Psalmody in Latin and English
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Knowing how to sing psalms in traditional ways is an extremely useful skill. In essence, it involves mapping the syllables of texts to melodic formulae ("pointing" the texts). The introduction to the Liber Usualis provides a classic tutorial for texts in Latin. It is possible to apply the same techniques to those in English, but the results differ, sometimes unfavorably. This is a thread to discuss those techniques. If there are recommendations for resources, tutorials, and examples, I will collect them from comments below and list them up here for convenience.
  • IMO the first problem is the vernacular texts themselves. Anglicans have been chanting, with both Gregorian and Anglican chants, but using a much more "traditional" style of English. I'm sure we can come up with work-arounds for our ICEL texts, but it will sound quite tortured compared to the Latin/Gregorian combination. If only we could have the option of using another translation when we chant!
  • The traditional Gregorian psalm tones can indeed be used with English psalms, and there are monks, nuns, and parishes who have been doing that for years. What seems to be missing in terms of the Grail psalter is a pointed version (that is, a version with markings showing where to change pitch) for two-line Gregorian tones rather than four-line strophes. The monks of St Gregory's Abbey (Episcopal) in Michigan use such a pointed psalter but are unlikely to publish it, as they have copyright clearance only for the use of that community. Someone would have to point a psalter, get copyright clearance, and publish it, as was done with The Mundelein Psalter for Fr Samuel's two-line St Meinrad tones.

    If there were some flexibility in the psalter translations allowed for liturgical use, some readily available pointed psalters might be used, albeit with some copyright negotiation for reproduction and a bit of cutting and pasting (unless you want to make a huge investment in psalters for all).

    While it is unlikely that parishes other than Anglican Use ones would adopt a Tudor-English psalter these days, this music clip from St Thomas' Anglican Church in Toronto demonstrates English chant to traditional Gregorian tones, with sensitive accompaniment, in a place where psalms have been chanted this way for decades. Most of the congregation just chants their verses right from the Book of Common Prayer, without pointing (the cantor, choir, and organist work from a pointed psalm sheet). The method of accompaniment is that taught by Healey Willan in his Canadian Psalter: Plainsong Edition; organist and choirmaster is John Tuttle.

    Hear this

    So Gregorian tones and English language do mix, and sometimes quite beautifully. Takes some pointing to make it work.
  • I should have added that there are modern-English pointed psalters that work just as well as the traditional language in the example; just not in the Grail version, that I know of. One is the Episcopal Church's Plainsong Psalter, published here
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Right, I agree. Very nice!

    The method for doing this sort of thing is to apply the rules for pointing Latin to English, and then using your best artistic/theological judgment to improve the result. The goal is not simply to apply the rules with 100% rigidity -- they were never designed for English -- but to use them as a sort of mold, the casting of which should then be chiseled into a better level of craft.

    Here are the musical elements of a Gregorian psalm verse:

    - The incipit, i.e. set of beginning notes;
    - The tenor, or reciting note;
    - The mediant formula, which is mapped to the final syllables of the first half (hence "mediant") of the verse;
    - The flex formula, composed of a tenor and an additional note or two, which you use only if the first half of the psalm verse has more than one phrase or clause;
    - The return of the tenor (or a new tenor note);
    - The termination formula, which is mapped to the final syllables of the verse.

    Roughly, the mapping process goes like this:

    1. Determine the mode of your antiphon (usually already printed) or response. Use the psalm tone that corresponds to this mode.

    2. Note the pitch on which the antiphon or response begins: you're going to choose a termination formula that ends on this same pitch. This makes it easy for the congregation to pick up the melody again.

    3. Map the incipit formula to the opening syllables. Usually this is just the first two or three.

    4. Map the termination formula to the last syllables.

    5. Look for the middle of the verse. In some psalters, the middle is indicated with an asterisk. The start of the flex is often indicated with a dagger. If these divisions are not indicated, then you have to get a psalter where they are indicated, or you have to determine them yourself. If it's the latter -- i.e. with the often-incredibly-ungainly ICEL texts from the USCCB website -- don't panic.

