It isn't rocket science!
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Although there are many other aspects of performance of 10th century chants, the subject of rhythm seems to be one that is met with the greatest resistance, even in light of research that has been largely unchallenged for fifty years. In this short recording of the gradual Audi filia from the St. Gall Cantatorium, I hope to demonstrate that reading from manuscript notation might require that you read a book or two, but it is not rocket science!

    Read Semiology isn't rocket science at euouae.com.
  • It sounds pretty convincing! It is especially interesting for me that you combine a basically "rhetorical" method (please, correct me, if I am wrong) with a steady rhythmic pulse. I find this really fantastic.
    Only one question: You use a quite high vocal range; is this a stylistic choice? (Sorry for my ignorance).
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I do not find the rhythm, modality, or text setting (for pronunciation and meaning) to be at odds in the Gregorian compositions as they were recorded in the 10th century, so I do not understand why any modern performance practice would need to ignore one of those aspects. You will never discover the rhetoric of a piece if you ignore the rhythm.

    I wouldn't say that this means there is a "steady rhythmic pulse" at all, but perhaps since these recordings are from a rehearsal we were being a little more rigid in our reading for the sake of clarity. Also, the gradual is essentially a solo chant (which is why it appears in a separate book, the Cantatorium). In order to reconcile this with the modern practice of ensemble singing, the rhythm does need to be somewhat normalized (but not to the extreme of making them all the same!).

    The pitch level was chosen for two reasons. One was keeping in mind the comfortable singing range of the singers (who, having been trained in modern classical music, favor the head voice), and the other was to keep finals for all the chants on the concert program we are preparing for related to the polyphony that follows. For all but one chant that meant talking a C do (as you hear in Audi filia) or a Bb fa.
  • OK. When I say "steady rhythmic pulse", I don't mean something like a strong "beat", which is, of course, inappropriate for this kind of music. I am referring to an underlying regularity in the rhythmic flow of the piece, which is something absolutely natural in music (in every music). Why should it be considered as "rigidness"? I am all but convinced, that the abstract sense of rhythm in the modern performance practice of chant goes really back to the Middle Ages. Is this a kind of a "mensuralistic" view? I don't know... You tell me!
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    In short I think a "long" is the length of the particular syllable, and a "short" is half of that. Or at least, two shorts make up a long. This makes for something like a regular beat without being rigid.
  • Yes, this is quite clear. But what about the long melismata?
  • "In short I think a "long" is the length of the particular syllable, and a "short" is half of that. Or at least, two shorts make up a long. This makes for something like a regular beat without being rigid."

    I hate to say it, Incantu, but you're talking about mensuralism here which was one of Cardine's greatest fears. When I listen to your recordings I hear this long/short interpretation of yours as mensuralism. You quote Kelly, but he would never approve of this. I studied Semiology with him and utilize his methods, and my singing of the chant sounds nothing like yours. The relative values that Cardine describes and Kelly expounds upon cannot be measured but are directly relational to the relative syllable values which are intrinsically tied to the intuition of speech rhythm.

    I have NO time at all to discuss this in any depth (too much work on things that affect sacred music in the Church on the ground level). I won't have the capacity to get into a discussion of this. Just wanted to share this and with others that what you describe as "Semiology" here is not going to be verfied as such by many of the leaders of this school of interpretation.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Adam,

    I wouldn't describe this as "mensuralism" in that I concede that longs are not of equal length to each other. I only assert that when a syllable appears with one note in one manuscript and two notes in another, the two notes are equal to the one. Now maybe they're not exactly half. Maybe it's 70-30 (now way yo tell). But I have not seen any satisfactory evidence to suggest that the two do not equal one.

    I just reread chapter 3 of The Role of Rhetoric and oddly, with one exception (more on that later), I don't disagree with anything Kelly says. And I don't find him to be in conflict with either Murray or Cardine in most matters. I do think maybe he is exaggerating the importance of the variants in the Laon manuscripts that are entirely absent from St. Gall, although I do think his transcriptions are meticulously prepared, and accurate indications of the performance practice of the time period.

