What is all the fuss about?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    For those who have been wondering what all the fuss is about concerning the Solesmes method and the Vatican Edition versus rhetorical readings from manuscripts or sources like the Graduale Novum and Gregor und Taube, here's a great example in the communion chant from this past Sunday:

    "Aufer a me" sung according to Solesmes and rhetorical methods.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Incantu, for myself, I would not lump together the Solemes method and the Vatican Edition. 7 videos explain why.
  • And, these 7 videos are the Reader's Digest version of hearing JMO explain it live. Liked it so much, I went back two more times to hear it again. It beats out hearing Mark Twain if you like chant.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Those who sing according to the Solesmes method do so according to the pitches of the Vatican Edition. (As you know, the Solesmes edition of the Gradual is the Vatican Edition with added rhythmic signs). I do not mean to say that there aren't other ways of singing from the Graduale Romanum, but simply to point out the the differences you hear in my example are not only that of rhythmic interpretation, but of the actual pitches as well.

    To my knowledge there is no one currently attempting to apply the Solesmes method to the AISCGre editions, so I think it is fair to associate the method with the edition (if not the edition with the method).
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451

    As I've gotten more interested in Orthodox and non-Christian (Jewish and Muslim) chant, I've been wondering if it was possible that Gregorian chant (and it's predecessors) sounded more like those styles originally than like how we sing it today. (Not that there's anything wrong with how we sing it today- organic development and all that.)

    I feel like my uninformed idle speculation has been vindicated.

    I'm curious-
    And maybe this is a dumb question, but...
    With all the really brilliant scholarship on chant- is there any notable musicological effort in seeking parallels between Western chant traditions and those of the Christian and non-Christian East?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Noel, were YOU the one heckling? :-D
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I am curious to know 'how fast' we supposed to sing those groups of neums that are not marked with 'lengthening signs' (I guess they are not actually lengthening but going back to normal punctum speed.)
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    @ mia - I'm hesitant to say you're "supposed to" do anything. And we can dispense with "normal punctum speed" since the punctum isn't the standard unit of length in the manuscripts (in fact, in the rare cases it is used, it means the opposite - a short note!).

    However, I can tell you that in the manuscripts of otherwise syllabic chants, two note groups (pes, clivis) are used in place of a single note, so the two together equal one in terms of duration. When marked with a T or an episema, or when understood from context to be long, they are the length of two single notes.

    Duration (or what Kelly calls value) is different than speed. How fast or slow you sing chant depends on a number of things, but notation isn't one of them. How quickly can you sing in your acoustic without the pitches becoming muddy or the diction being unclear? How slowly can you sing a trill before it is no longer an ornament but discrete pitches? I generally try to sing at a speed that is fast enough so that the individual melismatic gestures are not lost, and syllables are not unnecessarily prolonged or distorted.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    @adam - The name that comes to mind is Marcel Peres. I'm not sure how much of his performance comes from evidence and how much from educated guesswork. But there is no doubt that chant went through a sort of organic vocal development during its oral transmission. Looking at other oral traditions can give us insight into how this might have happened in Gregorian chant.

    Some things, however, require little speculation. The fact that in certain places in the manuscripts the scribe adds a note saying "do not get lower" or "raise the pitch" is pretty good evidence that singers in the 10th century had a tendency to go flat in certain places. Any voice teacher could tell you the same thing. The fact that Benjamin Britten writes "a tempo" every time he marks a piano dynamic in choral music suggests that singers in the 20th century tended to slow down when they got quieter. Again, any choral conductor could tell you that. A careful study of the signs and symbols in the manuscripts reveals evidence of certain types of vocalism you might associate with Eastern traditions.
  • No one was supposed to tell. I was the one standing at the door taking bets on whether people would blow their tops and walk out.

    I think Charles in CenCA still owes me 10 bucks, but I'll never tell anyone what he put his money on.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    "two note groups (pes, clivis) are used in place of a single note, so the two together equal one in terms of duration"

    Incantu, I meant to say how do we know this?

    Also, Is a 'single note' different from a punctum in your description?
    (the statement above about the duration seems to imply that musical rhythm exists outside the text in the Rhetorical method as in the classic Solesmes method, albeit in different systems or manners.)