    Let's look at an example of ICEL language, taken from today, December 15, 2007. Here are its RP verses, divided by me:

    O shepherd of Israel, hearken, *
    From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
    Rouse your power.

    Once again, O LORD of hosts,
    look down from heaven, and see; *
    Take care of this vine,
    and protect what your right hand has planted
    the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

    May your help be with the man of your right hand,
    with the son of man whom you yourself made strong. *
    Then we will no more withdraw from you;
    give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

    The third verse is the most straightforward: the period divides the two halves obviously.

    The second verse is also fairly straightforward: the semicolon marks a natural divide between the address to God and the supplication ("Take care").

    The first verse presents the difficulty. There we have two sentences totally unequal in length. The second sentence only has four syllables, making it impossible to point with an incipit, reciting tone, and termination. I think we have to divide the verse after "hearken" because that at least represents a similar division (address + supplication) as the one in the second verse. Plus, we get more syllables.

    At this point, we're ready to determine where to place all the melodic formulae, which of course depend on which psalm tone we choose. If someone wants to continue this example by pointing the incipits, mediants, flexes, and terminations, by all means, go ahead.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Very good, Pes… thanks so much for taking the time to explain that. I'll be printing it out.

    Since this thread is categorized under "for newcomers," I hope you won't mind yet another small set of questions from a novice. (I really don't want to wear out my welcome here….)

    (1) Again, considering your previous response on the other thread, and with regard to your first point above, is there really no assigned mode for a Psalm on a given Mass? Would it be appropriate at all to consult the Gradual from the Graduale Romanum and use the mode indicated there to compose an English Responsorial Psalm? (For example, the Gradual for the third Sunday of Advent is in Mode 7, though as far as I can tell, it seems the text is different than the Responsorial Psalm.) Or is it really just "pick a mode"?

    (2) Back to the Office Psalm Tones sheet… I think I can figure it out, especially given your previous explanations. What, though, does the "per." mean, right underneath Mode VIII?

    Thanks again.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Mark, your questions are the reason the forum is here.

    1. There really is no assigned mode for a "RP." I suppose it's appropriate to consult the mode of the gradual of the day, but this assumes the RP is a kind of gradual. If it is, then its resemblance to the gradual should probably be deeper than merely having similarity of mode. I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea of consulting the Graduale, but I'd like to think about it more. The congregation is expected to sing the thing.

    I think there may be more to gain from trying to get a feel for each tone's effects, and then choosing the tone that best suits the tenor of a text. The RP verses for today (see above) all call to God for His protection and strength. They are very confident verses. A question I might ask is, "which tone is best for conveying that confidence?" Of course, you can shade the expression of that confidence by choosing a tone that sounds more tentative -- which would then seem to suggest our need for God's help more than our confidence. In any case, the point is to be deliberate about the choice.

    2. "Per" is the abbreviation for "Peregrinus." This is a special tone which has two reciting tones and so seems to wander -- or "peregrinate." The first reciting tone is on La; the second, on Sol. It's a wonderful tone.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    One more thing. I was chided by a professor once for beginning every psalm verse after the first with an incipit formula. That is, every verse I sang had the incipit formula. He said that was just not done. Only the first verse gets the incipit. Every succeeding verse starts right on the reciting tone. I don't have time to check the Liber at the moment. Was the professor right about this? It seems a little over-scrupulous to me. After many verses, the voice gets tired on one pitch. Incipits allow your muscles a momentary shake, which is refreshing.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Very good again, Pes… thank you! Off to cantor at the Anticipated Mass, now (using Chabanel Psalms for the time being!). :)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Pes, my understanding is that this is a Solesmes innovation and that traditional practice is as you described, repeating the intonation. I usually use either one, preferring the intonation on particularly long groups of verses.
  • Huh? Chanting the intonation only on the first psalm verse seems to be a universal practice, practically a given. Chanting the intonation on every verse is reserved for the Gospel canticles: Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    Pes - I think it is a good idea to consult the Gradual in choosing a tone for the RP. The more continuity there is over time, the better. Basing the RP on the Gradual is a lovely nod to tradition -after all, there is no precedent for the vernacular, RP as it is done today.

