First Things: chant was the "invention" of Solesmes, and other odd claims
  • In the latest print issue of First Things, there's a piece by David P. Goldman about sacred music. He doesn't really have much to say about chant, but he does include a few throwaway lines that strike me as totally off the mark -- and also begin to make sense of how he could write a feature article about sacred music, without seriously discussing chant.

    Given the respectability of First Things, I was a little concerned about the possible influence of some of his remarks, which appear to be uninformed.

    I'm wondering if someone here, who's better informed about these things than I am, could briefly address these comments from the article:

    Musicologists have proved that the 'ancient chant' promulgated in the nineteenth century by the Benedictines of Solemnes [sic] was, in fact, their own invention rather than a historical reconstruction

    We know almost nothing about the music that so deeply moved Augustine in Milan

    [Flemish contrapuntalist Johannes] Tinctoris remarked in 1470 that all the music worth listening to had been written in the preceding forty years -- at the only moment in music history when a leading musician would have made that remark, and when it would have been true

    For reference, these quotations all come from "Sacred Music, Sacred Time" in the November 2009 edition of First Things.

  • A little learning--especially when grossly overestimated by its possessor--is a dangerous thing.
    Such comments would never have made their way into First Things under Father Neuhaus.

    David Goldman studied music principally at the Schiller Institute, which is an international think tank closely associated with Lyndon LaRouche.
    David Goldman was a close associate of LaRouche for a number of years and co-authored a book with him.
    The Schiller Institute was founded by LaRouche's wife.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    "Musicologists have proved that the 'ancient chant' promulgated in the nineteenth century by the Benedictines of Solemnes [sic] was, in fact, their own invention rather than a historical reconstruction"

    If that were true (it's not) my hat, along with that of every other musicologist in the world, would really be off to them!!!

    I am familiar with the comment by Tinctoris, and this is usually interpreted to show the general trend (of those times) to pay more attention to the newest things. However, I am told that the music of Josquin never completely went out of style.
  • I'm assuming that the "musicologists have proved" line actually refers to the debate over rhythmic interpretation, whether Goldman realized it or not. But the sloppy formulation of the line, taken together with the other remarks, suggests that he didn't realize it, and I could see a reader coming away with the idea that the monks at Solesmes actually composed the chant corpus. Is anyone aware of even one musicologist who seriously argues this?

    And what about the Augustine/Milan line? Is the music we now call "Ambrosian chant" named only in honor of St. Ambrose, or is it generally understood to be the actual music that St. Augustine would have heard when St. Ambrose reigned in Milan?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Anytime I read "musicologists have proved" I know I'm about to read something completely false.
  • oh for goodness sake! this is amazing. A LaRouchie on music in First Things? Amazing.
  • Goldman (aka Spengler of the Asia Times Online) has been Associate Editor of First Things for the last six months or so, which puts his name in the second-highest position on the masthead. In just about any other context I would have laughed it off.

    (he's a former LaRouchie, BTW -- he describes the LaRouche movement as a cult and has been out of it for over 20 years:
  • The statement about Augustine strikes me as correct. Can anyone point me towards good, hard evidence that the statement is wrong?
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Well, if one were to to adhere to the idea put forth about the reference meaning the interpretation, especially in regards to the rhythm, I don't see how this can be disproved, given the ongoing debate about Solesmes not being the "final" word on chant. Of course he cannot mean from the "ground up" when he says "invention." It is really hard to know what any "centuries old" music sounded like. If Solesmes is an "invention" it can also be that it is a plausible interpretation. This is a layman's opinion based solely on experience of general music practice, not a true depth of scholarship, but can one but wonder how these pieces were performed so many centuries ago? Same for Milan and Augustus.
  • D'ja ever notice how musicologists, most quick to tell us Solesmes got it wrong, never point to anyone who got it right? Of course his statements would be more or less true, if they weren't so over the top, and had been moderated by a smidgen of academic responsibility. But what is his goal? to enlighten his First Things readers? or to prejudice them against any attempt to include chant in modern worship?

