From Solesmes.... The Death of the Ictus and the Dot
  • From the Introduction of the new Antiphonle Monasticum 2005....

    The dot and the vertical episema do not correspond to any traditional information about Gregorian chant. They do not appear in any medieval manuscript and have only been introduced into Solesmes editions in order to promote a rhythmic theory of Gregorian chant (based on the views propounded in Le Nombre Musical Grégorien), which has long since been demonstrated to be obsolete. Moreover, they have shown themselves to be in contradiction with the elementary principles of reading medieval neumes. More precisely, this rhythmic theory, to the extent that it inflicts a rhythmic distortion on the words and phrases that are chanted, appears in contradiction to the elementary principles of liturgical music composition, which must be set fundamentally at the service of the sacred text.

    The horizontal episema only appears in two or three medieval manuscripts of the office out of several hundred documents which have come down to us. It is not a rhythmic sign, but an expressive one. It does not inform the singer about basic rhythm, it only indicates – and that in a way very ambiguous for a XX century singer[33] – a minute nuance of rhythm (called agogic by musicians for the last century).
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    This is very typical of a school of thought that has been alive and well for at least 150 years.

    Unless I am missing something, this is rather "old news." The current "powers that be" at Solesmes have been moving away from Mocquereau's theories for a number of years. They actually have not wanted to print dots and dashes for decades (their choice, of course), but due to the requests of certain convents (who found them very useful, and also bought a lot of books), they kept it up for a number of years. But I believe it has been decades since the "powers that be" at Solesmes have printed dots and dashes in their new publications. It's definitely their choice. But whether the paragraphs above are musicologically sound and/or historically accurate is another question entirely.
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 330
    ....Taken From http://www.chantcafe.com/ .....

    Neumes and “rhythmic signs”[32]

    It has become customary to use this term for three signs added by the Solesmes editions to XX century books of chant: the dot, the vertical episema and the horizontal episema.

    These three signs have been abandoned in our edition for the following reasons.

    The dot and the vertical episema do not correspond to any traditional information about Gregorian chant. They do not appear in any medieval manuscript and have only been introduced into Solesmes editions in order to promote a rhythmic theory of Gregorian chant (based on the views propounded in Le Nombre Musical Grégorien), which has long since been demonstrated to be obsolete. Moreover, they have shown themselves to be in contradiction with the elementary principles of reading medieval neumes. More precisely, this rhythmic theory, to the extent that it inflicts a rhythmic distortion on the words and phrases that are chanted, appears in contradiction to the elementary principles of liturgical music composition, which must be set fundamentally at the service of the sacred text.

    The horizontal episema only appears in two or three medieval manuscripts of the office out of several hundred documents which have come down to us. It is not a rhythmic sign, but an expressive one. It does not inform the singer about basic rhythm, it only indicates – and that in a way very ambiguous for a XX century singer[33] – a minute nuance of rhythm (called agogic by musicians for the last century).

    Most amateur choirs are incapable of producing such subtle nuances, which are the preserve of experienced soloists, and the exaggerated interpretation they give to them leads them in the end to distort the underlying rhythm of such simple Gregorian pieces as antiphons, a rhythm based on the declamation of the text and the flow of the melody.

    It is for this reason that we have chosen not to use these signs, following the principle set out at the end of the preface of Liber hymnarius:

    “The principles set out here stem from the perfect matching of the sacred text with the Gregorian melody. This is why those who in singing strive to respect Latin diction, possess by this very fact most of what is required to execute Gregorian chant well.”[34]

    Before fixing on these choices, many pieces were tried out in various communities and choirs, and in sessions which brought together monastic choirmasters and choirmistresses. This procedure made it possible to keep a constant balance between practical requirements,and the demands of musicological criticism on the one hand, and of litugical pastoral needs on the other.

    It is immediately clear to all who try them out that the essential thing with these little antiphons is, as Dom Gajard knew by intuition, “the line”.

    “A very pure line of syllabic sounds, just what is needed for the text to be pronounced… A little rise, followed by its fall, a tiny protasis followed by its apodosis, and that’s all; a few notes are enough. No ornamentation, no seeking after effect. Just the line.”[35]

    The line of the word first, the musical line afterwards. There is no more need for rhythmic signs than for palaeographic neumes to give the right interpretation to these antiphons.