    BUT -The short, English texts the Lectionary gives us for the antiphon are the problem. The intent is that the people sing. This is the one thing that most pastors are alert to, whether right or wrong. So I think it wise not to make the antiphon too melismatic. I know, I know - this runs contrary to the intent of the Gradual as it comes between the readings in the EF. And maybe it is boring. But there it is. People need to sing, and if they don't, your pastor will have words with you.

    I've found that basing an antiphon's melody on the Psalm tones directly works well (more about which Psalm tone in a minute). Depending on the length of the antiphon text, what you end up will be sometimes strictly, but mostly loosely based on a Psalm tone, with a little variation for interest and color, depending on the meaning and choice of words in the text itself. Your own good sense and musical imagination will be your guide. Sometimes they will be simple but serviceable. Other times they will be downright beautiful. There is beauty, after all, in simplicity, and the occasional clever turn of a phrase, musically speaking.

    One nice thing about approaching the RP this way is that once a verse is sung by the cantor or choir and the people return to the antiphon, one hears a direct connection between the different parts. Our congregation has been able to sing these antiphons effortlessly since we began doing them this way.

    Choice of Psalm tone for antiphons: a sticky problem! Yes, the different tones have different moods. That is a good place to start. But more often than not, what I have to pay close attention to is the rhythm and meaning of the English text we're required to use for the RP. It could just be my own lack of imagination, but I might sometimes pick a tone I think would be nice, but I cannot make it work for a particular text. Then I just run through other tones and ending cadences, etc., until I hit on something that fits nicely with the rhythm of the words (and their masculine endings!!!) and that lends itself to play between melody line and meaning.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Re: what the congregation sings

    Depending on the length of the antiphon text, what you end up will be sometimes strictly, but mostly loosely based on a Psalm tone, with a little variation for interest and color, depending on the meaning and choice of words in the text itself. Your own good sense and musical imagination will be your guide. Sometimes they will be simple but serviceable. Other times they will be downright beautiful.

    I think that's very wise.

    The crucial thing is for the RP to continue the sung liturgy in a way that does not represent a sharp musical rupture with what came before. If we have to continue with the RP, your approach to its music is clearly (and I wish there were a better word for this) "organically developmental." And it's also easy to sing, and not embarrassing to sing as are many ditty-like RP's in the missalettes. I totally support your approach.

    The antiphons in the Simplex (from the Office) often make good models, and some of them, while simple, are as you say, quite beautiful. Much can be achieved, if only we work carefully enough.
  • I have found this discussion very interesting with solid guidance for pointing the psalms and choosing psalm tones, esp. the comments by Pes and AOZ. Having set many English RPs to the traditional Gregorian psalm tones (GSTs) for responsorial psalms, I find that one of the major problems, of not the major problem is the fact that so often the sense lines in the English psalms end on an accented syllable, whereas the GPTs were intended for Latin, where, as a rule, the lines end with an unaccented syllable. You can see this with the example Pes supplies above: in the second stanza almost every line ends with an accented syllable ("hosts", "see", "vine" "strong"). Sometimes the last word can be combined with previous word(s), which mitigates this problem (e.g. "LORD of hosts") but sometimes not. This is where I find that the English settings using Gregorian psalm tones can falter a bit.

    This issue is brought up in the new USCCB document, "Sing to the Lord" - already discussed on this Forum on the thread devoted to it. In fact, it discourages using the GPTs with English.

    I think this is going a bit far. However, Theodore Marier did go so far as to obtain special permission to use modified translations of the psalms in his "Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Canticles" so that this would not be a problem. He also used modified versions of some of this terminations when accented syllables were unavoidable.

    Some of my work and that of others using the GPTs can be found here at the Chabanel Psalm Project under year A here:
    I'd appreciate any feedback on these anyone can offer.
  • The previous post should be signed Sam Schmitt.
  • ScottKChicago wrote: "Chanting the intonation only on the first psalm verse seems to be a universal practice, practically a given. Chanting the intonation on every verse is reserved for the Gospel canticles: Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis."