    The glory of Solesmes and its (most responsible) disciples is that they are about opening doors, not slamming them shut. You tell me which attitude better reflects the mind of the Church.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    The author appears to have misunderstood the nature of musicology, set up an Aunt Sally and ignored the notion of development-in-continuity. Musicology isn't a science, so it rarely 'proves' anything - it's more a matter of informed interpretation. Interpretation has moved on with improved evidence and analysis and will doubtless continue to do so: perhaps one day we will even discover something of the music that so moved Augustine in Milan, over and above the generalised inference that is all we have now. None of this, however, invalidates Solesmes' gift to the Church - a version of chant rhythm that supports beauty and contemplation, sits well with liturgical texts, travels easily and is recognisably in descent from ancient practice, even if we're unsure as to the detail of that practice. In this respect, it's not dissimilar to the Western Rite itself, which has developed from elements whose complete detail is lost in the mists of time, to reflect the insights and needs of later generations.
  • David Goldman is most definitely not a musicologist!
    His training in music is extremely limited.
  • But what is his goal? to enlighten his First Things readers? or to prejudice them against any attempt to include chant in modern worship?

    I doubt the latter -- Goldman himself is an observant Jew and, oddly, he rounds off the article with a final paragraph to the effect that "anyway everything I've just said cannot be applied to Jewish worship, which is only at home with melismatic chant". That's the first serious mention of liturgical chant in the article, and pretty much the last sentence.

    The article's thesis is hard to discern, but it seems to involve the premise that Western sacred music is "sacred" by virtue of intrinsic tonal and rhythmic properties, without significant reference to any liturgical purpose it may or may not have. That throwaway line about Solesmes may just be a rhetorical device designed to prepare the reader for this premise.

    I'm inclined to suspect that, as opposed to having an axe to grind against Catholic chant, Goldman just isn't very familiar with it. And, not being Catholic, he's not likely to be conversant with the practical implications of the claim that chant was "invented" at Solesmes.

    I only wish someone had caught the line and cut or reworked it before the issue went to press. But then, that sort of thing is Goldman's job.
  • Again, this represents a very sad diminishing--hopefully limited in scope and duration--of First Things over the last few months.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,245
    I have a thirteenth century recording of the Benedictines singing chant on a clay chironomograph with a quill stylus if anyone is interested to hear it.
    Thanked by 1igneus
  • I'll trade you for some Liszt piano rolls I've got in storage.

    But seriously, is there any reason to suppose that modern Carthusians, for example, sing chant much differently now than they did 900 years ago? Unlike the Solesmes congregation of Benedictines, the Carthusian order reaches back uninterrupted to St. Bruno and even now retains a distinct liturgy.

    And what about Heiligenkreuz, which has been in continuous operation since the Middle Ages? Would places like that have been much influenced by the Solesmes revival? Or, conversely, is there any evidence that Solesmes may have been influenced by that sort of living tradition?
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    To second Ben's comment, there is evidence from another artistic tradition of 'material' being handed down for centuries. In Homer there is a similar phenomenon: scholars generally place the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey to the time period 800 - 600 BC, because of references to objects which we know did not exist until then (it's a hideously complicated subject). However, the poems also refer to objects, techniques, and peoples who only existed before the Greek Dark Ages, which lasted from about 1200-800 BC. So Homer is singing of things he never saw or knew.

    The question as to how this is possible in poems that are tens of thousands of lines long was given a surprisingly modern answer in the 1930's by the American scholars Milman Perry and Alfred Lord, who travelled to Yugoslavia to study the bards who sang similar songs of thousands of lines. Oral tradition is now a commonly accepted theory of how songs (or poems) can be handed down for centuries with little change.
  • There's no question that such phenomena can go back hundreds of years. Perhaps an even clearer example of this is the pronunciation of the Vedas that was kept accurate over hundreds of years while the everyday language changed drastically. The question is whether chant does. With the Vedas, historical linguistics demonstrates their accuracy, and the Linear B tablets and archaeology bear Homer out in many cases. Regardless of any rhythmic questions, the service rendered by Solesmes is invaluable, even if it doesn't uncover lost secrets of chant (next on the Discovery Channel). Some of the pentatonic music in the repetoir, such as the communion of the Christmas night mass, is probably very old, but just because we can't render it in song exactly as it was when it was first composed doesn't mean our best attempts are worthless.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Daniel Goldman is very perceptive on international relations, etc.. And while I haven't read the referenced article, it proves to me that I shouldn't write about world affairs.

