The Horizontal Episema over the Clivis
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I was delighted to receive in the mail this week a copy of the Fall 2012 issue of Sacred Music. In it, Charles Cole gives an overview of the Old Solesmes editions and associated methodology, and the early semiological movement beginning with Cardine's Graduel Neumé. The bulk of the article deals with attempts by Cardine and others to reconcile Old Solesmes with elements of the new scholarship, with the 2011 Graduale Novum briefly mentioned as a sort of optional Coda. [I should mention here that this is Cole's summary of other people's interpretations, and not an attempt to advance his own individual agenda. The commentary below should be read in that context].

    However, in my personal Study the Graduale Novum has been the beginning, not the end, of the story of understanding medieval chant practice. This more recent resource reveals that the Old Solesmes notation is entirely incompatible with the 9th and 10th century chant traditions, unless of course one already has the music committed to memory. To suggest that there is some sort of middle ground between the 19th century tradition and medieval practice is to create a Frankenstein chant hybrid* with no historical precedent. A fine illustration of this idea is the interpretation of the horizontal episema in the quadratic (square) notation of the clivis.

    The example given in Figure 9 (p. 16) is the communion Tollite hostias, with the argument that the episemata on the words "adorate Dominum" apply to both notes. This is perfectly true, but somewhat misleading. For one, saying that the episema applies to "both" notes of a clivis implies that a clivis always has two pitches, but in the case of a liquescent clivis, it can actually have three (see Cardine's Table of Neumatic Signs from Gregorian Semiology, pp. 12–13; or Figure 8 in Cole's article. Example 5 g). But the real fallacy is the suggestion that the Old Solesmes interpretation of the episema ought to apply to both notes.

    The Old Solesmes school teaches that the value of an individual note of a clivis is the same as an undotted punctum, so that the rhythm of the phrase "adorate Dominum" would be short-short-short-long-long-long-short-long-short-long-short-long (where the shorts are of average value and the longs augmented). But an informed reading of the St. Gall notation of the same reveals that the single syllable on the punctum "do" of "adorate" is long. Therefore, the individual notes of the clivis that procede it are each shorter than the punctum, and the individual notes of the clivis that follow it are each the same length as the punctum, or short-short-long-long-long-long-long-long-long-long-long-long (where the longs are of average, not augmented, value). In other words, correcting the interpretation of the clivis with episema is meaningless unless the rhythms of all the other notes of the chant have also been corrected to the proper proportions.

    Further compounding the problem is that St. Gall scribe does not always explicitly write the episema when it is to be understood in context (or sometimes by downright omission). A literal transcription of the St. Gall text would be insufficient for a proper rhythmic interpretation. But the Solesmes notation does not even always transcribe the episema from St. Gall (e.g. on the fourth note of "ejus" in the Tollite hostias example). And if you really want to get detailed, the Laon notation of the same chant gives the rhythm of adorate Dominnum as long clivis with augmentation, long clivis, short clivis with augmentation, short clivis. The effect is one of acceleration, or of decreasing ritardando—a practice that might have been so universal at St. Gall that the scribe didn't think it necessary to go into that much detail.

    My intent is not to frighten anyone away from the study of 9th and 10th century chant traditions. I have personally made recordings with amateur singers that, unbeknownst to me at the time, agree substantially with those of Agustoni. It is possible! I would, however, like to suggest that until one has a thorough grasp of the earlier tradition, they not attempt to mix their discoveries with the tradition of the Old Solesmes method, which is capable of producing its own beautiful and worthy performances in its pure 19th century glory.

    *Of course, if someone wants to follow this interpretation because they find it especially beautiful, I would not discourage them. We would not have, for example, the masterful choral works of Maurice Duruflé had he not based his compositional style on what has turned out to be entirely incorrect theories concerning the rhythm of Gregorian chant. It is an entirely different matter to go about peddling this mixed-breed chant as beloning to the pedigree of any 9th or 10th century source.