    How about the three note groups, like porrectus and torculus, are they faster than the pes? Thanks.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    We know by comparing multiple notations of the same melody. That is what semiology is all about.

    To put it in (somewhat) modern terms, there is a convention when singing "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" of singing two notes on "in-FI-nite thy vast DO-main" even though they are written as a quarter note. Now, people don't simply ADD another quarter note making a bar of 4/4, but the quarter becomes two eighths. The same thing happens in syllabic chants, the single long note becomes two short notes.

    The punctum is rarely used for single notes on a syllable, and only in one of the St. Gall manuscripts (the Cantatorium, which contains solo chants). The Vatican Edition does not differentiate between the isolated virga, tractulus, or oriscus of St. Gall. It transcribes them all -- along with strophae -- using the same shape: the punctum (or dotted punctum).

    Your use of the word "fast" is confusing. Do you mean fast in terms of tempo, or shorter in terms of rhythm? Tempo and rhythm are two separate things. I do not know the "right" tempo for chant, only the wrong ones (e.g. so slow that the ornaments don't sound like ornaments, or so fast the short notes get lost in the acoustic). I can be pretty certain, however, about most of the rhythms.

    The terms "torculus" and "porrectus" are really melodic indications, not rhythmic. They can have different rhythms depending on their form and context (again, not always indicated in the square notes). When a single syllable is set (in syllabic or ornamented chant) to a regular torculus or porrectus, it is usually short-short-long unless otherwise indicated by form or context. But that's a little beyond the scope of a quick forum post. But it's not "faster" than any other two-beat neume.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I'm not sure whether rhythmic variants of the metered music can be applied to those of the chant in terms of the duration of notes. Whoever started the subdivision of the particular syllable did naturally as two eights because of the feel of the meter of the hymn in 3/4 time, which obviously doesn't exist in chant?

    I'm very interested in Semiology, and I read writings of Fr. Kelly and Dom Cardine, but I don't recall their mentioning about 'two note groups (pes, clivis) are used in place of a single note.' I'd like to know resources of it.)

    I also wonder a choir can sing those fast 'ornamented' notes together as the solo?
    Although I agree that notes of neum groups and melismas sung 'faster' than syllabic notes, with a bit of emphasis (or with awareness)on the last note of the group by a bit of longer duration for the articulation, in my personal opinion, those 'fast' ornamented notes can sound agitated if they are overdone.( and this is amplified in a group singing.) I think serenity and peacefulness are important quality of the chant, and they are achieved by not resorting to exaggerated decorations of musical elements, whether they are dynamics or durations of the notes, or even the range of the pitches. Even if Gregorian chant might have sounded like Eastern chant in an early stage, I wonder the organic development of the chant in Latin rite soon started to develop its own identity. And the classic Solesmes method can be considered as one of the latest organic development by simplifying the rhythm so more people can sing together? But these are all my personal opinions.

    (Sorry for the confusion about the terms.
    A punctum still means to me one single note that is used for one syllable as used in classical Solesmes method that I learned. Also, as you have guessed I meant 'fast' for the duration of the note group in that context, not the entire tempo of the chant, which is not the topic of this discussion. I guess I should have been more careful in using the terms, because 'short' doesn't always mean 'fast' in modern music like in staccatos.)
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    To give but one example (because it's staring at me from the banner on the front page of euouae.com), the second syllable of "benedicta" in the offertory Ave Maria is a pes followed by virga in Laon and a bivirga in St. Gall. Are we supposed to believe that this was sung as three beats in one location and two beats in another? That's absurd. The pes is sung in the same time as the virga. In other words, two short notes equal one long. There are hundreds of other examples.

    The most heavily ornamented chants are reserved for a soloist, but yes -- a well trained choir can sing long and short notes and stay together.

    I'm not trying to say that one way is better than the other. But I do hope to clear up some of the mysteries about what the differences are. If you think serenity and peacefulness are important qualities in chant, then you might not have liked the variety and vitality with which it was sung 1000 years ago. But that's the period in its organic development that I'm interested in.