    On the subject of Carthusian chant, readers might enjoy the passages on the subject in An Infinity of Little Hours , where one postulant thought that the monks were performing some subtle form of ancient harmonization and it turned out that they were simply massively out of tune.
  • As the author of the article in question, I should like to clear up a few points.
    1) There are few issues in musicology in which the scholarly consensus is so overwhelming as about Solesmes; their reconstruction method has no serious defenders. I suggest the following monograph:

    I am very conservant with the "practical implications of the claim that chant was 'invented' at Solesmes." Chant was NOT invented at Solesmes; the specific kind of chant propagated by Solesmes was invented there. There was a broad spectrum of chant traditions, but not the "Ur-chant" that Solesmes claimed to have discovered through methods lifted from the philologists and inappropriately applied to chant. The implication is that some 19th century Catholics invented a fake Middle Ages ("Romanticism") that never existed -- just as Tieck, Novalis and the Schlegels did in literature. On the latter, see Heinrich Heine's "The Romantic School." This was consistent with the revival of throne-and-altar Catholicism after the French Revolution, and the revival of the Benedictine order itself, which had been reduced to a few thousand monks by 1805. This view is quite consistent with Russell Hittinger's work on ecclesiological history published in First Things (see his brilliant piece "The Churches of National Salvation"). It is NOT an anti-Catholic view, although it conflicts with SOME Catholic views. "Christendom," such as it was, happened to be far messier than the Romantics liked to think.

    2) Contrary to some scurrilous comments above, my professional qualifications in the field are not in question. I finished all but the dissertation in the music theory PhD program at City University of New York (rated one of the top five in the US). A great deal of my course work was with Carl Schachter, the world's leading theorist of higher-order metrical structures in tonal music (see his essay collection "Unfoldings"). I have given papers at academic conferences on this topic. I have published peer-reviewed articles on Renaissance music theory in The International Church Music Review (published by the Vatican), Musical Quarterly and Theory and Practice. I taught history of music theory at graduate level at the Mannes College of Music. All this occurred well after I had ended my unfortunate earlier association with that nut-case LaRouche.

    3) If people want to use Solesmes chant in liturgy, there's nothing wrong with it -- it would not be the first innovation to masquerade as a rediscovery of something ancient. I made that clear in my essay.

    4) No-one in the above thread addressed Benedict XVI's views on what constitutes inherently sacred music, e.g., Bach or Mozart, which was my point of departure. Something quite different is going on with the great composers than with chant, and that is why I sought (with Augustine's help) to identify.
  • Digging the hole deeper, with relish, apparently.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,499
    Welcome, dgoldman, and thanks for joining the discussion.

    No-one in the above thread addressed Benedict XVI's views on what constitutes inherently sacred music, e.g., Bach or Mozart, which was my point of departure.

    That's not surprising, since the November articles from First Things were not available on-line when most of the discussion above took place. But now the website has caught up, and more readers can appreciate your article for themselves.
  • I've read Decadent Enchantments. It is a wonderful book, not a chronicle of a masquerade. In no way does it suggest that what Solesmes attempted what somehow a fake. It was a human effort with all attendant imperfections, no doubt, but a remarkable achievement, especially as compared with the post-Trent editions that came before. That book dramatically heightened my own respect and awe for the work of that generation. I highly recommend it to anyone.
  • For the past thirty years, Benedict has advocated the use of the orchestral mass in liturgy, a tradition that disappeared in most of the Catholic world, although not in his southern Germany. The chant revival of the early 19th century, the Caecilian movement, and so forth must be seen in the light of what they replaced: Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, etc., which the Church discouraged and sometimes prohibited as too "operatic" and secular in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Benedict is a radical reformer in this regard, proposing to reach back to 18th century practice. In this he is very much influenced by Hans Urs v. Balthasar's view of music with respect to "Aesthetic Theology," as well as his own experience as a musician (his brother Georg conducted the Regensburger Domspaetzen). It is, in short, a highly cultured, European and specifically German view. I have issues with Urs v. Balthasar's "aesthetic theology" but I strongly agree with Benedict that the music of Bach, Mozart, et. al. can convey a sense of the sacred in a way that no other musical art form can. The mechanism then needs to be discussed as a practical matter; as I wrote, I think the reasons for this are not as mysterious as the pope seems to believe, and were understood in principal by Augustine (and very well understood in Schenkerian music theory).