    Such reasoning could not be applied to ornate pieces, like the long responsories and graduals of the Office.[36] There, melismatic style and complex melodic developments necessitate a few reference points. Almost everywhere in the world today, those who perform this ornate repertoire refer to the Graduale Triplex, in which the Vatican edition’s melodic writing is clarified by neumes from the oldest manuscripts. This is why the most ornate pieces in our edition of the antiphoner (long responsories, Christus factus est and Haec dies of Easter) are enhanced with medieval neumes.

    These neumes are not intended for all singers, since many in the monasteries sing by memory and imitation. On the other hand, they will be useful for choir directors and for informed amateurs in providing objective indications on which to base their interpretation.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I find the second paragraph troublesome. How can the episema appear in "two or three" manuscripts? If one has spent a considerable amount of time studying the medieval sources, wouldn't one be able to say "exactly two" or "exactly three"? This must be referring to a special use of the episema (e.g. isolated on a monosyllable), since episemata can be found in St. Gall 339, 359, and 391 as well as Einsiedeln 121. The episemata of the Solesmes editions, however, do not correspond exactly to the usage in the manuscripts.

    I do think it's important to know what's being done at Solesmes right now. Also, it seems to me that many beginning chanters (and even some schola directors!) have mistaken the notation in the current liturgical books (with or without the dots and lines) as being some sort of authentic historical notation, rather than a modern (and increasingly so, with more and more new neume forms being created) development. Many Solesmes method books, especially of the Ward school, seem to present their interpretation as the one true way to sing chant.

    Whether or not you follow the Method, it's helpful to know that it's one interpretation out of many, but one that is fairly clearly defined. There are still far too many debates about what the dot means. The simple answer is that the dot means what the person who put the dot there said it means! This is not manuscript evidence to be interpreted, but an innovation (or an artifact, depending on your point of view). Yes, the above passage is in a sense "old news," but it's something every schola director should be aware of.
    Thanked by 1SamuelDorlaque
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,171
    The more I read, the more Roger Wagner was right: "Sing it as though it were MUSIC."
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 990
    After five days with Dom Saulnier at Solesmes, I would say that he would agree with dad29 and Roger Wagner.
  • My world has been turned upside down.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Bless you, MJ, for passing that along. I have always believed that the page can get in the way of musical sensibilities, regardless of the repertoire.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Here again, the Hiley book is very useful for putting all of this into perspective. There is reason to doubt any strict dogma on these matters. I like the old Solesmes notation because that's what I'm used to and reduces the room for error when singing with groups.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    dad29: Roger Wagner was truly a great musician. Did you ever meet him?
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,171
    Unhhhh...yah, several times.

    Would you believe Roger eating dinner at McDonald's? You can. He did.

    That remark about "...as though it were music" was his advice to me after I told him I wasn't sure that all that Solesmes/Mocqereau stuff (the preface to the Liber) was within my understanding.