    I think the Solesmes style can be very beautiful, and it is definitely useful for choirs of a variety of skill levels. But the method's equal notes and groups of twos and threes us cannot really be called an "organic" development. In fact, it wasn't a development at all, but a deliberate (yet incomplete) attempt at restoration of the ancient melodies. It was contrived by a very small group of people and imposed through the publication of an official Graduale Romanum and the widespread dissemination of pedagogical materials. This is well documented in Pierre Combe's Restoration of Gregorian Chant: Solesmes and the Vatican Edition.
  • Dear friends,
    As an "outsider" (a Greek cantor and Byzantine music scholar), I have always wondered if the Solesmes monks either based their work on an existing performance style (modifying it, of course, according to their views of a "restoration") or they created something completely new, starting just from the old manuscripts. I tend to believe the first, since it is difficult for me to imagine that the plainchant tradition was completely lost, especially from the monasteries of Europe. I could not find any hint about this matter in the "usual" bibliography. I am sure that some of you are able to help me on this. Thank you in advance.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Incantu, I appreciate your explanation. But as I understand it, in Semiology (or Rhetorical method) the musical rhythm follows the rhythm of the speech. (Is it possible to have slightly different lengths of syllables in the rhythm of the speech in various areas?)
    So I'm not sure your interpretation of subdivision of beat ('the two together equal one in terms of duration"')in Rhetorical method is authentic, or it can be that you are looking at those in terms of 'measured music.'
    I'm not saying that all the neums have equal values, and I do agree that there are quicker note groups than others, but my questions is how fast? Are they measured like in the modern music?
    I think you also mentioned about the episema as being two beats. Then do you also measure the long last note of Salicus and quick note of quilisma?

    Father Kelly mentions about structural and ornamental neums; clivis, pes, porrectus.....in his writing. But I don't see anywhere him saying "two notes being equal one."
    Also, I'm not sure his term' ornamental' means 'non-structural' or ornament like trills.
    (I understand it as 'non-structural,' which has less value in duration than the structural ones, but not like trills.)
    I appreciate this discussion, which has been a productive one for me since I'm very interested in Semiology.
    I started to apply some of the basics of the Semiology in my schola singing carefully, and our experience has been very positive and enriching. (it's also very challenging, but I think it can be applied to make chant singing beautiful, which I experienced at the Colloquium for two years in advanced women's group with Wilko. )
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    To say that the rhetorical method "follows the rhythm of speech" is an oversimplification that I address in my article The long and short of it.

    Basically, two shorts equal one long, but not all longs are equal to other longs. Longs (in syllabic chant!) vary for phonological reasons.

    For clear examples of why a short pes or clivis equals one long and the long pes or clivis equals two longs, see Gregory Murray's Gregorian Chant According the the Manuscripts. Some of the information in this book is in need of an update (which I am sort of working on with some of my blog articles), but on this point it is solid.
  • I always enjoy Mia Coyne's postings that carry a certain polite tone, due to her Korean heritage I suppose. Especially when people argue with her, something that I would never try to do against someone who studied under Theodore Marier, as she did....
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Ha, frogman... do you mean to suggest that I have an impolite or argumentative tone? I certainly don't mean to.

    I do admit I get a little frustrated by this seemingly pervasive idea that Medieval performance practice is somehow shrouded in some deep mystery that will never be understood. While that is true to some extent, it is not more true than the music of, say, Mozart. Or Brahms. We have no idea what it sounded like other than written sources. I've never experienced the kind of skepticism with which people approach Gregorian semiology in reference to those two composers.

    I too am a devotee (though not a student) of Marier. His compositions, however, betray the major influence that Solesmes had on his work and teaching.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    To answer mia's question about the salicus and quilisma, I will say that to my knowledge these are two figures we do not completely understand. However, they are used interchangeably with the scandicus, a figure we do have a grasp of. The difference in their performance was probably not so great. And, in any case, the top note is long!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks, Noel. I'm still learning. I may not agree with Incantu, but I do respect his study, and I'd like to know more about it.