    Solesmnes chant is part of the leftovers of the Romantic movement. I don't propose to throw out every baby with every tub of bathwater. As a Jew, I can't stand hearing psalms in English--vernacular services make me gag. I can see why Catholics would want Latin rather than the vernacular, and Latin wants chant. Solesmnes chant is available.

    There actually exist Schubert settings of part of the Hebrew liturgy, commissioned by the Jewish community of Vienna. I'm against using them in synagogue. The Hebrew liturgy wants traditional Jewish chant. But I don't confuse my synagogue with the Sistine Chapel, even if I would rather pray in my shul than the Sistine Chapel; nor do I confuse hazzanut (cantorial display) with Haydn. But there are good reasons for Christians to hear Schubert masses in Church. Why should Jewish and Christian practice be different? And what is it that Schubert does that makes his music appropriate for liturgy?

    By the same token, chant is of small musical interest next to, say, the Mozart Requiem. That style is what the Church repudiated in favor of the chant revival. One tends to make the best of what one has, and it is hard to imagine the American Church acquiring the resources to provide the sort of Church orchestral music that is common in Benedict's part of Germany. Nonetheless, Benedict is quite right about Bach and Mozart. Did the Church make the right choice circa 1800 to reject sacred orchestral music and return to a papier-mache Middle Ages that the romantics invented?

  • Oh my. Not every post needs a response I suppose.
  • OK, let's agree that the Solesmes monks made up their method of chant from whole cloth. So what? Were there any other alternatives at the time? Or now?

    No one knows for certain how the chant was sung in the 9th century, or the 7th century, or the 14th century for that matter. Heck, it's hard enough to figure out how any music was performed in the past absence of sound recordings (just look at the controversy surrounding the "historically informed movement" of the past 40 years.). But the Solesmes monks work enabled a flowering of the chant within the Church and a way of singing that could be taught and handed on systematically. Without that, it would have been much more difficult, if not impossible to spread the practice of chant in the Church.

    I guess I'll take a "papier-mache Middle Ages" over nothing at all.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Ok, I'm in. It is a huge mistake to set Renaissance or classical music as against chant. Chant persists through history and it exists alongside other developments. This is what makes the chant distinct.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    As near as I can tell, the author is reacting to an idea he doesn't understand. He seems to think that Mocquereau and his followers claimed that they were "rediscovering" the rhythmic method of singing chant in the 9th century. But this simply is not the case.
  • rich-enough,

    That's just my point. The academics have shown that the Middle Ages had a multiplicity of chants, and in many cases we do not know quite how they sounded. It is perfectly fine for the Church to decide upon a unified approach, Solesmes' or another one, for its liturgical purpose. I did not invent the opposition of chant to the classical style: the Church did that at the turn of the 19th century. That's why most American Catholics have never heard a Mozart mass accompanying the liturgy (that tradition persisted only in southern Germany). I agree that there is no reason for such an opposition. They have different roles in liturgy (we Jews are very dependent on our chant, which of course is different from Gregorian chant). That is also the pope's view. My object was not to emphasize this opposition, but to show (with Augustine's help) how it is that goal-oriented tonal counterpoint uniquely is capable of evoking the sacred within its own terms, independently of the liturgy. A Bach chorale setting does this even if one doesn't know the words to the hymn.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    The academics have shown that the Middle Ages had a multiplicity of chants, and in many cases we do not know quite how they sounded.