    It was the best advice I'd ever gotten.
    Thanked by 1DavidOLGC
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    I grew up with the Rossini Psalm Tone Propers, and Ordinaries accompanied out of "Our Parish Prays & Sings". Melismatic Propers are comparatively new to me, although I started to learn them working with M Jackson back in the 1980s. I do accompany myself with "Nova Organi Harmonia", and I do add the Solesmes markings to my accompaniment. I find them quite consistent, and a reasonable interpretation of melody to text. As to the actual rhythms, nothing is metronomic, and always needs to flow freely. Nuances are slight. But I find these marking both convenient and consistent, and I intend to continue using them.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Steve, you really learned Solesmes from Michael Jackson in the 1980's, when he was at the height of his fame????!!!
    Thanked by 1E_A_Fulhorst
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    LOL! No, our fellow list member M. Jackson Osborn. He preceded me at Our Lady of Walsingham. I also learned a lot about Anglican chant from him.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Thank you to all for your comments! Yes, I realized this really wasn't news, with the chant scholarship of the last 50 years much of it coming from Solesmes itself, it was inevitable. However, what I thought was important was the strongest repudiation yet of Mocquereau's Method coming from Solesmes printed in the introduction of one of their latest Chant books. Though the introduction was for the Antiphonale Monasticum, it is obvious from thumbing through the new Vesperale, the Antiphonale Romanum, that the same principles are being followed, and probably will be followed for subsequent publications. In the world of Chant, I thought this seemed to be newsworthy as books "ornamented with the Solesmes rhythmic markings" have been a part of our musical lives for nearly a century.
    Thanked by 1SamuelDorlaque
  • Incantu- I agree with you whole heartedly. In regards the Ward Method, I am absolutely devoted to it, and find it better than even Orff and Kodaly, and use it to teach my probationary choristers. I generally stop teaching the Ward Method before I get to any advanced Chant because of its attachment to an academically unsound interpretation, at least as we see it in the 21st century, or to qualify further, one that I am unwilling to pass on. I hope that the Ward Method in future revisions will be able to adapt itself, though the memory of Justine B Ward, or "La Veuve Mocquereau" as she used to be styled at Solesmes looms large, and will be difficult for those carrying on her work. However, to see Ward make it into the 21st century and beyond, and I sincerely hope it DOES, this will mean at least a glance at Chant scholarship since 1930 and the death of Dom Mocquereau, which Mrs Ward was unwilling to do and which the scholarly monks of Solesmes HAD to do. Its sort of like telling a modern orchestra and choir that they will be singing the Messiah as it was sung in 1950. Since then, we have learned a lot about early music performance and the lovely, romantic interpretation of a work like Messiah, while still lovely, would not be taken seriously today.
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    I think that it needs to be clarified that the Saulnier text is not *the* introduction to Antiphonale Monasticum (as in an official introduction printed at the start of book) but rather comes from a talk he gave introducing the Antiphonale Monasticum.

    If we're looking for the last official word on how to sing chant from Solesmes, it's the official intro to the Liber Hymnarius.
  • Tibor
    Posts: 2
    „My world has been turned upside down.“! – Do not worry!
    Gregorian is not so much music, as it is prayer in musical form. Mocquereau´s method of its interpretation was widely accepted throughout many generations of pious monks (through period of more than 100 years). This must mean his intuition cannot be false. At least it must be one of the best possible methods. Nobody can exactly know how was gregorian performed 1000 years ago, because there were no recorders. But it is possible that some (many) monks 1000 years ago also have „Mocquereau´s intuition“. Why not?
    Besides, musical prayer cannot be successfuly studied using the most sophisticated instruments by non-believing musicologist. I do not believe that modern methods of gregorian interpretation will be so widely accepted by communities of Benedictine monks all over the world and for so long time as it was the case of Mocquereau´s method of interpretation.
    "Thus, his [Mocquereau´s] work represent a mixture of historical exactitude and ingenious fancy. Considered aesthetically, its aim is to avoid manifest effects by introducing various layers of emphasis that balance each other, such as the textual accent, the ictus, and the episema. In an ideal case (which is often realized) these three kinds of „stress“ would appear each at a different place.“ Willi Apel: Gregorian Chant, p. 128-129.
    Thanked by 2JulieColl DavidOLGC
  • It's important to realize that Daniel Saulnier [formerly "Dom"] is no longer a Solesmes monk; the current director at Solesmes, Dom Bruno, has returned to the classical Solesmes method with great success; and the most recent publication of Solesmes—the 2012 Gregorian Missal—retains 100% of Mocquereau's ictus & episemata.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooo!
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    That's SOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo funny, Salieri. I'm very sorry that you are distressed, but your reaction had me in stitches.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,943
    Well, thank you, HVV, for the update about the change in Solesmes' practice in regard to notation. That's very interesting.
    Thanked by 1SamuelDorlaque
  • Well, then, there we have it!
    Since there were no recording devices a thousand years ago and since chant scholars and musicologists can't possibly give us reliable information (they are, after all, 'unbelievers'), voila, Mocquereau's 'intuition', aided by his very Victorian and romantic imagination, will do. Balderdash!

    And semiology? Who needs that when our romanticised imaginations are happy with the so-called 'Classic Solesmnes Method' (not to mention that some of our reputations and life's teaching are at stake). But wait, it just so happens that there were recording devices a thousand years ago. No, not sound recording, but the written records of Frankish scribes which, it is becoming ever more clear, give us a very clear notion of how chant was sung a thousand years ago. True, we cannot clone the sound of it, but we can have relative certitude of style, delivery, and neume-text relationships. It will take more than a change of personell and wishful thinking to make of the 'Classic Solesmes Method' any more than a very pretty (depending on who's doing it) daydream.