    (Dr. Marier is my inspiration. He understands the place of Gregorian chant in the liturgy and has faith in the Church no matter what the circumstances he is in. His teaching and singing of Gregorian chant are beautiful and authentic with his high musicality and knowledge expressed with his faith and humility. He is always my best teacher and the mentor. )

    Studying ancient neums is not a small task, especially when the notation has relative signs for pitch and rhythm, not like those of Mozart and Brahms' music, although I believe there are still rooms for various interpretations for them. And I think even if one's interpretation may not be as authentic as others', it can be still beautiful and satisfying. Although more researches are needed for authentic interpretations of Gregorian chant for a better understanding that can help to make it sound more beautiful, when we sing it in the liturgy, there might be more important aspects we have to consider than just authenticity.

    I found that the following introductory paragraph of Fr Kelly's writing gives a good basic insight of the Rhetorical method. (I couldn't copy the musical example here. But notice how he mentions about the speed of the syllable. I don't sense any musical beat or measuring unit of single notes here.)

    "Syllabic Value:
    Determined by the verbal context

    Although each syllable of the word benesonantibus has only a single square note,
    each syllable has a different value and function in the word:

    [music example]
    ––––––––> < / > ––> ––|
    be- ne- son- án- ti- bus

    The first three syllables are pre-tonic syllables that pick up speed and volume as
    they accelerate toward the accented syllable. After this buildup, the accented syllable now contains a great deal of energy and volume/duration. This energy and
    momentum carries through the next syllable, an intermediate post-tonic syllable. The final syllable of the word then absorbs the remaining energy to bring the forward momentum to a closure at the end of the word before moving on again with the following words (laudáte Dóminum)... "


    (By the way I tried to locate the book you mentioned, Gregory Murray's Gregorian Chant According the the Manuscripts. It maybe out of print?)
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    It may be out of print. I got mine used online. I have seen a pdf of it hosted somewhere, but perhaps without the accompanying musical examples. Musicasacra does have his article on the literary evidence form the "Gregorian" period in its archives.

    I highly respect Kelly as well, and I don't think I would contradict anything he has to say. However, he relies heavily on Laon for his conclusions, whereas Cardine focused on St. Gall. Both, of course, looked at both. The main difference is that Laon notated with care many of the nuances that St. Gall left up to performance practice. This is similar to the use of hairpins, fermatas, indications like "poco ritardando" and "espressivo" that we associate with 19th century music that is absent in much 17th and 18th century music. This does not mean that those other repertoires were performed without expression! This concept is brought to its obvious extreme in the music of Boulez, where every note seems to have a dynamic and articulation mark.

    I am attempting to piece together a method that is as practical as the Solesmes method but that captures the vitality of the earliest notation traditions. So I have opted to go for a more straightforward approach than Kelly, mostly differentiating between long and short notes (but not every tiny nuance) in my transcriptions. That's where the "rhetoric" comes in. Knowing the pitches and the rhythm is not enough. It it up to the performer to figure out how the music "goes" and to breathe life into it.

    Notation is like a map of the earth. You cannot make a flat map of a round earth without making some sort of distortion. There are different ways to do it, but no one is perfect. Similarly, you can't write down music. You can put more or less emphasis on certain elements (rhythm, pitch, pronunciation, articulation, etc), but you can never write it all down. My bare-bones approach to the manuscripts is one that I think is 100% accurate about 95% of the time. It's a big step forward, in my opinion, from the Solesmes editions ASSUMING your goal is to capture the elan of the 10th century performing traditions.
  • No, I just find it interesting!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    "I am attempting to piece together a method that is as practical as the Solesmes method but that captures the vitality of the earliest notation traditions. "

    I think this is a very ambitious project, but maybe needed one for the performance practice based on Semiology.

    Incantu, I wish you all the best on your studies and researches. I'll be looking forward to hear more in the future in this forum or in your blog. And thank you for sharing them here.

  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    I think that perhaps what is puzzling Mia is that Incantu is making mensuralist-sounding statements in defense of the "rhetorical method." "A short pes or clivis equals one long," in the same way that two eighth notes equal a quarter note. I think I see what Incantu getting at, but Kelly and Cardine avoid putting things in terms of exact proportions.

    Some have criticized performances allegedly inspired by Cardine's work as indistinguishable from performances inspired by the work of Vollaerts or Murray. Yet Cardine insisted that Vollaerts's and Murray's conclusions were ultimately flawed (this is another reason why it's puzzling that you invoke Murray in defense of a "rhetorical" method).