  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I must add two additional comments about Cole's article:

    On p. 21 he refers to the letter "r" as standing for "rursum," meaning "elevate." This should of course be "s" and "sursum," as in "sursum corda." The medival s often looks like an r, numerous examples of which can be found in the above St. Gall notation of Tollite hostias.

    Secondly, I've noticed a trend in this and other articles of using the term "semiology" to refer to the neumes themselves, rather than to the study of the neumatic signs (e.g. p. 23 "If you try to sing everything marked in the semiology..."). I find this confusing, and have not been able to track down a primary source that uses the term semiology in this way. I wonder if it stems from a mistranslation of Cardine's original French, or if I have personally misread the term to mean "the study of paleographic signs." Anyone?
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  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    To suggest that there is some sort of middle ground between the 19th century tradition and medieval practice is to create a Frankenstein chant hybrid* with no historical precedent
    .

    Could you explain this further? We sing the propers from the Graduale Romanum and follow Dr. Marier's method of singing chant. Is that the Solesmes method as opposed to the semiological method using the markings in the Triplex? I'm very foggy on the details as you can see, but any enlightenment would be much appreciated.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I'm happy someone's receiving SM from any of the past three years.

    Update, rec'd Fall 2012 on Friday the 14th!
    Thanked by 1amindthatsuits
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,952
    I finally quit sending membership dues in to CMAA. I rarely received one of the magazines, so I figured what was the point? Often the articles were nothing original, but reprints from past publications.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    @JulieColl, Marier's text "A Gregorian Chant Materclass" as well as his compositional style represent a fairly classic Solesmes style. A fundamental principle of this interpretation is that the punctum represents a single, indivisible unit. Neumes of two notes have a value to two pulses, those of three notes three pulses, and so on. The only modification to this basic unit is one of lengthening, not of shortening.

    The practice at the time the Laon and St. Gall manuscripts were recorded was that of variable length, where a single virga or tractus (transcribed in the Solesmes editions as a punctum) could be either long or short. The clivis was (with certain exceptions) generally understood to be short, unless marked with an episema or t(enete). In this sense, the clivis with episema is not long compared to the "punctum," but rather it is not short.

    Remember that the Vatican and Solesmes editions were both prepared by Solesmes. It follows that the best method for interpreting them is the method set forth by their editors, viz the Solesmes method. To perform according to the so-called semiological method (which is really not a method at all), one must make recourse to other editions.

    While the Graduale Triplex does provide much of the paleographical material necessary to perform according to the earlier traditions, it is cluttered with dots, ictus marks, and episemata that do not necessarily relate to the corresponding manuscripts. The Graduale Novum, in addition to being laid out in a way that makes it easy to read the three lines of notation, is free from the unnecessary and confusing clutter of the Solesmes rhythmic signs. The melodic restitutions it contains may be a subject of debate among those whose primary purpose is to prepare licit music for the liturgy, but nevertheless often make it easier to see the connections between the early staffless notations and the later received melodic traditions. Far from being a Holy Grial of chant, the Graduale Novum still contains numerous examples of diverging rhythmic and melodic traditions. But at this point, it's the only single complete resource I know of that can serve as a satisfactory performing edition for 9th and 10th century chant.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I can't emphasize this point enough, so I'm going to say it again:
    Remember that the Vatican and Solesmes editions were both prepared by Solesmes. It follows that the best method for interpreting them is the method set forth by their editors, viz the Solesmes method.


    EDIT Based on some comments below, especially the esteemed Bruce E. Ford, I should clarify that I mean the best method for interpreting the editorial symbols, etc. not the best method for interpreting "the chant" that they contain.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    This is immensely helpful! Thank you.

    Do you mind if I ask how you initially learned Gregorian chant? Was it with the Solesmes method, and if so, was it difficult to transition from the Solesmes method and the Graduale Romanum to interpreting the markings in the Graduale Novum?

    And one final question: what are the pros and cons of learning to sing the propers in the Graduale Novum as opposed to the Graduale Romanum?