    And, just because Daniel Saulnier is, so it is said, no longer a monk at Solesmes doesn't logically lead to the assumption that his teaching is false. In fact, it very well may imply just the opposite. One thing is certain, the Frankish scribes left no record of icti, vertical episemas, dots, and all manner of other ephemera and blarney invented to keep the 'Classic Solesmes Method' afloat. They did, though, leave us a rich vocabulary of symbols which the 'Solesmes Method' coterie are content to ignore.

    Next, they'll be telling us that Justine Ward knew more about chant than Columba Kelly!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,943
    I'll be pleased if the basic performing editions are reverting to the old "Method" for now. Those books do need to present some interpretation, rather than leaving chant practitioners with a DIY kit. I have no objection to directors making their own semiologically informed interpretations, but we're not all equipped with the knowledge and furnished with the time to do that.

    Someday, perhaps in my nephew's lifetime, the new critical editions will come, and Solesmes can sort among contending interpretations to prepare new books for general use.

    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    the most recent publication of Solesmes—the 2012 Gregorian Missal—retains 100% of Mocquereau's ictus & episemata.


    I wouldn't read too much into this. They merely re-engraved the music from the previous edition, which ultimately is a more English-user-friendly edition of the 1974 Graduale, which we all know is almost entirely the same in terms of the musical editions of the chants as the 1908 Graduale.

    It would silly for a 2012 English Missal to be the vehicle to release entirely new editions of these chants. We'll have to wait to see what the new edition of the Solesmes Graduale looks like - and if it appears in any of our lifetimes.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    And I might add, I don't mind the rhythmic markings. I do think the new shape of the oriscus in the 2005-2008 Antiphonales makes a lot more sense in a salicus than a vertical episema - if for no other reason than to avoid confusion with the "ictus." I don't mind horizontal episemata, nor dots. I have to say that printing the vertical episemata for "ictus" seems to me as a conductor to impose a bit too much.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    I think one of the byproducts of Bartlett's Lumen Christi Series is the raising of a generation of American/English-speaking Church Musicians trained in singing chant sans ictus & sans dots.

    I once gave a workshop for (non choir) people in chant and I decided to go with 'Old Solesmes' because that's still sort of the flavor of the day as far as chant interpretation in concerned (even though my choir doesn't use it), but I decided to use mostly vernacular music (the attendees sang the propers of the Mass during the evening liturgy, quite well actually) from the then-new Lumen Christi series, and the SEP (Ordinary was in Latin). No ictus in either of these books, and no dots in the former.

    I quickly discovered in prepping this course that the traditional Solesmes method is completely incompatible with English Plainchant! It's only practical use is with Latin - which makes sense, since that is the language its theories were based on, and what it was intended for. (Latin and English word-stress is different, and it is Latin word-stress that the ideas of arsis, thesis and ictus come from.) I used the terms of Mocquereau, (arsis, thesis, ictus) but applied them, as I thought would make the most sense, to English. Yet I still had to go with Cardine/Bartlett's principle that the words come first and lengths of notes should be altered according to the text: that not all puncta are created equal. A very strict Mocquereauvian interpretation of English Plainchant results in a stilted, robotic English, since all syl-la-bles are gi-ven the same du-ra-tion. (YMMV)

    I was thinking about this this morning: Vernacular liturgy is so entrenched at this point that a gradual process will have to be had to return to Latin. I.e. if Pope "Marcellus III" ("Cardinal" Fellay - we can all dream, can't we?) were to wish to reverse the liturgical mess and re-institute the traditional Mass en masse, his only recourse would be to the 1965 Missal, which includes the possibility of the Vernacular in addition to Latin, not plopping the '62 (or better the pre-Pius XII Missal) on everyone. Bartlett's books could still be used, just altered for the Traditional Calendar - Still no dots or ictus. When the Latin Liturgy is fully implemented, I wouldn't be surprised if musicians raised on English (or other vernacular) plainchant composed from a semiological perspective wouldn't automatically gravitate towards the pure Vatican Edition, to which can easily be applied the semiological interpretation that Bartlett, Kelly, Morse, Cole, Schaefer, and others, are inculcating into people, or, indeed, the Novum (or Triplex).