    Cardine does not specify exactly how different the shortened syllabic beat is from the regular syllabic beat. Jean Claire has suggested that it is something like the difference between a note sung to a vowel alone in a melisma versus a note sung to a vowel + consonant. If this is accurate, then the difference may be more descriptive than prescriptive, and one cannot speak of a 2-1 proportion. Some may find Claire's suggestion implausible and a stretch to justify the Solesmes style, but the point is that there is plenty of room for interpretation in how short the short notes are and how long the long notes are, and it's tricky to put this in terms of strict equality or proportion if your method is really rhetorical--which is to say based on the perspective that the rhythm is primarily grounded in the proclaimed text rather than on predetermined note values.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    All music has its own rhetoric, some more than others. What I mean by rhetoric is "how it goes," whereas semiology refers to "what is says." I don't see Kelly, Cardine, and Murray as being in conflict with each other except on a few small details.

  • it is important to see what medieval authors and theorists said. And it is interesting to note that there are excerpts that point to a 2:1 ratio between long and short, at least in melismas. Jan van Biezen has studies that point to a binary rhythm in much of the repertoire, similar to the rhythm of Byzantine chant. Also Constantin floros has a book with many tables and insights comparing western earliest notation with eastern earliest notation (and pointing to the greek names of many western signs in the western medieval theoretical manuscripts).
    I also saw in a French forum a Gregorian scholar saying that Van Biezen's researches answer all the objections that Cardine raised in relation to Vollaerts' mensuralism
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    This would be worth making a fuss about
    But most astonishing of all is that Jan van Biezen's rhythmic discoveries now make Gregorian chant amazingly easy to sing. Theoretically, Antiphons could be learned by a congregation without ever looking at a page, and choirs could sing melismatic Graduals in unison without conducting. I shiver with excitement!
    [review by 'coemgenus' of Rhythm, Meter and Tempo in Gregorian Chant]
    Unfortunately, I can't see a source of this book in the UK, and Amazon.com says it can't ship to me! (I hope that means they don't have distribution rights, not that my location is blacklisted/quarantined)
  • Thanks for rekindling a nine-year-old thread. Van Biezen recommends treating both the quilisma and initio debilis notes as ornamental before-the-beat grace notes. Pes and torculus are usually initio debilis if they start in unison with the preceding note. He also mentions upper ornamental notes, but there's no good way to notate those in square notes except perhaps a hollow punctum inclinatum. I have wondered myself about the long-short-long type of climacus found so frequently in L and whether it suggests some sort of ornamental interpretation, since the St. Gall MSS normally write a long virga and two puncta. The discussion in the French forum, if we're referring to the same one, is very informative. Unfortunately good recordings in the style of Van Biezen are lacking.
  • When I use a semiological approach with my choir, I tend to follow L rather literally instead of trying to piece together what seems "probable" based on comparison of the various manuscripts, but that approach doesn't work as well with mensuralism. The Easter introit Resurrexi is an especially difficult case because of so many contradictory values in the various sources, and apparent syncopation. Before the introduction of the sequences, the Easter Sunday introit must have been one of the most familiar parts of the proper of any Mass throughout the year, if not the most familiar. It would be understandable for a scribe not to take particular care to be precise in the notation of a chant that was so well known; unfortunately, that doesn't help us! I make the presumption that longer note values, which take more effort to notate in the various systems, should be considered more reliable and faithful to what was actually sung and handed down in cases where the manuscripts contradict each other, unless the "long" source is overwhelmingly outnumbered by "short" readings. Does that seem like a sensible approach?

    We know that the chant was disseminated to various parts of Europe at least 125 years before the oldest extant neumed manuscripts. That is a long period of time for changes to creep in for all kinds of reasons. Without evidence to support it, another theory claims that chant was already notated in Rome and the original neumed manuscripts have long since disintegrated. Regardless, the agreement among the tenth-century manuscripts from diverse locations is remarkable. But returning to the Easter introit: there's enough disagreement between L and E for this chant that it's helpful to refer to other sources. Even if we're unable to interpret the other types of neumes at sight, we can compare similar figures from the same chant within a single manuscript. The most helpful site for comparative analysis is omnigreg.at. Examine the neumes for the consecutive words alleluia posuisti and draw your own conclusions. The same alleluia figure occurs three times in the course of the chant. Compare the three for each source to get an idea of the inconsistency of the scribes.

