an attempt of compromise solution aiming peace among different schools of chant interpretation
  • An attempt of compromise solution aiming peace among different schools of gregorian chant interpretation and a "notation to performance" ps: I'm sorry for the bad english with google translate helping

    I think I've found a compromise solution that has enough theoretical basis and enough aesthetically beautiful creative artistic invention. A means to edit scores that allow either a more mensuralist and proportional interpretation, a sufficiently accurate free nuanced interpretation based on semiology, or an interpretation using rhythmic divisions of more or less equal notes and nuances - in the Solesmes style of Dom Mocquereau.

    With rhythmic nuances sufficiently authentic according to the ancient manuscripts and according to the prosody and clarity of the text and at the same time possible for the three distinct schools of interpretation. And intelligible to musicians trained in modern music: without having to do all the semiological and paleographic study that I am having to do studying all three schools.

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    The final neumatic musical sheet (partial example in the image) would be a kind of update of the solesmes method, with "ictus" markings and three types of "mora vocis" nuances (from the lowest to the highest degree of elongation: episema, dotted, and dotted with episema) and with nuance markings for "less voice" (the grammatical/rhetorical sign of short vowels) corresponding more or less to the "celeriter" (quickly, with "celerity") of St. Gall. I was inspired by the notation from cantatorium.org but avoiding filling the notes of standard duration with episemas and avoiding using white notes.
    There are four possible interpretations:

    1- Whoever wants to follow a more "old school" way, "a la Solesmes", follows the new indications of ictus (made based on a more accurate reading of the old rhythm, based on updates in mensuralist and semiological research); can ignore "less voice" signals or use as inspiration for agogic "accelerandos"; and you can decide whether to consider the various degrees of "mora vocis" or to lengthen everything in the same way.

    2- Whoever wants to follow the method of semiological nuances analyzes the prosody and follows the different agogic proportions according to the indications of "more or less voice" (if you want, you can check the ancient manuscripts personally and draw your own conclusions).


    3- Whoever wants to follow the most standard mensuralism, binary and without so many differences between the long notes, can use the sign of the short ones to identify almost all the others as long and can elongate or not in the episema and at the ends of sentences, and can see at context what is possibly a light ornamental note.

    4- In a compromise solution of mine trying to synthesize the three schools, a mensuralist and dynamic solution, the mensural mode (transcription in the second image) would have a 6/8 time signature.

    It would have binary accent, with short notes in sixteenth notes and three types of long ones: - common long ones in eighth notes; - long elongated in eighth + sixteenth note (dotted eighth notes); - doubly long (crotchet/quarter note or two linked eighth notes); - and triply long (dotted quarter note).

    This solution avoids filling with ornamental/acciaccaturas/appoggiaturas notes (light weight lighter than the short one) and through gradual lengthening variations creates a good fluidity in the melody.

    This idea of ​​6/8 came from Walther Lipphardt's comparative study of a melody-type of the divine office (STUDIEN ZUR RHYTHMIK DER ANTIPHONEN).

    He uses 6/4 and fits all the text variations into a very similar rhythm in order to keep the melody intact by varying the long ones between double long in stressed syllable and single long in unstressed syllable. I took from him the idea of ​​certain long neumes having more than one type of internal long sound, ("pes quadratus" for example, which in his comparison would be a synthesis of a long note of an accented syllable + a long note of an unstressed syllable, placed in a single syllable ).

    This use of 6/8 and three types of long allows for uniformity between simple and more elaborate antiphons, maintaining a good distinction between stressed syllables and unstressed syllables (as an example, I put a transcription that I made of an antiphon of the office of a similar text, following the pattern from Lipphardt, but on 6/8).

    An interesting detail was that comparing several songs of the same type (I made a version of the office’s rorate caeli also to try Lipphardt’s idea) it was possible to perceive the accent of Vulgar Latin in the melody of the office’s antiphon instead of classical Latin: "erípe" instead of "éripe" - this is extra care when trying to make transcriptions because usage in ecclesiastical is inconsistent between classical and vulgar accentuation.



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  • I failed the cantatorium site: it's cantatorium.com and not cantatorium.org
    Thanked by 1FSSPmusic
  • Lincoln,

    Thank you for the proposal. I fear that it won't solve the interpretation skirmishes, but it seems a useful addition to the discussion. (Mind you, I'm not a partisan of the more nuanced interpretation questions).