    I have not, however, heard any recording of ensembles he conducts or of his students directing an ensemble, so it's impossible for me to compare. For my next example, I'm going to record my reading of Rorate caeli from the GN to compare with his published rhetorical analysis. I find them to be remarkably similar, but maybe you can point out the parts that betray my "mensuralist" tendencies :)

    I think part of it might have to do with the choice of tempo. At the fastest speeds, the just noticeable difference is likely to be between single and a double notes. The slower the tempo, the more variations in rhythm are going to be perceptible.

    Also, I make no claim that I am reproducing exactly the chant as it was performed in the 10th century. What I'm developing is a practical method (not unlike the Solesmes school) for reading from the finite melodic and rhythmic information found in the Graduale Novum and that will approach a plausible historical performance practice. i admit that some of the variety of the medieval practice might be lost, but I see this approach as an improvement over the equalist or "nuanced" schools. While his writing has informed my interpretations, I don't see Kelly's published work as comprising any sort of practical method. (Obviously, since his own student says that I have completely misunderstood his writing! But, again... let's see what you have to say about my next recording).
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Done.

    With one exception (the first syllable of “super,” which anyway I think I hold a little bit too long), these do not appear to me to be in wild disagreement. But maybe that’s because my judgement has been clouded by mensuralist brainwashing.

    What do you think?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    "In short I think a "long" is the length of the particular syllable, and a "short" is half of that. Or at least, two shorts make up a long. This makes for something like a regular beat without being rigid." I hate to say it, Incantu, but you're talking about mensuralism here which was one of Cardine's greatest fears. When I listen to your recordings I hear this long/short interpretation of yours as mensuralism. You quote Kelly, but he would never approve of this. I studied Semiology with him and utilize his methods, and my singing of the chant sounds nothing like yours. The relative values that Cardine describes and Kelly expounds upon cannot be measured but are directly relational to the relative syllable values which are intrinsically tied to the intuition of speech rhythm. I have NO time at all to discuss this in any depth (too much work on things that affect sacred music in the Church on the ground level). I won't have the capacity to get into a discussion of this. Just wanted to share this and with others that what you describe as "Semiology" here is not going to be verfied as such by many of the leaders of this school of interpretation.


    In my humble opinion, 90% of the "semiological" interpretations I've heard sound like mensuralism.

    This makes a lot of sense since an often repeated mantra of semiologists is "sing the words as you would otherwise speak them." I remember reading this exact quote in a recent article by Fr. Columba Kelly.

    "Sing the words as you would speak them" was a maxim repeated by Haberl (a mensuralist at heart, who "converted" somewhat in 1903, under pressure from the Vatican).

    Haberl repeated this phrase in EVERY SINGLE edition of Magister Choralis. I think there were 15 editions, from about 1870-1915.

    That being said, many have noted that Cardine's students sound completely different from one another. Cardine used to say over and over again he was not leaving a method.

    For this reason, one of my teachers from years ago (who worked closely with Cardine for about six years) used to say, "Will the real semiologists please stand up?"

    I would be grateful to know who are the "real" semiologists. It would be wonderful if someone could list them out and post online samples (audio recordings).

    Perhaps this THREAD could be dedicated to posting ONLINE samples (excerpts) of real choirs singing according semiological principles.

    This would be wonderful and helpful.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Well, JMO... anyone worth their salt is a "semiologist" in that they draw their conclusions from a study of the manuscripts. Pothier and Moquereau were "semiologists."

    But you're right: I haven't really heard too much from scholar-performers. Mostly from those who are either one or the other.

    If it turns out the manuscripts represent a mensuralist tradition, then all serious semiologists should be mensuralists!

