Deus, Deus meus rhythmic variations
  • MarkB
    Posts: 958
    After completing an online semiology course, I did some self-study with the Graduale Triplex to determine and practice how chants would be sung using the classic Solesmes method versus incorporating some knowledge of the adiastematic neumes. I was surprised that knowledge of the semiological signs can produce some beautiful nuances in a chant that are not expressed in the Solesmes notation.

    With Palm Sunday approaching, I decided to look at the tract Deus, Deus meus (but only up to the word “dereliquisti” because it’s such a long chant). It’s on page 144 of the Triplex. After studying it myself, I found recordings that I believe exemplify four different rhythmic approaches to singing this chant:

    1. I believe this recording was sung according to the old Solesmes method or Vatican rhythm that Jeff Ostrowski favors. Dotted punctums and episemas are not observed:

    2. I believe this recording was sung according to the classic Solesmes method of Dom Mocquereau. Rhythmic markings are all observed:

    3. I believe this recording was sung according to the semiological principles of Dom Cardine. The broadening and accelerating of some neumes matches the markings of the St. Gall neumes while mostly adhering to the Solesmes notation. Note that the dotted punctum at the end of the word “meus” in the Solesmes edition is not observed because the St. Gall neume for that syllable does not indicate a lengthening:

    4. This last recording is extremely interesting. It appears to be sung using semiological principles, but the vocalist also uses many ornamental trills(?) that sound like microtones(?) and that make the chant sound more Eastern/Byzantine or even Islamic than Roman:
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  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 148
    I don't have a recording, but I recently revised my edition of the tract in question, which restores the rhythmic indications lacking in the Vatican and Solesmes editions:

    plain note=eighth
    dot without horizontal episema=dotted quarter
    white/hollow or weak beginning (initio debilis) note=grace note before the beat
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  • smt
    Posts: 23
    Thanks for this interesting compilation. I've never taken part in the discussions how to sing chant, neither do I intend to start a new one. When I first learnt chant I was introduced to a kind of the Dom Mocquereau method, maybe even simplified I think. We ignored the ictus, for example. Now I sing in a schola which follows the Triplex. Tbh I find it a bit annoying because we certainly lose musicality over the attempt to follow the rhythm of the conductor. The schola can read only a small portion of the adiastematic neumes, so basically you have to know the chant by heart and watch the conductor while singing. Sticking together in a huge church is very difficult in this way. But I can certainly honor semiology – I think it's the same with historically informed practice in classical music – for revitalizing our performances. Its good for widening the imaginative space, so to speak.

    The last performance (Ensemble Organum sings chant in this "oriental" way) is a reminder that even after all the semiological endeavours we should never claim that a certain interpretation is the way it was sung in the 9th century – it could be completely different and a few scratches in manuscripts can't tell the whole story.

    Sorry when I was still too polemic against the Triplex :-) Most important is that we sing it and sing it for the praise of God.

    PS: I admire the breath of all the singers! The repetitions always cost me so much air I could never sing such long lines without breathing!
  • Thanks for this post. It is very interesting to have several different interpretations of the same chant side by side to compare.
    I really don't think that the first one is the Vatican rhythm though, at least not the way Jeff Ostrowski interprets it. The bar lines and melismatic mora vocis are not treated the same as the rules Mr. Ostrowski follows. The whole thing just seems like its following a "go briskly and don't hold notes" strategy.

    @FSSPmusic If you get a chance to make a recording, it was be really useful for comparison, and I would really appreciate it. Also, I'm sure there is probably a reason for this, but your recordings on YouTube (if I'm right in assuming organistAL is your channel) seem generally lacking in dynamics, and it seems like you hit the notes with a pretty consistent amount of forcefulness. Is this for practical reasons or because of historical evidence? I have often wondered if chant could be sung proportionately, but still more legato and with dynamics in such a way that it sounds closer to the "Solesmes" style that we are used to hearing.
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 148
    Hmm, a couple others have also made comments about my recordings lacking dynamics. That is certainly not a deliberate decision on my part, but it is fair to say that it is "for practical reasons"—those being a schola with a mixture of professional and rather inexperienced amateur singers and not enough rehearsal time before recording! The proportional rhythm recordings on my channel are for demonstrative purposes and do not represent a "finished product." You will hear stray notes, misplaced syllables, poorly timed breaths, and all the other common problems of a parish schola. I am constantly having to remind my singers that the last note of a phrase in chant should be the softest; some of them still have a ways to go in basic musicianship. I would be delighted for someone with a very advanced ensemble to record from my edition, but that hasn't happened yet to my knowledge. Plus I've attempted to tackle the offertory verses first, which are arguably the most difficult and least formulaic chants in the repertory, instead of introits and communions. I know—excuses, excuses! ;)

    Listening to the first minute of each of the recordings you shared, the one in the Solesmes style (Triors, I believe) is the only one that strikes me as having much in the way of dynamic contrast. There is a sense of an "arc" to each phrase in Marek Klein's Graduale Project recording, which is also what I strive for, but the other two strike me as more or less consistent in volume, without much variation. For an ensemble recording of the same chant in semiological style, this might be of interest:

    Here is my solo attempt (unlisted on YouTube): (link corrected!)

    Again, this recording is for demonstrative purposes and does not represent a "finished product." I am certain that many others could do a much better job with it! My objective was to provide something quickly. I erroneously sang longs instead of shorts at -bi- in verse 4. As usual, upon listening to my own recording and following with the Graduale Novum, I noticed yet another inconsistency that I'll need to correct in my edition, namely the last two words of the second and thirteenth verses.

    As for lack of historical evidence, there are significative letters in the manuscripts that refer to dynamics, but they are few and far between. The Solesmes style is mostly based on a nineteenth-century aesthetic.
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