    It is nice that the academics have caught up to what people have known for hundreds and hundreds of years. Pothier, Lambillote, Danjou . . . all these early scholars knew this very well.
  • One might even say that Solesmes discovered this truth and documented it most completely -- certainly more so than anyone else in history.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Thanks for the fascinating scholarship, David Goldman! This is very interesting reading.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,245
    My 2cents:

    First, I will clarify that I am not a historian, but mainly a composer/organist and director of sacred music strictly within the RC tradition. So I speak as one who has organically assumed the position of passing on the tradition of sacred music within the walls of the church since I was first included in the liturgical rites and devotions very early in my childhood taking part in choirs, playing the organ, as an altar boy, learning the prayers, etc. I grew up within the era and watched the 'synthetic' insertion of music which is most definitely foreign to the RC liturgy (folk, rock, performance). It has become clearer and clearer to me as time has progressed through these tumultuous times that there is one holy sacred music that is truly pure and conforms to the RC Rite, and that is the Gregorian Chant and polyphony as a close second.

    Further, from the perspective of a composer and 'performer' of sacred music I would say this: Music is organic.

    Manuscripts are an 'attempt' to document and perpetuate the intentions of the composers AND performers of a particular 'period in time'. Oral tradition counts as the other half, and sometimes counts as an even greater testimony to the transmission of that reality. GC is the patrimony of Sacred Music in the Roman Catholic Tradition. It is what has grown naturally within the walls of the church itself and over time was recognized as such by the church through its prelates and confirmed over and over again. I would also add that it has grown side by side with the organic development of the Rite itself (TLM). In my thinking, the two are inseperable. The Solesmes 'live and breathe this stuff'. In my mind, they are the "authority" on sacred music that God (more specifically through His Third Person, the Holy Spirit) promoted during the last 100 years or so. Will they continue to carry the baton for the next 100 years? No one knows, and time will only tell.

    I would assert that no period in the history of chant 'crystallizes' its 'perfected state'. Each period represents a "historical incident" of its development as it continues to grow and is actualized in a particular period of time from age to age. Even our own historical accounts of what has gone on before must be taken with a grain of salt because we do not have an actual 'recording' of a chant performace (except my recent discovery of the chironomograph). The Solesmes are another (significant) link in the transmission of that which is THE AUTHENITICALLY RECOGNIZED sacred music in the Roman Catholic tradition. Schools will come and go, but the chant will remain just as the liturgy, and just as the church. It is the most natural form of music, most human, more pure in the act of worship. It requires nothing outside of itself. The person and God. It is music stripped to the bare minimum. (e.g., a newborn baby 'sings' a chant when he emerges from the womb.)

    Academia (at least since I have been involved with it in my own lifetime) has become so obsessed with (pure to the era) capturing the 'right' or 'authentic' performance of eras gone by (and this is true for many of them (purists): chant, rennaisance, baroque, classical, etc.), that it has become preocuppied (and in some ways) distracted from the heart and spirit of the very practice itself in the act of dissecting. It tends to put itself 'above' in its intellectual pursuit in such a way that it proclaims itself the authority and the judge of what was and what should be now and continue into the future. I think that is a dangerous (and foolish) position to assume on its own.

    And for Mr. Goldman: My take on the classical styles (religious music, but not necessarily sacred) : it is 'just outside' of what would be considered truly liturgical music. I compose some of this music myself. And even though I am a dyed in the wool Catholic, I would be the first to tell you that it would be 'too much' for a Roman Catholic liturgy. Is there an absolute clear line of delineation? Not this side of heaven as you can see by the confusion about what belongs and what doesn't, but I prefer to lean toward what is absolutely clear.

    and it is hard to imagine the American Church acquiring the resources to provide the sort of Church orchestral music that is common in Benedict's part of Germany.