    You say that you used Google Translate. What is your mother tongue?
    Thanked by 1Lincoln_Hein
  • My mother tongue is portuguese.
  • I can read well in english but to write or speak is different.
  • Chris how you interpret chant when singing? Pothier accentualist - equalist interpretation has a lot of nuances of mora vocis: https://www.ccwatershed.org/2022/07/23/pothier-teaches-us-to-sing-an-antiphon/ . Solesmes method of Mocquereau has the episema and dot nuances of mora vocis. Semiological aproachs has nuances. Mensural aproachs simplify in 2:1 ratios of long and shorts with some nuances (the typical cadence DEFEDE with a longer longa in middle F and some "grace notes" before the beat). An extreme equalist would at least slow down in cadences (as dominican norms in this site for example: http://dominican-liturgy.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-to-read-chant-in-dominican-notation.html).
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 52
    What is your source for the St. Gall neumes? The first two notes of Domine are puncta, not tractuli, in the MSS I checked except 376, which is later and less reliable. The long-short-long climacus at animam doesn't agree with what I see either, again except in 376, nor is there an episema on the last note of the tristropha except in 339. Have you digitized one particular source or synthesized several? There are places where the MSS contradict each other, and an editor much make his own choices in producing a rhythmic edition. To me, it seems far preferable to give the singers a rhythmic edition they can read easily, as you're attempting to do, rather than a something that is subject to the arbitrary interpretive decisions of the choirmaster, so I commend you for it. Are you familiar with the Graduale Lagal?
    Thanked by 1Coemgen
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 52
    Do you believe that the episema in the St. Gall neumes, for example, at -ne le-, represents a different value than the standard duration (normal syllabic value)? If not, then why the reluctance to use it with the square notes?
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,007
    I have to be honest: I find reading your transcriptions to be very tedious. There are markings on every other note! It is exhausting to try and parse through it all. I really think that we very much split too many hairs when it comes to interpreting chant. This level of micromanagement seems totally unnecessary for all but the most professional of scholæ.
  • historically the Gregorian chant of the proper of mass was composed to and performed by professional choirs. introits, graduals, tracts, aleluias, offertories, communio, all were sung by medieval professional singers.

    I read in a academic article of chant ( MICROTONES ACCORDING TO AUGUSTINE NEUMES, SEMIOTICS AND RHETORIC IN ROMANO-FRANKISH LITURGICAL CHANT) : "bishop Angilram of Metz paid the performer of one tractus sung on the first Sunday of Lent 12 denarii, whereas singers normally received only 2 denarii for a day’s service. The extra payment was perhaps a remuneration for the extraordinary length of this solo chant. On the other hand, the higher remuneration might as well reflect the complexity of the state-of-the-art performing of a tractus with its emphatic phrases, perhaps including microtonal inflections."

    My detailed transcription is only an attempt to artistically reinvent some sort of complexity and refinement accessible to a modern musician (some of my excesses in the transcription in modern notation I did after watching this highly instructive video: https://youtu.be/qFPW9ENtNKA , sadly most musicians nowadays don't know how to interpret agogically and expressively if there aren't clear instructions for it and so I did a musical sheet for a choir master, one that doesn't require all the study of a specific method of chant)

    The medieval practice was of high rethorical music refinement.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Fssp music I made a mix of different st gall sources often relying on the 376, I don't think the longs marked in 376 are errors but a interpretative choice that in context (with agogic nuances) can be reconcilable with the marks of breves in others sources. If I choose for example to interpret the "d" on "Dó" (dómine) as a long pivotal point that ends what came before and inspires what comes after, then with a agogic accelerando the long tractuli of 376 in "mi" (domine) becomes puncti.
  • I think the longs aren't of equal syllabic value because stressed syllables tend to be longer and because cadences tend to be longer. And we have the long F laon virga in the typical cadence (deFede ed) that speaks of at least one exception of longs to the rule of 2:1, having more than 2 breves duration. Also there are the late testimony of Jerome of Moravia trying to grasp nuanced chant singing of his time using the musical terminology of ars nova (using various types of long notes), and the testimony of modern transcriptions of monodic ecclesiastical oriental chants with more than 2 types of notes. Some significative lettres of lengthening on laon and st gall maybe can be seen as more than an mere redundant advice replicating the information on the form of the neum.

    So I choosed as an artistic invention to make the distinction of Lipphardt, dividing the longas in: 1- value of "unstressed syllable" longa (2:1 in relation to breve), 2- value of "stressed syllable" longa (with 2:1 proportion in relation to "unstressed syllable" longa) and 3- value of "cadencial longa" (that goes to 3:1 in relation to the "unstressed syllable" longa). See the examples of the divine office "ad te levavi" and "rorate caeli" to grasp the idea (the round pes on "Dó" of dómine as a "stressed" long syllable is formed in my transcription by two long, the round pes on "su" of desuper as an "unstressed" syllable is formed by two breves).

    this way I can maintain the same composite binary pulse/beat in simple and complex antiphons respecting the prosody, it's arbitrary but a viable solution in terms of aesthetics more in tune with the modern ear and modern musical practice than Mocquereau groupings of three and two (I fusioned the two and three ideia in a composite time signature).