    Thanks for any insight you can give me. I know someone who sings the propers from the Triplex and it is, even to my untrained ear, quite different and actually more captivating in a way.
  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I learned Solesmes chant. Right from the beginning, I had to memorize the neume chart of clivis and pes, torculus and porrectus, climacus, scandicus, etc. And after all of that, I was told that they are all sung exactly the same way, i.e. with one pulse per note. I knew this could not be correct, and so went to dig deeper into the manuscript traditions.

    For a while I, too, dabbled in mixing information in the manuscripts with the Solesmes editions. After all, the Solesmes edition is based on a thorough comparative analysis of the chant manuscripts. But the major breakthroughs of chant scholarship of the past 30 years render the 100-year-old Vatican edition obsolete.

    The pros of using the Novum? It enables a performance that more closely approximates the earliest recorded chant traditions. For me, it has opened my eyes to new possibilities in interpreting music of all other time periods. The idea of unequal eighths, for example, is essential to the performance of Baroque music. I also happen to find a good performance of the medieval style to be more beautiful than its 19th century counterpart.

    The cons? It's nearly impossible to sing all the Gregorian propers every week with the Novum. One would have to have a director who has large amounts of chant committed to memory in order to begin to approach this repertoire. (Being able to read an individual chant is not sufficient). And the amount of rehearsal time it takes to perfect a single chant would be prohibitive for most choirs.

    However, I do think there's a tremendous benefit from knowing which aspects of current chant performance that are commonly accepted as an absolute are based on misconceptions. Even if you choose to follow the Solesmes method, you can avoid splitting hairs about things that, in the proper context, don't really matter.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    things that, in the proper context, don't really matter.


    This is such a large category....
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    To add to that category: closing to consonants on quadratic liquescents. The real question should be whether the liquescent is one of augmentation or diminution, or whether it is sung on one pitch (as a long) or two (as two shorts). If you're not going to ponder these questions, just make sure you pronounce it clearly in a way that is appropriate to the room and don't make too much of a fuss about it.
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    I've sung chant with several groups just around Sydney, Australia and they all have different ideas of how chant should be sung.

    My opinion is that chant should be sung in a way that feels natural for the way the words would have otherwise been spoken. So a punctum isn't always the same length, because some words have heavy and light syllables. Heavy syllables usually have other things like clivis or podatus or quelismas placed on them.

    Then I recently discovered the Dominican Rite Gradual. Lo and behold! There are no quelismas, emphesemas, etc. Was it to be sung differently or were these things merely implied in the chant notation? Who knows?

    Just goes to show that Chant was not a continuous tradition from the middle-ages to the present day. There are plenty of Traditionalists out there who will argue that gregorian chant and sacred polyphony was being sung everywhere right up until Vatican II ruined everything. It simply was NOT the case.
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  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • MHI - there you go, being facetious.
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  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    MHI - You're lucky then. The traditionalists here in Australia have all sorts of ideas of what liturgy was like before Vatican II.
  • MHIMHI
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,952
    We have some who think chant has been used continuously for two thousand years without alteration or revision. I have run into that attitude, too, HM. When I tell them it fell out of popular use for centuries, and was essentially reconstructed in France during the nineteenth century, they are a bit shocked - especially the part about it not coming from the angels directly to Gregory the Great.

    Chant is a living medium and changes over time. It comes into fashion and falls out of fashion. And no, it wasn't invented by Rossini, which is what many of the older folks actually heard before Vatican II.
  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    especially the part about it not coming from the angels directly to Gregory the Great.


    Shocked. SHOCKED!

    Chant is a living medium and changes over time. It comes into fashion and falls out of fashion.


    The Latin language also, despite what some of it's weirder chapions would have you believe.

    ---
    cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect
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  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    First of all, I believe it was the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove that sang the sacred chants into Gregory's ear. Get it straight, people! ;)

    But really, I just want to clarify that I have no interest in discussing how chant should be sung. It will of course depend on one's objectives. My article is about how chant was sung when it was first written down (who knows how much it had changed by then), and how the 19th century editors of the Graduale Romanum intended their edition to be performed.
  • MHIMHI
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Yes? More info pls!