    I would further offer you some of my scores e.g., [] as a Catholic American (however not a Heretical Catholic American (see here: attempt at doing something in the German tradition. [NOTE: This is one of ten movements of one of my works which Maestro Rosenbaum has offered to perform in Carnegie Hall with the Brooklyn Phil... would you be interested to help me fund the event?]. The church calls it religious music. It has a proper place in the upbuilding and edification of the church however, outside the liturgy. It embodies a height of intellect that can be (and should be) all enveloping. For instance, almost every week I play a chorale prelude (Bach, Buxtehude, etc.) before the liturgy and once in a while during communion. In these types of musics, I feel that the 'emphasis of focus' gravitates toward the music itself, and away from the liturgical action. It creates a kind of "rapturous ecstacy" (a trance or trance-like state in which an individual transcends normal consciousness.) in the beauty of the music itself. These are fine subtleties that I find very few musicians comprehend, utilize to the proper advantage, and do not exist on the same level as liturgical worship, codified in the terms latria, dulia and hyperdulia. ( It is on this one point, alone, I feel confusion reigns when it comes to appropriate music for the Holy Sacrifice. We have far too many "performers" of religious music (and that would include Mozart all the way down to the SLJ) than truly sacred music which only comes from the heart that 'worships in spirit and in truth'. That, my friends, IMHO will only ever be found in the chant.
  • goal-oriented tonal counterpoint uniquely is capable of evoking the sacred within its own terms, independently of the liturgy. A Bach chorale setting does this even if one doesn't know the words to the hymn.

    But why uniquely? No one knows Latin any more and yet the common experience of Western liturgical chant, among believers and non-, is precisely that it evokes the sacred.

    This music -- non-musicians singing monophony a capella -- dominates secular charts when it is recorded, and yet it's musically about as far-distant from anything else on those charts as can be imagined. How does one reconcile this with the claim that chant is "of small musical interest" compared to the work of Mozart?

    And the music itself -- setting aside specialists' questions of interpretation -- is indisputably old. Anyone can pick up a disc of Carthusian chant and a disc from Solesmes and hear some of the same melodies on both and an overall sound that is quite similar, to the layman's ear. And yet the Carthusians have their own liturgical "rite", distinct from the Roman Rite, that reaches back uninterrupted to the 11th century.

    I think your argument can only be deepened and filled out by exploring the extent to which Western liturgical chant is the foundation without which there would be no Western counterpoint. To dismiss chant from consideration at the outset is to make an odd study of sacred music. And to say "we don't know quite how it sounded" is irrelevant. We don't know quite how Bach's chorales sounded when he directed them in Leipzig, either. Bach's keyboard music is generally interpreted on an instrument that barely existed in his lifetime. Does that detract from our ability to study the French Suites?
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    In the past three years (came into the Church in 2007), every time that I have heard renaissance (palestrina, byrd, victoria, etc) , baroque (bach, charpentier, etc) or classical (haydn, mozart, etc at a Mass (in San Francisco, Winston Salem, Knoxville, Washington DC, & Sacramento) it has ALWAYS been accompanied by gregorian chant. My experience is limited for sure; however, whatever the situation in other places and times, here and now in the USA it seems that chant provides the basso continuo for classical music in general, in a manner of speaking.
  • "the 'ancient chant' promulgated in the nineteenth century by the Benedictines of Solemnes [sic] was, in fact, their own invention"

    An appalling remark.

    Nonetheless, it is true that Mocquereau is the author of the ictus theory, the historical validity of which is, "to put it mildly, highly questionable" (Apel, Gregorian Chant, 125).
  • the inventor of the idea that all chant can be analytically understood in mico-units of 2s and 3s - a very compelling and helpful and even brilliant idea, an idea you can contemplate even if you don't use the ictus.
  • Ben Dunlap,

    Why uniquely? Read my essay: our perception of the sacred is bound up with our sense of mortality and our intimation of eternity. What Augustine perceived so clearly is that our perception of time is NOT a hard-wired Kantian category, but bounded by memory and expectation -- if you will, by tradition and faith, by the memory of Sinai (or Calvary, for you Christians) and our eschatological expectation. Our ordering of the perception of time within memory depends on the irruption of the Eschaton into the temporal. Franz Rosenzweig, the great Jewish theologian, put this beautifully as I quoted him. Because goal-oriented tonal music uniquely can create higher orders of time-perception (modern theory calls this durational vs tonal rhythm), it can evoke this irruption of the Eschaton into the temporal. That is different than serving the needs of liturgy, which is a good and necessary thing, as I stated at the outset.

