly this is one of those projects that suffers from mission creep. While it is a small thing to set all the melodies found in the Liber, but then there are additional melodies in the Antiphonal, the Matins melodies?

    Q. What about the revised melodies in the Monastic Antiphonal 1934?
    Q. Do we add the even more revised melodies in the Liber Hymnarius?
    Q. While the Monastic Antiphonal, and the Liber Hymnarius were the latest research, others have gone further...
    Q. Do we add the pre-1911 melodies? Dominican? Franciscan? Sarum? older melodies from the Cantus Database?

    Then what do we do about the chant melodies that are variations on an ancient source where the Monastic, Roman and Dominican melodies have differences?

    As for the 'Chant, Mode V' question, it is common to attribute the text and music in Hymnals. A quick look at the Analecta Hymnica or Connelly / Britt will give you a date and author for the text, the melody is so much more difficult. We usually don't know who wrote the melody and we don't know the date as some melodies were composed pre musical notation!

    The closest we have to a database of melodies is this, http://www.globalchant.org/search.php sadly it is not a complete index of the melodies...
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 922
    Chonak, I wonder if it is the editor's attempt to present the data which is usually put in small text above the drop cap on many chant editions (à la default on gregobase). I certainly don't mind that information being in the notes (more is usually better in that respect) although I agree that for anyone but music directors it's largely irrelevant—that said, I think that is true of all the attribution information for just about every work.
  • GerardH
    Posts: 217
    @chonak I suppose it's evidence of hymnal editors who have only a vague knowledge of chant and don't know where to look for more information to give. You're right that in these instances they should at least say what book they copied it from.

    A demonstration of a hymnal which does much better: The New English Hymnal. For example, see this instance of a hymn with plainsong tune. The tune is assigned a name like any other hymn tune. In addition to these tunes appearing in the alphabetical index of tunes, there is also a plainsong metrical index, where it can also be seen that one tune is sometimes used for several texts.

    So perhaps assigning names to tunes is the way to go. Certainly some tunes have names already from the texts they are inextricably linked with—Veni Creator, Vexilla Regis. I seem to remember that variations on tunes are sometimes subtitled with their origin—Roman, Monastic, etc.—but variations aren't such an issue. Modern hymn tunes often exist in several variations, as was recently demonstrated in the forum harmonisation challenge. Perhaps the origin of a specific variation should just be added in parentheses. But how one would assign a name for a tune used for manifold texts I don't know.

    @tomjaw, your project does sound very useful. It sounds like the kind of thing which could benefit from crowd-sourcing. Perhaps it's a feature which could be integrated into gregobase.
  • Tom,

    My father used to say that work expands to fill the time allotted to it.


    Could it be that the Mode V notation assumes a limited number of tunes, and thus identifies a particular melody, at least to the original compilers? Could it be, contrariwise, that the purpose of this notation is to allow modern scholars to reconstruct (based on certain assumptions about chant, such as Tenor, Final, basic characteristics of mood) the original melody?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • FKulash
    Posts: 34
    ... is knowing the mode supposed to be helpful to readers who want to learn more about a piece? I think this is not very useful: as if the melody info for a hymn were "Chorale, D major".

    I agree; that's not helpful for knowing more about the piece, but it is helpful for performing it, as are other notations like "Moderately slow" and "CMD". When the editors say "Mode 5", I think they're assuming that many readers will waste time foguring out the mode for themselves, or that the readers might not be able to. If they felt that many users would have trouble figuring out a piece was in D Major, they would spell that out (as some shape-note collections, designed for singing schools, do).
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 873
    Perhaps a way of distinguishing different chant settings of the same text, e.g. Salve Regina, Tantum ergo, some office hymns, etc. Some antiphon texts have more than one setting in different modes.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 508
    There are Tone 1-8 and Mode 1-8. Brager's Chant Motet Book uses both. I associate Tones with the psalms. In the same book Attende Domine and O Sacrum Convivium are set to Mode 5, however, note for note they are not the same. Specifying Mode 1 or Tone 8 doesn't tell you anything about the origin or source.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,791
    I assume that you're talking about something like:

    Words: St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).
    Melody: Chant, Mode V.
    Harmonization: Nicola A. Montani (1880-1948)

    This isn't really all that different from:

    Words: Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)
    Melody: Traditional English Ballad
    Harmonization: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

    If nothing else it keeps consistency in the footer. I think that at least "Chant, Mode V", "Traditional English Ballad", "French Cantique, 17th century", and the like, are a bit more helpful in indexing, etc., than just "Anonymous".

    Chant tunes are usually given some kind of tune name: TE LUCIS ANTE TERMINUM; VERBUM SUPERNUM; CORDE NATUS; just like LOBBE DEN HERRN; FOREST GREEN; MELITA, etc.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 8,017
    What if we gave ever paiinchant hymn tune a name. Some are enough well known that they are recognised as Veni Creator, Adoro te, Te lucis ante terminum, etc. Most, such as Verbum supernum, or even Conditor alme siderum, would not be known by most - which is no reason not to begin using them. After all, relatively few of the modern tune names are on the tips of most people's tongues. For how many does This Endris nyght ring a bell , or even St Albinus, etc. One will find that in The English Hymnal the plainchant tunes are, indeed, labelled by their incipits - in addition to their mode and meter, both of which are useful information. The mode is more useful in identifying tunes in plainchant than a key is in identifying a modern tune because so many of the modern tunes appear in multiple keys (though mode, as in major or minor, might be useful in tracking a tune down - and consistent with the mode labeling of plainchant tunes).