Ictus note not sustained?
  • Geremia
    Posts: 261
    Parish Book of Chant p. 310 says:
    Of itself, the ictus is purely organizational, and indicates no qualitative change in the rendering of the note—not emphasis, not lengthening.
    I thought an (undotted) note with an ictus is always emphasized and lengthened, despite having only one beat/pulse.
  • davido
    Posts: 872
    “Ictus” is the vertical mark. You may be thinking of the horizontal mark, the “episema.”
  • Geremia
    Posts: 261
    I know that episemas lengthen the note.
    I'm asking about the ictus (first pulse, the "1" of 1-2 or 1-2-3 groups); is it not always emphasized or lengthened?
  • According to the method, a note is not emphasized just because of the ictus. Emphasis goes on the accented syllable, which may or may not align with the downbeat. Dom Mocquereau considered this point (the independence of accent and downbeat) the central feature of his method. If you like singing chant with strongly marked/accented downbeats, the classic Solesmes method is probably not the best approach for you. Many performers have disliked this feature of the method over the last century and more.

    In the way people usually do things, the note with the ictus is only lengthened when the sign is there to mark the salicus. You can recognize this whenever the ictus is shown on the second note from the end of a rising group of three or more notes. In this case, it is generally lengthened by performers who follow this method.

    Otherwise, the quotation from the Parish Book of Chant is exactly right as a description of the the classic Solesmes method.
    Thanked by 1Geremia
  • Geremia
    Posts: 261
    So is the lengthening of the second note in a salicus (when it's a 5th) only part of the "classic Solesmes method"?
  • For the general case of the salicus, yes. People who follow other methods (semiology, accentualism, mensuralism, etc.) do not consider that note to be longer than the notes around it but (if they are inclined to sing any notes longer than the others) consider the last note of the salicus to be the long one.

    Dom Mocquereau provided some paleographic evidence for his treatment of the salicus, but I think most people who think about such things now agree that Dom Cardine’s evidence to the contrary is more persuasive. Of course, many people still do it the other way! To get back to your original question, that is the only case where the ictus mark signifies any additional length. There is some evidence that Mocquereau would have preferred to use the horizontal episema for that note but couldn’t make it work typographically.

    Interestingly, that opening gesture with the fifth that you mention is usually not a salicus but rather a pes plus virga, so I think many practitioners of other methods would make the second note long. Mocquereau considered this to be interchangeable with his salicus. I can’t remember the details of why he thought that right now but it’s probably in Le nombre volume 1.
    Thanked by 3Nisi CHGiffen Geremia
  • Nisi
    Posts: 146
    Charles, thank you for your not only excellent but kind remarks. (Some chant folks will speak downright antagonistically about the ictus.) Geremia, Charles is correct -- the ictus is not at all a place of emphasis, rather merely a way of organizing the rhythm in the old Solesmes Method. While the ictus shows the place of "one", it does not receive any prominence as we find in music with bar lines. Naturally, there are times when an ictic note will coincide with, e.g., a word accent, in which case the choirmaster will decide what kind of treatment the note will receive. If you can determine when and where a chant was composed, you can take a time machine there and let us know how it was done. My guess is that we will do it the way we want to do it anyway! Keep chanting, Geremia!