    A good introduction is always Wikipedia (which has references to more authoritative print sources, if you are so inclined)...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Latin

    The most fascinating section of that article to me is:

    Renaissance Latin
    Renaissance Latin is a name given to the Latin written during the European Renaissance in the 14th-16th centuries, particularly distinguished by the distinctive Latin style developed by the humanist movement.

    Ad fontes was the general cry of the humanists, and as such their Latin style sought to purge Latin of the medieval Latin vocabulary and stylistic accretions that it had acquired in the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. They looked to Golden Age Latin literature, and especially to Cicero in prose and Virgil in poetry, as the arbiters of Latin style. They abandoned the use of the sequence and other accentual forms of metre, and sought instead to revive the Greek formats that were used in Latin poetry during the Roman period. The humanists condemned the large body of medieval Latin literature as "gothic" – for them, a term of abuse – and believed instead that only ancient Latin from the Roman period was "real Latin".

    The humanists also sought to purge written Latin of medieval developments in its orthography. They insisted, for example, that ae be written out in full wherever it occurred in classical Latin; medieval scribes often wrote e instead of ae. They were much more zealous than medieval Latin writers in distinguishing t from c: because the effects of palatalization made them homophones, medieval scribes often wrote, for example, eciam for etiam. Their reforms even affected handwriting: humanists usually wrote Latin in a script derived from Carolingian minuscule, the ultimate ancestor of most contemporary lower-case typefaces, avoiding the black-letter scripts used in the Middle Ages. Erasmus even proposed that the then-traditional pronunciations of Latin be abolished in favour of his reconstructed version of classical Latin pronunciation.

    The humanist plan to remake Latin was largely successful, at least in education. Schools now taught the humanistic spellings, and encouraged the study of the texts selected by the humanists, largely to the exclusion of later Latin literature. On the other hand, while humanist Latin was an elegant literary language, it became much harder to write books about law, medicine, science or contemporary politics in Latin while observing all of the humanists' norms of vocabulary purging and classical usage. Because humanist Latin lacked precise vocabulary to deal with modern issues, their reforms accelerated the transformation of Latin from a working language to an object of antiquarian study. Their attempts at literary work, especially poetry, often have a strong element of pastiche. Their efforts turned Latin from a classical, but still useful language into an extinct language. Latin vocabulary continued to be used by the creators of New Latin, but extensive discourses on contemporary subjects gradually ceased to be written in Latin during this period.


    One might could call Latin a dead language NOW (althuogh I think even that is debatable), but the idea that it died with Western Empire, or that it was essentially a fixed language during the development, growth, and spread of the Latin Liturgy, is just plain wrong.

    --

    Also, I highly recommend The Christian West and its Singers, which provides a lot of context and (for me) cleared up a lot of confusion about the history (and also what we know vs. what we don't know) about liturgy, language, and culture in the first millennium.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    None of the variations outlined above is substantial or affects the mechanics of the language. They are all accidental changes, in things like lexical gravitation and esthetic approach: pure cosmetics, if you will.


    I disagree. For serious. I assume you are not a Latin historian (I am not).
    So I would really appreciate if there are any around, some commentary here.
    But, as far as I can tell, this seems just wrong.

    Which means that this:

    literary Latin has remained essentially the same since the classical period.


    is also quite wrong.
    ---
    However, this is quite right:
    you think that I'm weird, don't you?


    Very. That's what I like about you, though.
    Thanked by 1MHI
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,952
    Hmm! Those "Renaissance Latin" scholars sound about as self-righteous, arrogant, misinformed, and obnoxious as some of the modern day organ and chant scholars. Who would have thought?
    Thanked by 3MHI Adam Wood CHGiffen
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    I guess, though, a lot of this has to do with how much change you consider "change."
    (Like the creationists who make a firm distinction between adaptation and evolution.)