    "Sing as you would speak" is almost always invoked in terms of syllabic chant, not melismatic (though there may be a relationship between them). Even then, there are obvious cases where two syllables are crammed into the space of one in a centonized melody, so you have to sing them "as you would speak them," only twice as fast! (Unless in these places Laon uses little dots and St Gall the "c" just for their health).
  • "Sing as you would speak".
    Yes, but no one speaks like this: "Audi filiiaaa eet videeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"! So you need a way to organize these notes rhythmically. Equal lengths is one way. Unequal lengths, grouped according to the neumes (what incantu does), is the other. I am not sure what the "semiological approach" proposes. It seems to me like a dogma, that the theologists are trying to interpret!
  • Very stimulating topic of conversation, friends. I'll be happy to take this up with you after GIA and OCP have gone belly up and when parishes are singing liturgical texts as the norm. Until then I fear that our energies might be better spent elsewhere.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Happy to report that with your help, we are now singing liturgical texts (from the Gradual or Lectionary) every Sunday at four Masses I direct. :)
  • I know it's rare, but our parish does not use GIA or OCP or anything like it.
    We sing 9-11 pieces from the the authentic Gregorian chants every week. And I want to lead the singers well. I want the singing to be vibrant, prayerful, beautiful and sound like chant. So we incorporate little adjustments based on this. Too much change/experimentation/'correction' would be jarring to those in the congregation who have an unbroken tradition of singing and hearing the chants. But neither do I wish to be frozen in any approach that has obvious limitations.

    So discussions like these are helpful to me. As long as the information is offered in a collaborative spirit, scholars recognize practical application, and performers recognize authentic scholarship, these discussions are key to deciding how to fulfill the Church's pre and postconcilaor call for restoration and living tradition of Gregorian chant.

    While sharp attitudes don't convey a sense of authoritative knowledge, I'd rather have to tune out a little drama than not hear differing approaches.
  • +1 to MA, SMum.
    It is precisely to MaryAnn that such a conversation is worthwhile, and a few others here, myself included. But I think that carrying on the conversation at Steven's blog or NLM would be a better venue.
  • Scratching my head...
    Given that Gr chant remains the ideal in Roman documents, and that CMAA is the largest (and only?) association in the US promoting this ideal, and working toward it, I'm not getting how such a discussion could be considered inappropriate here, provided charity is maintained.
    Let those who are at a place where they can benefit take part in such learning. Those who are not interested for whatever reason are not required to take part.
    While I refuse to pin myself to one school of chant interpretation, I'm a liberal when it comes to the exchange of differing ideas. :)
  • MA, I wasn't calling for a moratorium here on anything. I just thought that if two principal giants of chant scholarship couldn't get traction here in order to properly address their differences, another more dedicated venue to the deeper level of discussion would be more suitable. I'm not for censorship.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    That's why we have euouae.com!

    I don't expect this to be more than a blip on the radar of most folks in CMAA whose priority in most cases should be getting this stuff sung at all. I am, however, being a little sensationalist at times because I do want to address the need for new resources (performing editions, teaching aids). There maybe some here who are interested in that as well.

    In the meantime, please by all means, keep singing Solesmes chant, Simple English Propers, and all that good stuff in your parishes.
  • BGP
    Posts: 215
    In the back of Fr. Kelly's book is a CD. I think recordings the St. Meinrand choir under his direction are availiable.

    Ben
  • "...another more dedicated venue to the deeper level of discussion would be more suitable".
    Which is...?
  • euouae.com
    New Liturgical Movement blog
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,994
    Why can't we keep a perfectly reasonable discussion going here? I'm with MaryAnn that discussions like these are helpful - I can filter through the drama, too. On these issues and at my age, I'm not a giant nor a scholar, but I am an interested student (who even has a few thoughts of his own on the subject) who cannot search all over the internet for various blogs and sites that might continue this discussion, at whatever level. That doesn't keep me from reading an article/post elsewhere when pointed to it here, but, frankly, euouae.com and the NLM blog are not places that I visit on a regular basis. We're talking issues of chant here, and that makes it relevant.

    Chuck
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Well, I don't want to get to the point where people here say "oh, not another post from incantu. That's obviously not going to be relevant to what I do" because I do have a pretty long history of posting here on a variety of other subjects. I'm avoiding putting anything that pertains to the management of music programs, English chant resources, liturgy, theology, etc. on my blog so that it can be a place to focus on 1) performing from manuscript notation 2) performance practice in chant and early polyphony. I will continue to share extracts from some of my more interesting posts here (the plan is to update once a week, usually on Monday), but I do not wish for this to start debates here about whether or not we should or shouldn't be doing this kind of music in the parish. Music directors can make those decisions for themselves.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,994
    Thanks, incantu - I value your posts here very much, especially since you have a perspective on performance practice that, even when and if it is at variance with others, deserves to be heard.