    A distinctive feature of Van Biezen's interpretation is that the rhythm is ordinarily binary in nature: short notes come in pairs. If syncopation is to be avoided, it is often necessary to lengthen the last note of a neume or to treat its beginning as an initio debilis note. The best solution isn't necessarily obvious. I am attaching a mensuralist reading of this chant, with some alternatives for alleluia posuisti noted at the bottom. (The alternatives are meant to give options for other possible interpretations, not to imply that the rhythm for the whole line is based on a single manuscript.) I have to admit that modern notation has a cleaner look for mensuralist transcriptions. The episema and dot (punctum mora) have the same interpretation, but I have followed L fairly literally here. A note with both marks is double long, which is a non-literal interpretive marking. The "dotted rhythm" followed by two ornamental notes at the end of facta is Van Biezen's suggested interpretation based on an analogous melodic figure in Byzantine chant. Don't slow down for full bar lines, only for the double bar line.

    Other editions for comparison:
    Graduale Novum
    Gregor und Taube

  • @madorganist Thank you! I will see the reading. I am studying the mensuralist approach to create versions of chant in portuguese. In experiences I found that reading from laon and using mostly binary rhythm with most measures in 4 beats and one or another measure in 3 beats or 2 beats results beautiful in singing. I created in square notation sheets with longs and shorts using the possibility of gabc to write all neumes hollow. I writed the longs hollow.
    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,163
    I wonder, @madorganist, could you be persuaded to write out your Resurrexi in modern notation so that we (well, I anyway) can see more exactly what you mean with the double longs and the ornaments. Perhaps a minim for a long and a semibreve for a double long and a crochet for a short and perhaps a quaver or two for the very-shorts.

    (The very names show that we've had some temporal inflation octet the last few centuries.)
  • Well, you'll have to accept quaver for long and semiquaver for short, at least for now. The shorter values avoid extensive use of slurs by allowing syllabic beaming, plus the eighth note as the normal syllabic value is what most of us have grown accustomed to since the Solesmes reforms. According to Van Biezen, the ornaments come before the beat. See pp. 2 & 19 in the Dutch edition.
    2233 x 1052 - 166K
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    Thanks, that helps, sort of! Not sure that I see the connection with
    Jan van Biezen's rhythmic discoveries now make Gregorian chant amazingly easy to sing
    Thanked by 1Andrew_Malton
  • With the steady tactus, it certainly doesn't require a conductor. You could put it in front of anyone who reads music and knows how to pronounce Latin and get respectable results.
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,163
    So, does the written evidence for mensural rhythm, in the period when this music was sung this way, also provide evidence of the steady tactus? Or perhaps that's read into this music from Arabic or Byzantine performance practice?

    (I am only an egg, I know nothing.)
  • There have been others, particularly in the XIXth and early XXth centuries who proposed similar mensural methods for chant. There is very little difference, ultimately, between them. What is it that sets van Biezen's work apart? There may be a kernel of truth in what he and others have proposed, but it would seem that we can never know with any certitude how the very earliest cantors performed their chant (though we shouldn't stop studying how they might have done so). There must have been something of an improvisatorial and decorative element, a personal touch, in their performances, as there remains in middle eastern and Byzantine chant to this day. Eastern and Orthodox chant has never developed the pristine vocal tone that we Westerners cultivate today, nor the exactitude about pitch and 'note values', nor has the presence or absence of 'scooping' (which seems sloppy to me, but by some might be regarded as 'decorative' elements) bothered them at all. It remains that the languages and how they were spoken and sung with great familiarity, which will remain for ever a mystery to us, not to mention something so basic as how they 'felt' their chant, influenced immeasurably how the chant was performed. We can never know that, and trying to 'translate' such traditions into convenient modern sensitivities, note values, and grace notes can be but grasping at straws. One might add that there are today similar metrical renderings of Orthodox chant which have but the most tenuous likeness to how the Orthodox perform their chant. It may be that putting chant into a strict metricality could well result in a paint by number version of chant relative to how freely and familiarly it was sung by those who lived it.