    That's true to the extent that you're referring to chanting Psalms and canticles in the office. Can you see chanting psalms at Mass as being different? I could suggest that the additional solemnity given to the Gospel canticles in the office might also be applied to Mass, being a more solemn liturgy than the office. Traditionally, Psalms aren't chanted straight through at Mass much, so the responsorial Psalm is somewhat new territory in this respect.

    Also recall the tone for the Psalm verses and Gloria Patri in the Introit of the Mass, which are more elaborate than the solemn office tones. As another example, the Communio book that R Rice prepared for use of Psalm verses with the Communion antiphons adapted the Introit model of Psalm tones.
  • Yes, David...I see the psalms at Mass as being a different tradition, so you may be right. If something like the Graduale Simplex or By Flowing Waters is used, with the antiphon sung between verses, I would use the intonation on every verse, or at least on the first verse after each repetition of the antiphon (perhaps several verses are sung between repetitions). Similar approach with the Communion antiphon sung with psalm verses.
  • Using English with Gregorian psalm tones does require a few adjustments. One of those addresses the problem of more English phrases ending on a stressed syllable. Many psalters solve this by not having the chant go back to the reciting note. For instance, the phrase "I will give thanks to the LORD" in tone VIII would be chanted all on doh (the reciting note) and go up to re (whole step higher) on LORD, with no return to the reciting note (until you continue with the second half of the verse, of course). A few psalters insist on forcing a return to the reciting note, resulting in unnatural syllabic stresses like "I will give thanks to THE Lord."

    I guess I'm used to the adjusted way and think it helps the tones work well with English.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    That is an interesting approach. Are there others? Does it ever sound appropriate to use the last note in the tone for the last syllable?
  • The English-language adjustment I described is done only on the first half of a verse where necessary. I'm thinking of Tone VIII here:

    Blessed be the Lord my / rock! * [as opposed to: Blessed be the / Lord my rock! *]
    who trains my hands to fight and my fing- / ers to battle.

    The second half-verse's ending is taken care of by the longer formula used:

    I will ponder the glorious splendor of your / majesty *
    and all your / marvelous works.

    This adjustment is well illustrated in the sound file I linked to early in this thread. The first verse uses this adjustment: ...with my whole / heart; *

    There's probably a technical term for this that I should learn!
  • Thanks, ScottK, for the example. I've heard two other approaches to the line in question (mode VIII). One is to treat 'Lord' as an accented syllable, but give it two notes: "I will give thanks to the LO-ORD. The other is to use the Latin rule, and count back two syllables to make a secondary accent, the result being "I will give thanks TO the Lord." I used the latter rule for a long time, and probably still prefer it. Of course, the word 'thanks' is also accented in this English line, so the solution is to sing it so that the accented text syllables make sense in context.

    In favor of ScottK's approach, I seem to recall hearing that some dispensation had been given by Rome for this approach in the case of single-syllable Hebrew words, which occasionally occurr in the Latin psalms. One could then reason that this exception for the 'foreign' Hebrew word could be applied to 'foreign' English words also. (Hebrew and English both being foreign relative to Latin.)

    In the end, there's a lot to be said for lots of practice in both languages. That is, learn to follow the accent rules by chanting in Latin, and then adapting the rules to English. Adjustments are certainly necessary, especially for those last-syllable accents. Learning to sing them as gracefully as possible also helps a lot, while making sure the text makes sense as sung.
  • For myself, I do prefer the latter rule specified by David in the immediately preceding comment.

    A possible way to sing the example "I will give thanks TO the Lord" (and other examples like it) so that it makes sense is to lengthen "thanks" or even sing it like a disyllabic word, like "I will give tha-nks TO the Lord".

    The dispensation mentioned by ScottK is cited in the Liber reprints if I remember correctly.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    I think David's comment sums up my experience:

    In the end, there's a lot to be said for lots of practice in both languages. That is, learn to follow the accent rules by chanting in Latin, and then adapting the rules to English. Adjustments are certainly necessary, especially for those last-syllable accents. Learning to sing them as gracefully as possible also helps a lot, while making sure the text makes sense as sung.