    Chuck
  • francis
    Posts: 10,079
    We (You) all deserve to be heard and express our (your) artistic opinions. After all is said and done, there is no single correct or authentic interpretation that takes precedence over another. They are all artistic interpretations. Same goes for organ performances of Bach. Show me two organists that play any piece the exact same way. A school of thought are simply artists who prefer an interpretive method.

    MACW has the central point. We launch our artistry from the foundation of prayer and beauty.
  • Appreciate this discussion because:
    Good English Propers like Bartlett's and Fr. Kelly's encourage a semiological approach. As we began singing more of these English settings we could easily hear how English cadences and inflections were generating the music and I found it necessary to begin a little semiology'
    I made time to meet with Fr. Kelly. He has a sense of semantic value in a melody, and can hear melody in every word. He is an effective instructor.
    Chant imitates a proclaimed language, not merely spoken language
  • I want to second Ralph here. And also clarify that I in no way implied above that we should cease from having conversations about chant interpretation in places like this forum. What I was trying to say is that there is so much more to be done right now that getting into arguments over historic "conflicts" in the chant world might be counterproductive to our needed work to save sacred music on the ground level. Jeffrey T. and I have come a long way in gaining this understanding and as a result have discovered the incredible waste of time and energy that many of our predecessors expended in fighting over which wall to place the Mona Lisa on when the Louvre was burning to the ground in their midst.
  • And because I'm likely paranoid, I would like to echo again that I was NOT advocating censure of this discussion from this forum. Not so.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Adam, I seem to recall you're involved in a little pet project right now that's probably taking up a lot of your time. What was that again....? ;)

    You know what they say, the world needs ditch diggers too. I'm happy to do the less important work while you and Jeffrey save the liturgy. And hopefully, by the time your work is done, when parishes will be demanding all chant and polyphony all the time, I will have have a resource ready for them!
  • Haha, sounds good incantu.
  • Just last night we were applying some "semiology" to the ICEL missal's chanted Gloria. When we got it right the music and the words became one. To create some order to this system we used JO's mantra from 2010
    "Rhythm of the text - rhythm of the neumes - Mora vocis."
    all our energy gravitates to the last note of the neume,
    with a sense repose one every last syllable.
    Tonic accents must be obvious.
    Old Solesmes still holds the best tools for expressing a semiological form.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Strictly speaking, "semiology" doesn't come into play with the missal chants, since we know who wrote them, and we know what their unvaried notation means. However, it's very true that a study of Gregorian chant can and should influence our performance of (and composition of!) chant-like music, such as the Missal chants.

    I even apply what I have learned from studying the psalm tones in SG381 to our performance of the excellent entrance antiphons of Richard Rice. Which reminds me that I've been meaning to record a few of them to find out if the composer himself approves...
  • Maureen
    Posts: 671
    Given that:

    1) Latin has both short and long vowels, upon which classical prosody depended as well as some Church Latin verse;

    2) Church Latin is torn between the classical short and long vowel prosody and the later rhythmical and/or rhyming prosody;

    3) Everybody speaks Church Latin in some unique way dictated by regional and even parochial linguistic and cultural concerns;

    4) Chant traditions differed a ton in different places and religious orders;

    one would certainly expect that "Sing as you speak" would result in all sorts of different sounds.


    However, I don't think that you could expect much different in the way of results from any other method. Latin and chant are very diverse, within the same general structure. This isn't to say that unification attempts are bad; they are clearly just as much a part of the tradition as the diversity is. But I'm just saying that you shouldn't kill yourself trying.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    When it comes to "sing as you speak" there is such a thing as phonological reality. There is also evidence in the manuscripts of how pronunciation figured into performance at the time. And then there is the kind of ideology that causes people to say things like:
    The innermost living principle of Gregorian chant is to be found in the Word of God and in the human response to it, both of which are imbedded in the context of the liturgy as an unendingly new sacramental happening that nourishes the life of the Christian community and its members (Agustoni/Goeschel, An Introduction to the Interpretation of Gregorian Chant, tr. Columba Kelly).

    which would be completely out of place in any type of serious musicological writing.