    Also, the old Solesmes books with all of the (19th Century) rhythmic markings remind me of the old G. Schirmer editions with all of the (19th Century) interpretive markings inflicted on Bach and Handel.
    Thanked by 1SkirpR
  • BGP
    Posts: 215
    Rumors of the demise of the ictus and dot have been greatly exadurated. Or they're zombies,... kind of like this thread.

    Really though, can we stop seeing the newer and 'traditional' performance aproaches as enemies?
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,067
    Salieri, that really started with Fr. Columba Kelly's English chant. Our folks have gotten used to figuring out who the composer of an English chant is based on how the quarter bar "feels"!
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    It's only practical use is with Latin


    I am of the opinion that there's a lot we tolerate or accept about chanting in Latin, in terms of BIZarre or unnatURal syllabIC acCENT, which we do not in English because we speak English conversationally, and we do not (most of us) speak Latin conversationally. (And even those who do, it is not their native tongue.)

    The constant refrain of how different Latin is to English has a kernel of truth to it, but I think the bigger issue is that singing a language you know intimately is inherently different than singing one that you do not.
  • Tibor
    Posts: 2
    "But wait, it just so happens that there were recording devices a thousand years ago."

    „Even so, there are – let us say it once again to conclude – so many things that the writing cannot transmit: the pronunciation (vocalization and articulation), the accentuation, micro-tones, the vocal technique of another age... without counting the ten centuries of civilization that separate us from the mind set of the first notators.“
    Dom Daniel Saulnier: Gregorian chant, Solesmes 2003, p. 126
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    I am of the opinion that there's a lot we tolerate or accept about chanting in Latin, in terms of BIZarre or unnatURal syllabIC acCENT, which we do not in English because we speak English conversationally, and we do not (most of us) speak Latin conversationally. (And even those who do, it is not their native tongue.)

    The constant refrain of how different Latin is to English has a kernel of truth to it, but I think the bigger issue is that singing a language you know intimately is inherently different than singing one that you do not.


    THIS.

    I have for a few years now been working on an as-needed basis on adapting the Gregorian Communios to the English translations of them that exist in the Missal (or pretty darn close) or using the Revised Grail or NAB (or pretty darn close).

    As I've done this over time, I've used a variety of methods - and as my semiological knowledge has grown in recent months I've often (but not always) kept more of an eye towards the Triplex and/or Graduale Novum as I set about my work.

    I've thought about sharing these with the world via the forum - perhaps under the title of Not-So-Simple English Communions - but I've been reluctant because 1) being done over a span of several years I fear they're not consistent, and 2) there would be many to quickly make the accusation that I'm giving un-due accent to un-important syllables.

    For example - from one I did a few weeks back:


    Putting all those notes on "and" - I must be stupid... except that in the Latin original "et" gets the same notes.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    Actually, Richard, that "and" works: The Latin (and English) actually emphasizes a good point: We can't just take up our cross and moan about it; we must take up our cross AND follow him: in trust with meekness and docility, since his yoke is easy and his burden light.

    Once you figure out how to decode the propers, each one of them really is a sermon, and a better sermon than most Catholics hear from the pulpit each Sunday.
  • joerg
    Posts: 123
    "Dom Bruno, has returned to the classical Solesmes method"
    If this is really the case, then it's not a "return", because the so called Solesmes method was never practiced at Solesmes. In fact Dom Cardine entered the monastery as a great admirer of this method and was very disappointed to learn that the Solesmes community didn't sing according to the "method".
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    Anyone who thinks that Mocquereau was against semiology should have a look at his personal copy of the gradual:

    The Graduale Triplex contains the best readings from various St. Gall MSS and Laon. It is an updated version of:

    The Graduel Neume, a publication of Dom Cardine's person Graduale in which he transcribed the best St. Gall MSS readings, which was his own version of:

    Dom Mocquereau's personal Gradual into which he transcribed the neums of St. Gall.

    Dom Cardine learnt Semiology at the knee of his teacher and mentor, Dom Mocquereau.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Actually, Richard, that "and" works: The Latin (and English) actually emphasizes a good point: We can't just take up our cross and moan about it; we must take up our cross AND follow him: in trust with meekness and docility, since his yoke is easy and his burden light.