    In the end, there may be two or three suitable solutions for any given text. It is also good to keep in mind the sound of the words, that is, the vowels as they are sung. A beautiful vowel on an accent can do wondrous things, and may outweigh more strict attention to the meaning of the words or similarly strict adherence to the formula.
  • Isaac
    Posts: 16
    Just thought this might put some perspective. Westminster Vespers and Mass...though the Vespers is in English (usually in Latin) for the Psalmody..Hear the organ.

    tell me if it doesn't work. By the way. Merry Christmas!

  • To reply/add to the questions/insights of David Sullivan and ScottKChicago:

    There are two kinds of psalmody in the Graduale Simplex: processional psalmody and responsorial psalmody. Processional psalmody is sung at the entrance, gospel, preparation, and communion and each verse of processional psalmody is intoned. Responsorial psalmody (the chant after the first reading) is not intoned.
    Thanked by 1JonathanKK
  • In the psalmody of By Flowing Waters I disaggregated neumes and abbreviated intonations, when setting some psalm verses using processional psalm tones I, III, IV, VI, and VII, as well as the responsorial psalm tones C 2, C 3, D *, E 1, E 2, E 5, E 5 * and E *. (It was easier to keep the rules in processional psalm tones II, V, and VIII and in responsorial tones C 1, C 4, C *, D 1, E 3, and E 4). This is because the psalm tone needs to convey the sense of the psalm easily to the assembly, in natural sounding English.

    My sense about singing English to Gregorian modes is that lengthening of any syllables (singing them longer or on two or more notes) and any syllables sung on the first note which moves above or below the tenor or dominant of the mode stresses these syllables and that these syllables need to be naturally stressed English syllables. English also prefers strong endings (to use Hiley’s terminology, English prefers accentual cadences rather than cursive cadences), so I paid special attention to the use of the tones in their mediant and final cadences.

    I have applied a similar method to the intonations of the processional psalm tones I, III, IV, VI and VII. I added an extra preliminary punctum to tones I, III, IV, and VI so that I could accommodate anapestic words and phrases in these ones; I also removed the standard preliminary punctum when the verse began with trochaic or dactylic words or phrases. In tone VII I disaggregated the podatus and clivis in intonations which begin with anapestic words or phrases.

    On July 8 and December 12, 1912 the Sacred Congregation for Rites gave permission, in the case of verses which terminate on monosyllables, for abrupt mediations in psalm tones with mediants of one accent (tones II, IV, VI, and VIII). Psalms in English have many more such verses than psalms in Latin, so I used this permission extensively.

    In explaining the responsorial psalm tones of the Graduale Simplex (pp. 440–445), the editors point out that when the psalm verse ends with a dactyl, an extra note may be inserted or the podatus or clivis may be disaggregated into its components, that is, into two notes (pp. 440, 442, 443, and 444). One can see in these directives a preference for cadences that are more accentual than cursive. I regularly used these flexibilities throughout By Flowing Waters, not just in responsorial psalmody but also in processional psalmody, whenever I could not apply the standard rules. I was particularly concerned about wedding any psalm verse which ends with a trochee or a trochaic phrase or a dactyl or a dactylic phrase with any processional psalm tones which ends with a dotted podatus (I a 2, VII c, VII d), a dotted clivis I f, III a, VII c 2, VII a), or a torculus (I g 2). I also worked painstakingly with any processional psalm tone whose final cadence consists of one accent with preparatory syllables meant to be sung on two-note neumes.
    Thanked by 1JonathanKK
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    There has been recent discussion of psalm tones on other threads these days, so I'm commenting here to bump the discussion to the top of the topical stack.

    Paul, thank you *very* much for this reference:

    On July 8 and December 12, 1912 the Sacred Congregation for Rites gave permission, in the case of verses which terminate on monosyllables, for abrupt mediations in psalm tones with mediants of one accent (tones II, IV, VI, and VIII).

    I had no idea permission needed to be sought for that. Can you comment on the circumstances of seeking this permission? It was related to your fine book, I'm guessing.
  • I bring to everyone's attention a rather lengthy essay on the challenges we face in setting English texts to Gregorian psalm tones, with suggestions for meeting them.