    With regard to the ICEL chants which are absolutely not designed to be performed in an equalist rhythm, there may be some variation in their performance from place to place, but there would be a unity of style so long as one did not adopt an artificial, mechanical rhythm in which the musical line was given priority over the text.
  • And then there is the kind of ideology that causes people to say things like...


    I wouldn't call this "ideology", incantu. I would call this "sacramental theology".

    We can't forget that chant is the servant of the LITURGY, not the other way around! Without the sacramental reality of the voice of Christ speaking in the liturgy through liturgical chant then Gregorian chant only belongs in the realm of musicology: that is, in the realm of treating of chant as a dead, lifeless artifact of the past (which is the case in most secular institutes of early music!).
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    "Without the sacramental reality of the voice of Christ speaking in the liturgy..."

    This is a theological can of worms. How would you prove such a statement in the first place? Can you conceive of a world in which Christ does not speak through the liturgy?

    If we were to accept the statement above as proof of a basically accentualist reading of the chant, isn't that the same as saying if we discovered a manuscript from the 8th century that had mensuralist chant written in quarters and eighths that that would disprove the presence of Christ in the liturgy? Of course it wouldn't. Nor does acceptance of the theology of the liturgy preclude coming to sound musical conclusions based on the best surviving evidence of medieval performance practice.

    I say "ideology" because it seems to me that some scholars write about chant the way they believe it ought to have been composed, given their beliefs, rather than how the tradition was actually transmitted to us through the manuscripts and the theoretical writings of the time. In short, whether you are pagan or a true believer, in a church or in a concert hall, when you sing a torculus, it is a torculus!
  • Well, this is the realm of sacramental and liturgical theology. Should we use theology to prove historical musicology? Probably not. But this response above is pretty demonstrative of the sole emphasis on historical musicology in most modern day Gregorian chant scholarship, often with no concern for an objective theological consideration of the liturgy in its own right.

    This is one of the things that I love about Agustoni and Göschl. They are able to incorporate solid sacramental theological principles into their practical methods of singing chant in a liturgical context. Their scholarship is sound, of course, but their primary concern is not for historical musicology alone, but always the liturgy FIRST and the chant that is its servant SECOND.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I agree with this, Adam. Notice I did not directly contradict the statement I quoted, nor did I say it was out of place in the volume in which it did appear. I think an understanding of the theology and an understanding of the music it produced are both important. I think it's dangerous when we try to use one as a proof for another, and I don't think it's wrong to focus on one at a time, so long as one acknowledges the existence of the other.

    The A/G book seems like a wonderful foundation for a practical method, but I don't find it practical in itself any more than Schenkarian analysis of Schubert and Wolf is for an opera singer. (Yes, I actually took that class in school).

    Somewhat off-topic thought of the day: The copyists of Laon and St. Gall did not differentiate between rhythm and tempo in the way we do today, but thought in terms of duration (or, if you prefer, "value"). I offer as evidence the almost uniform agreement between the two families of notation in terms of long and short notes in the middle of phrases and a much wider divergence at cadences. This leads me to believe that there was little difference between slow short notes and regular long notes. It also makes me think that in those places there should not be SLOW long notes.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,079
    guys... isnt this kinda like a gnats and camel kinda thing?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    The theology part, maybe. Especially since I don't disagree with it. But I have no problem splitting hairs about notation or performance practice. That's what I do for a living. So, I have the time. I certainly don't expect anything I say to be of very much concern to anyone at the parish level, at least not at this point.

    If worrying about the interpretation is a stumbling block, then forget about it. But if you're already doing as much chant as you can, then you can worry about doing it well, or better. I also think there would be much less resistance from clergy and PIPs if the singing of chant in some many places wasn't so stodgy and emasculated.