    Do you believe that literary English has remained unchanged, with the exception of cosmetics, since Shakespeare?

    (Hint: I do not.)
  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Hmm! Those "Renaissance Latin" scholars sound about as self-righteous, arrogant, misinformed, and obnoxious as some of the modern day organ and chant scholars. Who would have thought?


    I was thinking the same thing. School-marmishness is never an attractive quality.

    For reference:
    GOOD: Based on our research, we think X is likely what was happening.

    OKAY: Based on our research, we think X is likely what was happening. Also we like X more, and will be doing it ourselves from now on.

    BAD: Based on our research, you are all doing everything wrong and should immediately stop it. Also, stop liking things we don't like.
    Thanked by 3CharlesW MHI SkirpR
  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Essentially, yes.

    So the issue may not be that we disagree on what happened, but rather disagree on the definition of "change."
    Thanked by 1MHI
  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    The great Spanish soprano Victoria de los Angeles has recorded a number of folk songs of Spain and Latin America in which she performs according to the various dialects and regional accents proper to each piece. Truly remarkable! But I have yet to work with a vocal ensemble (and I currently direct several, both amateur and fully professional) that can successfully reproduce even modern, ecclesiastical Latin with any amount of regularity. For that reason, I personally have little interest in attempting to make a distinction between 9th century Flemish Latin, 14th century French Latin, etc. in performing a variety of medieval and renaissance repertoire.

    Bringing the discussion back to chant notation, however, I think it's interesting to find evidence in the manuscripts that, for example, "tuus" was sung as a single syllable, that the second d in "credidi" was at the very least inaudible to the scribe (if pronounced at all), or that the t of "et" and the g of "eges" may have taken as long to articulate as an en or an em. And that the word was most certainly not sung as Allelu-YA, as we so often hear from modern choirs, even when not set that way by the composer. These all involve aspects of vocal technique that I have been able to cultivate among my performing groups, making it (in my opinion) worth the effort.
    Thanked by 3Adam Wood CHGiffen MHI
  • Erasmus noted (unhappily) that one could, only with great difficulty, comprehend Latin while going from one country or region to another. For reason: everyone pronounced it the same way that he pronounced his own language. Our Italianate 'church Latin' pronunciation is a convention hardly more than 150 years old. A glaring hold-out for regional pronunciation is alive and well in Britain, where university Latin continues to be almost comically Anglicised.
    I do rather agree with Adam that it would seem that Latin did not remain static. While being impressed with MHI's mastery of Latin, it seems to me that he is not correct on this issue.

    It is interesting to note that up until well into the last century all the great universities of our western civilisation required that doctoral theses be written and delivered in Latin. Now, none do. Oxford and/or Cambridge were, I believe, the last hold outs. (A XIX. century school boy could write and speak more Latin than a modern PhD!) And one can be pretty certain that in Germany, Latin sounded like German... ditto everywhere else. When I do French alternatim literature on recital I always have the chant sung slowly with a very heavy French accent, sometimes with some mensuration here and there, and even ornaments and accidentals. It is clear that in past times chant performance was very heavily influenced by contemporary musical style, and that it sounded almost like the native language of the singers.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Adam Wood
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    If I were in France, directing a French choir, I could make an argument for French Latin. But having been raised on Boston's North Shore, I can assure you no one would want to hear Latin pronounced with my regional accent if such a thing were even possible. As it is, my choir is made of Americans and foreign nationals, native English speakers and English language learners, Yankees and Aussies and Brits. So even a uniform "English" Latin becomes impossible. Americans are the only ones who seem to pronounce Latin in an accent other than their own. What, I wonder, would a German choir do when singing Persichetti?
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • MHIMHI
    Posts: 324
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  • MHI -
    What, then, of the various literary and philosophical fashions of mediaeval Latin? Cicero would have disowned them. How can you assert that literary Latin has remained substantially, essentially, unchanged since the classical period? Adam has illustrated, above, how that renaissance Latin itself was a conscious 'reconstruction' of classical models. This, of course, mirrors the renaissance development of opera as a supposed re-creation of classical drama. Not to mention the other arts. Latin's very rehabilitation by the humanists is evidence sui generis that it had not remained unchanged literarily. Can you clarify what you mean?