    Of course this had crossed my mind. But I think Adam's point still stands. There are plenTY of caSES WHERE this hapPENS in the Latin of the Graduale. But to follow this part of the model in an English adaptation is seemingly to invite harsh criticism.

    I've also taken it a step more and said (and will restate here) that, from my perspective, to remove so many of these occasional unbalances of word accent from a collection of English chant makes the entire collection feel more like utilitarian modality than chant. Unfortunately, I think most of the collections available today suffer from this - which is why I write my own.
  • the so called Solesmes method was never practiced at Solesmes. In fact Dom Cardine entered the monastery as a great admirer of this method and was very disappointed to learn that the Solesmes community didn't sing according to the "method".


    Actually, that's a myth. In terms of the "counting" (1-2…1-2-3 and so forth) the monks never did any of that, because they sang these pieces over and over again—year after year, decade after decade—starting in the late 19th century. There was absolutely no need for them to do any "counting."

    However, the hundreds of recordings by Dom Gajard (created over a period of 30-40 years) without question adhere to the classic Solesmes method. In fact, Gajard believed in Mocquereau's method more "strictly" than Mocquereau himself… I'm unaware of any serious publication ever making the claim that these recordings do not adhere to the classic Solesmes method.

    There's a rumor that Gajard basically chased ("expelled") Cardine from the monastery to Rome since their personalities clashed, but I've never been able to substantiate that rumor. However, the fact remains that Dom Cardine was never made choirmaster of the Abbey, whereas Gajard held that post for most of his adult life, winning innumerable awards for his conducting.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    So with the absence of the dot, as in the Lumen Christi books, are notes given double values at the end of measures just as a matter of general practice? Or are they sung right through without any pronounced elongation?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    From Adam Bartlett's introduction to Lumen Christi Simple Gradual: (He gives a short musical example that contains all of these items, their place in this list reflects their placement in the example.)

    Punctum: A single note, having the same rhythmic value of the syllable to which it is attached
    Podatus (Pes): Sung smoothly from bottom to top; a bit more quickly than a punctum
    Clivis: Sung like the podatus, only from top to bottom (left to right)
    Quarter Bar: A brief pause in the singing, sometimes, but not always requiring a breath
    Bivirga: Two notes that are connected, but sung with a light repercussion on each note
    Pressus: The first two notes are repercussed, followed by a quick and fluid movement toward the third note
    Torculus: Three notes (low-high-low) that are sung smoothly and slightly more quickly than they would be sung on their own
    Full bar: A pause in the singing that typically corresponds to a punctuated period in the text
    Custos: A sign that is found at the end of a line which guides the singer to the note that follows on the next line (the custos is not actually sung)
    Climacua: The first note is sung as a punctum, while the second and third notes are sung more quickly and lightly, falling away from the first note
    Liquescent: A smaller note that can rise above or drop below a note; The liquescent note is typically sung as a voiced consonant
    Episema: A line above or below any neum, or part of a neum, which slightly stretches or lengthens the note or notes that it is placed over
    Half bar: A pause in the singing that warrants a breath, but that is not conclusive
    Quilisma: Sung fluidly from bottom to top; The first note is slightly lengthened, the second is an unstable note that is sung quickly and lightly without emphasis, and the third note receives length and emphasis as the clear point of arrival
    Porrectus: Three notes (high-low-high), that are sung fluidly, more quickly, and tending toward the last note
    Double bar: A conclusive end to a musical setting.


    In my personal application of this, regarding the bars: since the word 'pause' is used I interpret that not as stopping, but as a lengthening - pausa = fermata. The rough length being based on text and context, but generally the pausa at the quarter bar is shorter than that at a half bar, which is shorter than that at a full bar, etc. All of these lengthenings are (generally) treated as a point of rest.

    This differs from my interpretation of the horizontal episema, which is really not a sign of length but of expression, though often this expression is accompanied by a lengthening of the note(s) to which it is attached. There are various reasons why this expression is given to a certain note, it could be that the note itself is important in the piece (i.e. dominant of the mode), or the word to which it is sung is important, etc.

    The comma (which is NOT a breath mark), which Bartlett doesn't mention in the introduction, I interpret as being a simple break in the sound - no lengthening before the comma, just (as Jeff. Tucker says in his introduction to SEP) a 'sliver of light' coming through.

