Using - Drone with Gregorian Chant
  • Hello to all,

    Just finished an article in the latest "Pastoral Music" on Organum and Other Variations by Peter Funk, OSB.

    This edition had a few article on chant and organ accompaniment.

    Still being very new to this chant thing, what are people's opinions on organum & droning, I am very interested in the drone concept mentioned in the article. (having a bass or two singing or humming ooh on the tonic note while the other offer the chants.) I have been to the Colloquium twice and the chant intensive once, and don't recall having preformed or recalled hearing this type of presentation. Would you use it for just propers, or could you use the drone with ordinaries? Is this appropriate for the Liturgical setting, is this how polyphony music got it start?

    All thoughts appreciated, just continuing my lifelong learning.

    David Deavy
  • David, sorry we've not met, or have we?
    I've set an English "Ave Maria" using "ison" drones (altos/basses) against the CF (sops/ten.) It was received quite well at a Solemn Vespers.
    I think there is much more to be explored in new composition, ala JMO's new "Glory", where both accompaniment and ison might be employed.
  • Charles,

    I don't believe we have met directly, but I believe we were in Jeff O's men chant schola at the colloquium in Pittsburgh?

  • OlbashOlbash
    Posts: 311
    Let good taste be your guide. I find most attempts at drone-accompanied chant to be exceedingly dreary, but there have been occasions when it has been done well.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    here is a chart someone once gave me (or rather, told to me, hence some of the question marks.)
    I hope it is pretty self-explanatory.
  • By all means, good taste (and a good ear) should be your guide. For me, it doesn't really work. The melody lines are too complex to be simplified by a single drone, much less a two-note interval drone. As the melody works through a stream of arses and theses, dissonance and consonance is constantly changing, and to varying degrees. The dissonance and consonance created between the melody notes and constant drones do not correspond to arses and theses. Once again, only "Nova Organi Harmonia" provides accompaniment that is in line with the modality and flow of the melody.
  • Voce
    Posts: 16
    I recently saw Ensemble Organum, a French medieval chant group, perform the 14th century Machaut mass at a convent in Houston. They used a bass drone very effectively for much of that piece, along with a lot of vocal ornamentation that is very much out of the norm. A little of this goes a long way, but their sound is very striking. They've made recordings of old Roman chant that employ such drones, as well as songs associated with the medieval Knights Templars. Here is a link to a YouTube that has their Salve Regina:
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I like the drone, not only in performance, but as a teaching tool. It can help singers feel when the chant is in stasis and when it's moving to a new pitch center, when a note is structural and when it's ornamental, when it's recitation and when it's cadential. I only use a drone in performance for certain chants that really seem to lend themselves to it, and not so often that it becomes gimmicky or predictable. I must admit, however, that for Epiphany I used a light string drone that sustained all six notes of the hexachord for "Vidimus stellam" for a very exotic effect.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    There is no book, per se.
  • There is no book, per se.

    The Éditions de l'Oiseau-Lyre in 7 volumes?
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    I thought you meant an actual book from medieval times. Yes, this edition is in many music libraries.
  • I tried the drone at the last practice I agree the drone sung on tonic is to close to the melody for a beginner group and for us didn't produce a good sound.

    I had one strong singer who was very interested in and can sing the perfect 5th above on one piece, so with a little more practice we might give that a try.

    Thanks to all, I learn so much in this forum.
  • besides the eponymous Ensemble Organum,

    see for example:

    Glory be to God on High 'Fons bonitatis' Mass II for Nativity Tone I St Dunstan's Kyriale p 003

    I have a deep attachment to the ison.
    Most of the chants I sing use the drone behind me if I can help it. whether its a real person or organ/synth.
    The only thing to learn is when to move it around, and that I havent yet mastered.
    they cant always be the same drone all the time, not all modes are ment for it.

    It's not so different than two part polyphony or fauxbourdon (spelling?)

    In particular chants having a drone is easier/more effective than other chants.
    I'm new to all of this and admire those who've mastered these techniques.
  • I haven't done this since undergrad, but found a possible use for it yesterday.
    Our choristers are singing for the Ascension. As God would allow it, two of the best schola singers are in the middle of their voice-lowering. The chant ranges are not comfortable for them anymore. So, I had them drone on D3 while the rest of the singers sang the Introit. It worked ok, but I think the D was too close for good effect when the melody came within a third above it.
    Perhaps the lower D2 would be better as it would produce more overtones with greater distance between the drone and the melody? Has anyone done this with choristers? The kids loved it, and I liked it, but I'm not so sure.
  • -b
    Posts: 54
    Drones work well with plainchant hymns. I can't see them working with chants for the propers as the melodies are so free-roaming. There are organ accompaniments for the propers, by Flor Peeters, for example. Those could give you an idea for harmonization if you want to go that route.
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    Has anyone else noticed that nearly all chant palm tones work with a "D" at the drone if you know what pitch to place the clef?

    Tone I - Do=C, Drone=D
    Tone II - Fa=B flat, Drone=D
    Tone III - Do=C, Drone=D
    Tone IV* - Do=G, Drone=D
    Tone V - Do=A, Drone=D
    Tone VI - Do=C, Drone=D
    Tone VII - Do=G, Drone=D
    Tone VIII - Do=B flat, Drone=D
    Tonus Peregrinus - Do=C, Drone=D

    * Tone IV where the reciting note is "Re"

    At these pitches, the Psalms have a reasonably comfortable reciting note, and most chant seems to fall within a range of a 9th from C to D.
  • Hartley,

    You do mean psalm tones, not palm tones, don't you?

  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    Indeed I did. Most cheque bettr fur speeling mistocks.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Has anyone else noticed that nearly all chant palm tones work with a "D" at the drone if you know what pitch to place the clef?

    Am I missing something? Because this point seems trivial.

    You can pick any pitch as a standard drone and then move all the pitches up and down to match.
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    I'm interested as I'm contemplating making a portative organ (ie one that can be carried by one person) and need to figure out the drones. A couple of years ago I acquired a rank of 37 pipes (8' pitch middle C to top C) that was once part of a Voix Celeste.
  • When one uses the ison drones, should the volume of the drone be sung/played at the volume of the melody itself?
  • Jehan_Boutte
    Posts: 255
    When one uses the ison drones, should the volume of the drone be sung/played at the volume of the melody itself?

    I would say it's best to have the drones slightly under the volume of the melody itself, so as to keep the latter intelligible.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,890
    And I would also make sure that whoever sings the fifth (if you add that) realllllly knows how to find their pitch, otherwise they will accidentally begin singing a minor third and mess up the Corpus Christ sequence, and then you’ll have to urgently whisper at them to shut up in between phrases. (Ask me how I know this.)
  • The volume question should be resolved in such a way that the organum (parallel or oblique) doesn't get mistaken for someone who can't carry pitch?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,979
    Although the traditional Veni, veni Emmanuel isn't quite Gregorian chant, it is a melody that works well with an ison/drone and also with organum. Examples of all this can be found in my setting, posted in this thread, along with a performance in its entirety by the English Seminar Choir of Basel, Switzerland. I'll leave it to you to spot the (moving) isons, the organum (parallel at a fifth below, and also oblique), and the drone (it's at the end).

    Incidentally, it's possible to perform fewer verses.
  • stulte
    Posts: 339
    I personally LOVE using drones when chanting! They take such nice aerial photos of the schola and surrounding church!
  • [groan!]
    Thanked by 2tomjaw PaxTecum
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,715
    I never had a drone, but I had a crone - soprano of course - shrieking off key.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,169
    That ison seems to be the Hot Patootie Thing in ICK parishes these days.