    Also I think I could mark with dot or episema or dot and episema only the longas that artistically could have more value than two breves, this way someone singing the old solesmes way could do a good performance maintaining all other notes as breves.
  • The square pes in rorate caeli "net" (on "germinet") is the same melody of "ne ad" (on "domine ad te confugi") , "ne" is a long cadencial last syllable in a word of three (with the first syllable dó, stressed) but "ad" is a short unimportant monosyllable, so the Square pes becomes doubled longa+longa= triple longa. In "ne" of domine of the offertory, a cadencial clivis I choosed the same "dupla longa+longa" (punctuated quarter note) but as cadencial it becames triple longa+doubled longa
  • Using this pes quadratus with two types of longa I avoided in the offertory a grace note on the first note of the four note neume in the beginning of the piece or a strange punctuated quarter note in the second note of the pes.
  • But the aim of my post and transcription is to find some concordances, for example: I think all schools could agree on lengthening the " F " and the final "e" and final "d" on the "defede ed" cadence. And also all could agree that the d on "Dó " in "dómine" could be lengthened for prosodic and melodic reasons.
  • If you choose an equalist nuanced aproach as solesmes or semiology you could agree with this lengthening on these four notes of "Dómine" and if you choose a mensuralist aproach you could agree that these four instances are longer than the common syllable long (dó on dómine isn't a simple stressed longa, but a pivotal point, an end of a musical movement and the beginning of another as a fountain, it counts as a cadencial longa, also laon and some st. gall puts longa values on the clivis before dó and this requires a lengthy "dó" to respect the stressed syllable).
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    OK ... for me, and my grade school schola, The test is in the pudding.

    Therefore, I would like to hear your recorded interpretation of each so that I can HEAR and EXPERIENCE the PERCEIVED differences please. I would be most anxious to hear this If you could post them here!

    I do not mean this at all to be in a mean tone of voice, however the scripture keeps coming to my mind about this ongoing debate ... “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

    I really am most anxious to hear the difference and to know the amount of effort it takes to make it such.

    My rule for children... “it’s a prayer... sing it with musical and heart felt love for God... and watch the neumes, please!”

    BTW... no two performances of music are EVER exactly the same. Even if you tried to do it, I could open the wave file of duplicated performances by the same artist attempting to do so only to find numerous time, dynamic and pitch discrepancies. If you would like to try this experiment, sing the same chant exactly the same way into your phone two times and post here. This is a serious request. I will then create a graphic of the performance showing the difference in the three relationships from one to the other.
    Thanked by 1Coemgen
  • I recorded it on the stairs of the building where I live. acoustic natural reverb. isn't perfect because with only one person I can't do coral breathing so the tempo became faster. I recorded singing the version I notated in modern notation, mensuralist but with flexibility of tempo.
  • If I had to do it as a soloist or with a choir that needs more breath I would add two pauses and cadences in the second half. Some like this other recording:
  • Tomorrow I will try to record the two of the office/simplex ("ad te domine... confugi" and "rorate caeli").
  • I don't think however that all nuances must to be done in all performances and with all kinds of choir, nobody needs to be a slave of the musical sheet (or slave of the approach/method), be it neumes or modern notation, chanted in mensuralist, equalist, accentualist, semiological or other aproach.
  • coral


    Lincoln,


    Since your English is very good, so far, let me help you distinguish between three words:

    choral -- voices singing
    corral -- an enclosure for livestock
    coral -- what makes a reef

  • Thank you Chris. I failed and the word "coral" (portuguese for choir or for some relative to choir) appeared... In portuguese "respiração coral" is the type of breathing the choir does alternating between singers so the line keeps going without breaks. In English would it be choir's breathing or choral breathing the name of this technique ? "Corral" in portuguese is "curral" and "coral" as what makes a reef is "coral" too (so in portuguese choir and coral has the same sound and writing "coral" but we have another word for choir, "coro" )
  • I don't think all nuances have the same importance in chant, but at least some lengthening in some specific notes all schools could agree. And all could stop being so harsh and aggressive when choosing one aproach or another (even an approach of simple child praying).

    Also the notation I made in neumes doesn't have so many nuances: there are general notes of a regular value, some shortened notes, one type of elongated note with episema and elongated cadencial notes (or fountain notes or pivotal notes - Don Cardine explain these three on his book introducing chant, trying to use the solesmes rythmic edition marks of dots and episemas in an accentualist approach) that is marked with dot or episema+dot. It's similar to singing a modern music with semiquavers, quavers, crotchets and minims but without rigorous metronomic ad robotic proportions.

    If all can sing and recognize so many time values on notes of modern music I don't see how recognising three or four or five note values in chant (be the values in proportions like a mensuralist would do or more free) make this a difficult and complex chant. The example of rorate caeli I made in modern notation has all "nuances" I put on the offertory except for one (there are breves in semiquavers, one type of regular value of long duration in quavers, two types of longer than regular value: crotchet and dotted crotchet; only the dotted quaver isn't there) and it is very simple. and all these four values (if you choose a more "free" approach) could be done without rigorous metronomic proportional values and without regular beat but recognising four types of length or even ignoring one ou another type and maintaining only two or three for greater contrast on a more prosodic flow.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,081
    @Lincoln_Hein

    Thank you for recording!

    I am eager to hear your samples and will contact you later.
    Thanked by 1Lincoln_Hein
  • Lincoln,

    I like the idea of "choir breathing". In English, we call it "staggered" breathing, but "stagger" also means "not walk steadily".

    Thank you for enriching the forum with this detail about how Portuguese names the breathing.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,007
    For what it’s worth, you have a beautiful voice for chanting. I quite enjoyed your recordings.