    In the main I try to maintain a difference in interpretation between the lengthenings at barlines/mora vocis/dot and the horizontal episema.

    I hope this is (somewhat) helpful.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    And, not trying to write an apologia for the so-called Solesmes Method and the ictus (which I don't use), but: Mocquereau's Ictus theory is based on Latin accentuaton: which is not a harsh, 'hitting' accent as in English (or German), but a rise in pitch. The ictus is Not the accent of the word, it is the point of rest after the accent, the patterns of arsis and thesis of old-style chironomy have the accent of the word at the top of the arch. Unfortunately, this is lost on most choirs who are trained in modern music because they are used to the downward motion of the director's hand being the 'beat', an accent.

    So... something that might look to us like:
    CreDO in uNUM deUM

    is actually to be sung as:
    [silent ictus] CREdo in Unum DEum.

    But, in the counting of 1-2, 1-2, etc. is often done as in modern music:
    two, ONE-two-three, ONE-two, ONE

    but should actually be:
    [one-]TWO, one-two-THREE, one-TWO, one.

    This is where the old method fails, it is counter intuitive to modern musicians in the shape of the conductive patters, and actually requires retraining of people (which kinda wastes time in rehearsal - esp. if you only meet once a week for 1-1/2 hours and have a boat-load of music). And in English, which is based on a different system of accentuation it just ain't gonna work.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    It's very helpful. Thanks, Salieri. I was just reading about this in the foreword of my Liber Usualis the other day:

    "The dynamic value of the ictus or rhythmic step varies considerably. Sometimes it is strong, sometimes weak; everything depends on the syllable to which it corresponds and the position it occupies in the melody. The fact therefore that this intensity varies is a proof that the ictus belongs not to the dynamic but to the rhythmic order; its being and influence are contributed and felt by elements from the melody and the text. The expression "the ictus is more in the mind than in the voice", has sometimes been misunderstood. The meaning will, perhaps, be clearer if we say that it is felt and intimated by tone of voice rather than expressed by any material emphasis."

    When we began singing the propers of the G.R., I diligently marked our copies with the ictus marks, and it made a world of difference in the way we approached them. I could not make much musical sense of them without the ictus marks and couldn't really comprehend the melodic line.

    What really helped actually, was studying the phrasing of the Bragers accompaniment which follows the Solesmes method as far as I can tell, and this helped me enormously in learning where the ictus marks go, along with much study of the Dr. Marier's chant CD and book. We only used the accompaniment for a year, but it was very helpful.

    However, after three years of singing the propers, we are much better able to "feel" the ictus without over-emphasizing it in some way, which we probably did in the very beginning.
    Thanked by 1David Sullivan
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    P.S. I was speaking to my husband, who is our director, and this is his take on the value of ictus marks. for whatever it's worth: "It seems to me they are a rhythmic necessity, because if the group doesn't know where the down beats are flowing, how are they to sing with any rhythmic specificity, or for that matter, any rhythmic unity? It seems to me ictus markings are not only a great help for the director, but even more so for your average schola member who just sings chant once/week and who doesn't have much time to devote to the study of the propers."
    Thanked by 1David Sullivan
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    As I have said, I don't use the "Solesmes Method", but I do use Brager's accompaniments a fair bit, also those of Dom Desroquettes, O.S.B., who I think was one of the greats of Gregorian accompaniment. I have found that these accompaniments work naturally to support the singing, without imposing an unnatural rhythm on the music. I must admit, however, that I occasionally move a chord-change a note or two forward of back if I feel it will help lead a congregation (most of these accompaniments were really written to support a choir lead by a conductor), especially at points of alternation, e.g. after the cantor's intonation.

    If you are unfamiliar with Desroquette's accompaniments look into them, they are masterpieces of simplicity.
    Thanked by 2JulieColl Felicity
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    "the ictus is more in the mind than in the voice"


    Recipe for the driest martini:
    Pour gin while thinking about vermouth.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    This is where the old method fails, it is counter intuitive to modern musicians in the shape of the conductive patters, and actually requires retraining of people (which kinda wastes time in rehearsal - esp. if you only meet once a week for 1-1/2 hours and have a boat-load of music). And in English, which is based on a different system of accentuation it just ain't gonna work.