    I am taking the liberty of posting it again because it takes up questions raised in the current discussion.
  • Re: Repetition of psalm tone intonations. The intonation functions as a bridge between the final note of the antiphon and the reciting note. It is repeated after each repetition of the antiphon. When one verse follows immediately upon another, the intonation is not repeated, except in Benedictus Dominus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis.

    Re: Permission from the Sacred Congregation of Rites to use Abrupt mediations. Pothier, who edited the Vatican edition, like abrupt mediations. Mocquereau did not. Pothier included them in the Vatican edition. Solesmes subsequently sought and obtained permission not to use them, which came in the form of the 1912 decree from the Congregation of Sacred Rites.

    In the chant corpus we find compositions in which all final monosyllables are accented and in which the final syllables of all Hebrew words and names are accented; we find other compositions in which final monosyllables are treated as enclytics and all words of Hebrew origin are accented according to normal Latin rules. Therefore, in Latin psalmody either of the two approaches is justifiable. The rules of English accentuation are entirely different. English contains many oxytonic words (i.e., words accented on the final syllable), and context determines whether a final monosyllable is accented or not. Respecting accentuation is not, in my view, a matter of choice. Abrupt mediations must be employed freely. Under the influence of Mocquereau/Solesmes I avoided using them as far as possible. My settings of the canticles in the Hymnal 1982 reflect my attempt to avoid using them. In more recent years I have come to the recognition that psalm tones are recitative formulas intended to facilitate declamation of texts, and that ignoring the accentuation of the text cannot be justified. I now use abrupt mediations frequently.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Bruce has also been posting wonderful examples of his art on the Chabanel website for all to see: we are so blessed to have him!

    Also, Ermin de Vitry wrote an article on Psalmody in Caecilia.

    He says some shocking things. One of the things he says (paraphrased) is that "the only reason we don't notice how awkward the Latin psalm tones are is that we don't speak fluent Latin anymore."

    I disagree. I feel that the musical line can OVERTAKE the tonic accents and make it into a beautiful cantilena.

    However, I also think that this takes a degree of musical sophistication for the listener and singer.

    Furthermore, I admit that examples CAN be found in medieval chant where the composer seemed to "honor" the tonic accent. But I have also found many times where the psalm tone melody simply does not stress the tonic accent.

    I am not happy with all my settings and adaptations in the Chabanel Psalms, but Bruce has been slowly helping me. Also, when folks disagree, they can always make slight adjustments. The Chabanel composers each have a different "take" on Psalm tone adaptation, and I think this is marvelous.
  • Jeff

    He says some shocking things. One of the things he says (paraphrased) is that "the only reason we don't notice how awkward the Latin psalm tones are is that we don't speak fluent Latin anymore."
    eff your reference from de VItry.
    I've often had similar thoughts regarding Latin. But Latin does seem to have a steady cadence and i s more supple.I prefer the poetic force, the accurate expression of content, and the syntax of Latin which seems to shrink away from the English translations - that sound and sense.

    English does like to fit tightly into that tonic accent yet that strict formula can become tiresome. And when the English text 's accent falls outside the tonic accent then a rhythmic polyphony can be achieved (at times), and sometimes it all crashes . I do use English propers. I like it when they mimic the shape of the Gradual's melodies while allowing the text to generate the details. English translations and settings always seem to be found lacking.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I agree, Ralph. By the way, I don't have the answer (no matter how hard I think about it or how much I read), except to say that the Gregorian art is so beautiful, and just because they don't hammer out the tonic accent, I don't think that is a bad thing. I think it is highly sophisticated. Simple, rhythmically-driven, rhythmically -composed music (sounds?) on the radio may have made us as a culture too used to simple beat patterns and hammered tonic accents. Actually, I'm convinced it has.
  • Jeff: It is wonderful to be involved with "beautiful " music again.
    As a child I sang in a large boys soprano chant choir, then I was in High School : "Walk a mile in my shoes.' during Mass. Attending Mass has been so very, very trying trying these past forty years, and the only truth or beauty that the music has delivered was a sharing in the pains of our Lord's Passion.