    For those who care to study the matter further, Chapter 11 of Augustine's Confessions and Book VI of De Musica are the relevant texts. For musicians, the first three chapters of Carl Schachter's book "Unfoldings."

    Patrick Joseph,

    Appalling, but the scholarly consensus which also happens to be true. It doesn't mean that it's bad (I never said it was), only that it was an innovation.


    The pope is used to the use of classical music in the liturgy per South German Catholic tradition. Everyone else, in my view, is missing something quite wonderful. One doesn't have to be a Catholic (and I surely am not) to admire it and understand the benefits of which Benedict writes.
  • I've read the essay a couple of times now and by "why uniquely" I meant to ask: Why do you think that only music composed since the Renaissance has the property of goal-oriented tonality? Everything I know about chant and tonality suggests that goal-oriented tonality was first established, in the Western musical literature that's available to us, in chant -- and then taken up with more complexity in the Renaissance and beyond. Or do you think that music can only have this property if it is polyphonic?

    The schola I sang with used the Solesmes method, but surely the musical essentials are still discernible underneath the 2s and 3s and particular interpretation of neumes. Whereas the article in First Things seemed to say: (a) the Solesmes revival was a bit of a sham; therefore (b) we can't say anything useful about chant because it was lost in the Middle Ages. Even if the first statement is true the second doesn't follow.

    tdunbar's comment is also illuminating because it suggests that where Western sacred music is approached seriously, one will hear all three strains in real live liturgical settings: chant, Renaissance, and classical. There's no rigorous argument to be made here but this experience is evocative and is just what one would expect to find if chant is objectively the foundation for the other two strains.

    And wouldn't the composers of the early Renaissance have been in direct continuity with medieval chant? Or is it to be supposed that they composed entirely afresh, drawing solely on Antiquity for their musical ideas?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,499
    Mr. Goldman, by characterizing Solesmes' interpretation of chant as an "invention" or "innovation", do you mean to say that they created their version of chant ex nihilo?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Just FYI (to anyone who is just coming into this forum) anyone who thinks Solesmes invented their published chant melodies needs to spend some time reading Finn Hansen's transcription of Montpellier H. 159 (the so-called "Faculty of Medicine" MSS).

    If you do this, you will see that Solesmes is about 1,000 years too late to make up those melodies.
  • dgoldman:

    Your remark is appalling because it is false and calumnious.

    I refer you to David Hiley's book, "Western Plainchant" (1993). It is encyclopedic in scope. The bibliography alone is 65 pages long. There is no evidence in it to support your notion of scholarly consensus.
  • I plan to read the essay, but cant help wondering,
    why tonal counterpoint, as opposed to modal?
    It's been too long, perhaps, but I seem to recall in 'Gradus ad Parnassus' that composers until Beethoven studied modal counterpoint, and that Palestrina (on whose work the Fux text is based) composed within that framework.

    The statement about Solesmes doesn't totally shock me, I've heard it before. And, like Richard R., I'm still waiting for musicologists to say something about who gets it right. I hope critics of Solesmes can be grateful for the massive amounts of work- pioneer musicologocal work, at that- provided by the monks of Solesmes.
  • "anyone who thinks Solesmes invented their published chant melodies needs to spend some time reading Finn Hansen's transcription of Montpellier H. 159"

    Jeff--I don't think that the "Solesmes Invention" criticism speaks so much to the pitches that are sung, but rather to the way that the pitches are sung. Diastematic manuscripts like the Montpellier 159 certainly can tell us a lot about pitches, but, as we know, they lack much information about the way that the pitches are sung. The adiastematic manuscripts like St. Gall, Laon, Einsiedeln, etc., are probably the manuscripts in question which offer much more information on the expression of the melodies than later diastematic manuscripts.
  • Of course Solesmnes did not create its version of chant ex nihilo. Out of a large number of quite different (and difficut to interpret) styles of chant, they synthesized what they thought must be an ur-chant of which the actual material supposedly were later variations. The method was similar to what philologists used to reconstruct the (conjectural) primary Indo-European language. What Solesmnes disseminated is derived in some fashion from actual chant, or at least a reasonable guess as to how that chant sounded. That much I learned from Leo Treitler at City University Graduate Center in the 1980s, before Bergeron's excellent book appeared.