    This is not, of course, at all to denigrate Mad's or van Biezen's very impressive scholarship. We are definitely better off with it than without it, for it is genuine and well researched food for thought. It may be relevant to reflect that until very late in the classical era Latin was delivered with long and short syllables and had no 'accents' in the modern sense. This, no doubt, would have influenced early chant and would perhaps be relevant to Mad's theories.
  • So, does the written evidence for mensural rhythm, in the period when this music was sung this way, also provide evidence of the steady tactus? Or perhaps that's read into this music from Arabic or Byzantine performance practice?
    The latter. One of the earlier mensuralists surely would have noted it if the former were the case. Blackley writes of the "ordinarily binary nature" of chant but, following Vollaerts and Murray, admits short-long and long-short-long exceptions. (See https://www.scholaantiqua.net/pdfs/RhythmBeforeMid-Twelfth.pdf.)
    There is very little difference, ultimately, between them. What is it that sets van Biezen's work apart?
    I would say it's his interpretation of ornamental notes. The summary in English (http://www.janvanbiezen.nl/gregorian.html) presents the substance of his theories.

    Is Van Biezen wrong when he claims that most semiology is about nuances and "nuances of nuances" rather than fundamentally long and short values? Since Cardine, musicologists for the most part seem to be unimpressed with mensuralism. In the other forum referred to above, it was mentioned that before Van Biezen, Blackley was one of the last to publish on mensuralism, but he self-published instead of submitting his work to peer-reviewed journals. That doesn't mean his research is invalid, but he limited his audience, and he's been mostly quiet for some years. Ricossa has put lots of mensuralist recordings on YouTube, but they're mostly of himself, made with a personal electronic device, with artificial reverb. Blackley's recordings from more than 30 years ago are still probably the best available in mensuralist style. To get an idea of how his interpretation differs from Van Biezen's, let's look at Blackley's edition of the Pentecost introit:
    And the Laon gradual itself:
    Already at the second word, we encounter a discrepancy in the hand-copied neumes. Although the a is written, there is no indication that the virga is different from the others, but in fact it's clearly elongated and nearly twice the size of the others in the source. This is exactly the same melodic figure as at facta in the Easter introit, which Van Biezen would interpret as a dotted note followed by a before-the-beat mordent. The same thing happens at continet. (The Graduale Novum is also imprecise about the long form the the Messine virga; compare for yourself.) Otherwise, the neumes appear to be accurate. I'm only concerned here about rhythm, not melody. What else would Van Biezen do differently? Look at the end of terrarum and the word hoc. Blackley seems to interpret the a as applying to the tractulus, which is already long. Others would write short-long-long, but Van Biezen would surely give an initio debilis interpretation to both. We should note that many semiologists would join him for terrarum, which has only a bivirga in E. Back up to replevit. At the second syllable, E gives a long virga+pes instead of double pes. The letters in L might suggest a pes initio debilis (long upper note) followed by a normal pes (long lower note in relation to the previous pes), and no comparison with E or other manuscripts would be needed to arrive at that conclusion. Van Biezen would give an initio debilis again at continet, probably also at the -lu of alleluia right after vocis, and possibly in the next alleluia as well. Could that explain E's use of c as the beginning of those neumes? Blackley misinterprets the epiphonus at omnia and the last two alleluias as short-long. L has another figure for that. The epiphonus is either a single long or two shorts, as he correctly interprets it at the end of Spiritus, at orbem, and at scientiam. (The liquescent s at the end of Spiritus is another can of worms. Does it suggest a voiced [z] sound? Space between the s and d? A "shadow vowel"? Or merely that the s sound has to finish before the beat?) At any rate, this chant is much more straightforward than the Easter introit.