    Perceiving beauty in the chant is just as important as understanding the text.
    Beauty as a vehicle for truth may speak much more clearly than than language.

    Yes Rock has weakened our ear for language and sentence structure.
    But I do like whats going on with much of the alternative rock both music and lyrics.- Don't worry :I wont take this thread from Gregorian chant to System of a Down.
  • Bruce Ford:
    I have just read a 10 page article which you provided on this forum titled "Setting English Texts to Gregorian Psalm Tones." Thank you for providing this.
    I have always felt like a maverick splitting neumes and merging notes in order to preserve the music already present in the text. Your work has assured me that I am not corrupting this art and you have provided system for setting texts to psalm tones that has helped me organize my own ideas. I have found it necessary to set psalms because the responsorial settings provided by most of the periodicals require too much editing,
    I do like the way Gelineau's psalm tones move through a text while maintaining a regular tempo with primary and secondary accents. They a magnificent with harp and I would have thought that contemporary choirs would have adapted them to guitar.
    Do you have more info available on setting psalm tones?
  • Bruce Ford says:

    Re: Repetition of psalm tone intonations. The intonation functions as a bridge between the final note of the antiphon and the reciting note. It is repeated after each repetition of the antiphon.

    Is this precise interpretation given "officially" anywhere? I think it can be inferred from (for instance) the "rules for the chanting of the psalms" in the 1953 Liber Usualis: "The Intonation is a formula at the beginning of the Psalm which connects the Antiphon with the Tenor or Dominant" -- which to me implies that anytime the Antiphon is sung.

    However, the "rules" in the LU go on to say:

    In ordinary Psalmody the Intonation is used for the first verse only; the other verses begin directly on the Tenor or Reciting note. Whenever the Intonation has to be repeated for each verse -- as in the Magnificat -- this is always indicated. When several Psalms or several divisions of a Psalm (with Gloria Patri for each division) are chanted under the same Antiphon, the first verse of each should be intoned by the cantor as far as the Mediation.

    In my experience there are many congregations where the choir director (and/or the clergy) take the first sentence of this passage as the final word on the subject: intonation on the first verse only; for all subsequent verses (even after the refrain in a responsorial psalm), begin on the reciting tone. This seems wrongheaded to me, but I wish I could find more definitive support for the view put forward by Bruce Ford above. (Not that Mr. Ford isn't himself authoritative!)
  • MarkB
    Posts: 104
    I understand the difference to apply depending on whether a psalm is sung responsorially (as at Mass) or straight-through (as in the Liturgy of the Hours).

    In the psalter for Liturgy of the Hours the antiphon is intoned only at the beginning and end of the psalm and the psalm verses are sung straight-through. In that case, the intonation of a psalm tone is used only for the first verse of the psalm sung after the antiphon; the rest of the verses and the Gloria Patri are begun on the reciting tone. I think that's what the LU is addressing. The Novus Ordo's responsorial psalm had not been introduced in 1953.

    At Mass, when the psalm is typically sung in a responsorial manner, the response/antiphon is repeated several times during the course of the psalm, interrupting the flow of the psalm's verses. In that case, the intonation of a psalm tone is used for the first verse following the (repeated) response/antiphon, whereas subsequent verses begin on the reciting tone until the response/antiphon is repeated, after which the intonation would again be used on the next verse.

    If you're looking for an official interpretation, that is complicated by the fact that the 1953 LU you reference didn't envision using psalm tones to sing the NO's responsorial psalm in responsorial format.
    Thanked by 2ChrisBaum CHGiffen
  • Thanks, MarkB. So would it be fair to say that what those choir directors and clergy I mentioned are doing is, in effect, applying the guidance in the LU and other such sources to a situation (the responsorial psalm) that the LU did not address?
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    The Graduale Simplex also states that the antiphon and verse are interconnected both by the intonation and termination, and explicitly shows the antiphon and verse alternating. BUT this does not apply to the responsorial psalm, since it does not (in GS) have an antiphon but a response! The response does not neccessarily terminate on the first note of the verse. Neither the Alleluia, nor the psalmus alleluiaticus exhibit any concern for matching. Note that in GS a tract has all verses after the first begin on the reciting note.