    Patrick Joseph, "false" is possible (although highly improbable given the mass of evidence), but not calumnious, as my view is the consensus among musicologists (there always will be dissenters). That is an inflammatory word and ill becomes you or this discussion.

    MA, tonal as opposed to modal because tonality provides for harmonic as well as linear goals, so that goal-oriented motion can be prolonged over far longer time spans. Modal music (except for pseudo-modal usages, e.g. "Phrygian" in the very tonal Brahms 4th or the Heiliger Dankgesang of the Beethoven Op. 132) almost always is found in short forms. Tonality as practiced by Bach and after actually subsumes the modes. The Gradus is an abstract exercise rather than actual music.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636

    posting question in new thread
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Hi, Adam.

    The adiastematic ("in campo aperto") MSS contain some markings that pertain to rhythm & dynamics, but (sadly) a lot of it is contradictory and inconsistent. Adiastematic notation doesn't give us any clues in regard to what notes (tones) they were singing.

    What I was addressing was the notion (put forth above) that Solesmes editions were "their own invention rather than a historical reconstruction."

    I find it hard to believe the author only had rhythmic theories in mind. Indeed, if this were the case, there would be nothing novel about the article. Mocquereau himself (much to the dismay of his critics) never claimed that he was reconstructing the exact rhythm of particular monasteries in the middle ages. Why publish an article stating what folks have known for 100 years?
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    This is the kind of discourse I am so hungry for. Long a fan of the Deutsche Romantik, I don't doubt for a second that at its zenith it penetrated every corner of European society. I had never contemplated it penetrating monastery walls though, and am somewhat skeptical. I can't see the monks at Solesmes, even if they had fallen under the movement's spell, changing a style of singing that they had preserved for centuries. I CAN see, however, a movement obsessed with returning to their ideal (the Holy Roman Empire), turning to an institution perceived to have preserved the singing style of that time. Why would the monks have turned away from what they knew was authentic in order to perpetrate a fraud? I'm fascinated by the conversation though, and want to read the authors quoted above in order to get better informed.
    Bravo to the CMAA for sponsoring this blog. The opportunity to read these dialogues is such a blessing.
  • paul,

    Solesmes was a "re-foundation" -- Prosper Gueranger, the founding abbot, was not originally a monk or even a religious, but a secular priest who received permission to found a Benedictine community in the abandoned monastery that is now the abbey of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes. There's no question of his particular community preserving anything for centuries because his particular community didn't exist before the early 1800s -- and since there's no such thing as a unified "Benedictine Order", one can only speak of Benedictine monks in terms of particular communities.

    At any rate the accusation of Romanticism finds fertile ground in the historical account of the re-founding of Solesmes, although I suspect the reality is a bit more complex than "starry-eyed idealists re-create faux Middle Ages".

    On the other hand there are particular monastic communities and liturgical traditions that have existed in uninterrupted continuity since the Middle Ages -- the Carthusians and Dominicans, with their respective rites, come first to mind. These existed long before Solesmes and continue to exist today. I'm interested to learn more about how their chant books and traditions fit into the "man behind the curtain" theory.
  • Many of the adiastematic manuscripts offer several signs that are purely of melodic consideration. I definitely would consider these to be clues as to the tones that were sung.

    I don't think that Goldman is trying to present any "novelties" about the widely held Solesmes "invention" critique. His piece only mentions the issue in one sentence and then goes on to discuss tonal music and eschatology. I would say though that his statement, evidently supported by musicological consensus, is commonly epitomized by the "to put it mildly, highly questionable" (Apel, see above) rhythmic theories of Mocquereau. Am I wrong?
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    Re Dominican Liturgy, see: where Fr Augustine Thompson and others have posted a wealth of material.