    It was not my intention to relate much (if anything) in the way of my own theories, only my understanding of what Jan van Biezen has published.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    madorganist - Thank you very much. A deep analysis of an example is just what my mind needs to appreciate a theory (or theorem, I am a mathematician not a musician).
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen madorganist
  • I particularly liked the recording on youtube by Ricossa. Your example of Blackley's Pentecost introit is quite interesting, but for me a challenge to interpret. Where do the recorded offerings of speculative interpretations by Marcel Perez stand in your estimation?
  • Although I don't know him personally, Ricossa sparked my interest in mensuralism. I read commentary from him on some recordings wherein he posed a great question: How would a tenth-century scribe notate this performance? Since then, it's become obvious to me that many semiological interpretations fall short of making a clear distinction between the short (cursive) and long (non-cursive) values. Fr. Kelly (may he rest in peace!) is an excellent example. The scribe would have notated almost everything short. Same for "old Solesmes." I read with great interest Dirk van Kampen's article, but I ultimately found his position unconvincing. There are too many systems of neumes that write the normal syllabic value with a long note for us to assume it's normally short, and there are enough examples of the diminished value on a single-note neume (with agreement among various manuscripts) to say with certainly that long and short signs aren't used interchangeably.

    Pérès focuses mainly on pre-Gregorian Latin chant. I find his recordings interesting but am not familiar enough with the repertory or notation to say anything valuable. I have read some criticism of his use of oblique organum/ison/drone, which apparently isn't documented before the 14th century. Vellard has also put out some very interesting recordings, but there's an awful lot in his interpretation that goes well beyond what's actually notated.
  • Every time I see this thread title, I just hum "What is all the fuss about?" to the tune of "Where have all the flowers gone."

    It's getting annoying.

    Edit: the humming, I mean, and the earworm, not the thread.
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  • Relative to all this is a fascinating book by Peter Jeffery (Univ of Chicago Press), entitled Re-Envisioning Past Musical Cultures: Ethnomusicology in the Study of Gregorian Chant. There is much information and convincing arguments here which would be of interest to all who are students of early chant.
  • I corrected my previous post where I had written omnia instead of continet. I also failed to note the a at the alleluia after vocis. For clarity, here's a rhythmic edition based on the Graduale Novum:
    And the same in modern notation:
    I did these quickly and may have made errors. There are several discrepancies between L and E:
    replevit (already noted above) - virga+pes instead of double pes
    terrarum - liquescent at end of first syllable, bivirga instead of pes+tractulus
    continet - first note is long in E
    scientiam - last three notes are long in E
    1208 x 883 - 31K
    2233 x 1052 - 154K
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,472
    To Adam Wood:
    there is such a thing as "Muslim Chant"?? I thought music was forbidden in the islamic service.
  • A good question, Greg - I didn't know of any prohibition of music at Muslim worship. It would definitely seem, though, that the persons who call to prayer from minarets are speaking in a sort of cantilation, if not outright chant.
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  • There are many rich traditions of Muslim devotional and liturgical singing, particularly the recitation of the Koran. Misunderstandings simply depend on how one defines 'music'. Haven't most of us at one or another time heard from a chant-phobic backbeat-loving priest some variation of "There should't be any singing without music"?
  • I have an aunt who married into a muslim family years ago. I was at her house once and remarked at a beautiful manuscript of my uncle's on the wall. She told me that it was the "muslim equivalent of the 'Our Father' and its very beautiful when they sing it". I agree with MJO: calls to prayer are chanting, at least as far as I'm concerned. It is definitely different, but in a weird way, I suspect it is closer—at least in some respects—to what chant likely sounded like a thousand years ago. It's more related to other varieties of eastern music and likely derived from similar provenance to our own chant.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • I've found a streaming EF daily mass at the Church of St. Mary on Broadway in Providence, RI. The female cantor there has a beautiful voice and a compelling, original way of singing the chant from the Liber. I imagine not all who read this and listen will agree, but, well, I like it, and I guess that is as rational a criterion as any! I invite you to listen for yourselves. She only sings on Sundays and perhaps solemnities. I do not know her name and have not asked, which is logical in these difficult days.


    at time index 56:41, for one example. I believe it is the Offertory for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost. Would like to know what others think.

    It seems from the quality of the sound that the schola is most likely in a loft at the rear of the church. There is only one camera.

  • Thanks for drawing our attention to this. She does have a beautiful voice and is singing the Offertory Immittet Angelus in the new Solesmes style. She does it very well.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I find her chanting quite lovely.