    It seems to me ictus markings are not only a great help for the director, but even more so for your average schola member who just sings chant once/week and who doesn't have much time to devote to the study of the propers.


    This is where I'm fascinated by the varying points of view on ictus - because in this case, the viewpoints differ, but the reason is the same. Quote 1 advances the viewpoint that using the ictus makes things take longer in rehearsal. Quote 2 advances the viewpoint that using the ictus makes things take less time in rehearsal.

    I guess it depends with whom you're working. If one is working with a choir on varied repertoire of music - English and Latin in varying degrees of chant, Renaissance, Classical, Romantic, 20th-Century, and contemporary, I must say I feel the ictus will be neither intuitive nor helpful to your group - at least not in giving them a common set of skills to deal with all of the music with which the group intends to give stylistically appropriate readings.

    If all you're doing is chant, maybe there's something to the ictus, but as a conductor I've found it's much easier to get a group to become fluent in various styles as quickly as possible by keeping as much of the style absent in the learning process (bland, if you will), and then adding stylistic elements as you go - or more specifically, when you hear the ensemble start to deviate from bland to the *wrong* style. This means they're ready to start interpreting it - or start adding style. That's the cue to say, "no, sing it this way..." (or praise and encourage them if they insert the correct style elements, or teach them what to do if they take no initiative).

    But learning notes is for me more efficient when the group doesn't have to think about style - at least if they're not capable of doing all that at the same time. I'd venture to say most average parish choirs are not that capable - at least not until they've had years of experience singing in a ton of different styles appropriately.

    SIDE NOTE - I wonder if my feelings on this are in any way tied to my detest for conducting most Renaissance music in two - as is in vogue among choral conductors today, saying the lines will sing themselves. Maybe in a choir of singers with degrees that included significant study of Renaissance music the lines will indeed sing themselves. Or when a conductor takes significant rehearsal time to work on the shape of the lines with each section individually. But I think most choirs need to be shown the shape - which means the conductor must do something other than beating every half measure. There's simply too much music that needs to happen during the course of each half-measure for the conductor to give up the opportunity to show the intervening beat - maybe not strongly, but with shape and expression.

    Conductors: hint - your "proper" technique only matters if your group sounds good.
  • This is where the old method fails, it is counter intuitive to modern musicians in the shape of the conductive patters,

    There's a reason for this and it does not fail...I'm working on something about this right now, but it's not ready for prime time yet.

    There is good reason for "Solesmes Method". It is useful and really does not deserve the criticism it gets here...
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Regarding "Solesmes method," I have much respect for most (many? all?) of the people who respect it. I've even had people convince me it's the only answer in certain situations. I've yet to have someone convince me it is right for all situations and/or it's right for me. I look forward to that.

    While you're fine-tuning your response, Noel - here's my primary objection to where I've seen most people go with :

    it is counter intuitive to modern musicians in the shape of the conductive patters,


    There's a reason for this and it does not fail


    Most people continue this with something along the lines of: "It's a different style, and we don't want it to sound like modern music, so we must use different techniques."

    I don't buy it. Modern choral professionals use similar conducting gestures along with good modeling and interpretive direction to conduct everything from Dufay to Palestrina to Mozart to Bruckner to Webern to spirituals, and the unity of gesture simplifies the process. If all of those composers sound different stylistically (and they should!), it's only because the conductor knows how to inform the performance.

    I'll say it again - if all you do is chant, I can buy it - but if a group is working in other styles, it seems silly that the genre that begot the others should require radically different conducting technique than that devised and commonly accepted for leading its stylistic children.

    Again, if it works for someone and gets them a better result, more power to them in my book... but if we've already got a system in place - and the choral world of 2014 definitely does (and which, as a big aside, I'm not sure I could say about the choral world of Mocquereau's time), I don't see the need to re-invent the wheel here.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,716
    That wheel has been re-invented too many times. It's square now, you know!
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Two practical (I hope) observations about the episema. The vertical is a useful guide in the more complex passages, and the horizontal a constraint on flow that's very difficult to correct if people have been doing it for years. That is all.
    Thanked by 1SkirpR
  • PhatFlute
    Posts: 219
    I am starting to dis like chant
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    I am starting to dis like chant


    I hope that isn't because of these arguments. That would sort of be like not liking baseball anymore because two pitchers disagree on the best way to throw strikes.