    Incantu -
    You are certainly right. You will note that I spoke of Frankified Latin only in regard to historical performances on recital. I would never do this at mass.... (unless, maybe, the congregation were all musicologists!).
  • MHIMHI
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    As illustrated above, MHI is working from a different conception of what "counts" as change, and what doesn't, from (at least) me and (it seems) MJO. Of course, I think he's wrong here.

    The fact that Cicero might have been able to read late-Medieval Latin isn't the issue. Would Shakespeare be able to read a modern newspaper? Probably, to some extent. But new ideas, new usages, new vocabulary, and (worst of all) the changing of meaning of words and phrases would make it difficult.

    That doesn't mean Shakespeare wrote a different language than we do today- but it does mean the language is alive and evolving.

    Latin was alive and evolving through the Middle Ages. Vocabulary changed, new words were added, others dropped from common use. These are natural and normal things that happen to a living language- to every living language, without exception.

    The only reason this even matters (for me, for us) is that this is very much in contradiction to the notion (put forth by some of the weirder champions of the pre-V2 liturgy) that Latin became the language of liturgy after the language "died," or that the language was considered archaic and hierarchical at the time of its adoption in the West, or that the vocabulary of Latin has some magical property (unknown to all other languages) to express theological ideas in unambiguous ways, or any of the other mumbo-jumbo I hear from people as reasons why Latin is an inherently superior language for worship.

    Catholics should know how to pray basic prayers in Latin, and Catholic academics should be fluent in Latin. The Latin language should be retained in our Rites (along with accurate vernacular translations). But NOT because Latin is or was particularly special as a language itself, but because all language, any language, carries with it the culture that created it, and Catholics should be steeped in the culture that created our Church. Being able to pray and sing in the same language as our spiritual ancestors is a meaningful connection to the culture that is the mother of all other Western cultures.

    The real history of Latin provides enough reason for its continuation and study. We don't need an invented mythology to justify it.
    Thanked by 1SkirpR
  • MHIMHI
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  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    MHI- You are not the only one who holds a view of Latin I consider to be overly romanticized (ha ha), and in fact (as far as I can tell), you are among the less weird of the language's weirder champions. I have (really) heard/read people make all sorts of ridiculous claims about Latin, as described above, regarding its seemingly magical properties and unique characteristics.

    If my responses seem to be directed at opinions you don't actually hold, you'll forgive (I trust) my projection of other people's weirdness onto yours.

    (If you prefer, I can project my own weirdness onto you. There is more than enough for the both of us.)

    Also:
    and what Adam says

    Thanks!
    Thanked by 1SkirpR
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,170
    I'd take a horizontal episema over a clivis any day!
  • The study of the neumes of G and L in the Triplex show a consistent mapping of respect linguistic and phonetic elements. Other principals of chant can be gleaned from them too. This may have more influence on new English chant technique than it ever will on the Triplex.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    This may have more influence on new English chant technique than it ever will on the Triplex.


    Interesting. Can you elaborate?
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  • Incantu wrote: "Remember that the Vatican and Solesmes editions were both prepared by Solesmes. It follows that the best method for interpreting them is the method set forth by their editors, viz the Solesmes method."

    In fact, the Vatican edition was not prepared by Solesmes. It was produced largely by Dom Joseph Pothier, who by that time had left Solesmes, and who did not subscribe to Dom Mocquereau's rhythmic theories. The stormy relationship between the two is widely believed to be the reason for Pothier's leaving Solesmes and going to St. Wandrille. The commission that was convened to prepare the Vatican edition ceased to function after the publication of the Kyriale. Thereafter Pothier worked on his own. At the request of the Vatican Solesmes gave him access to its manuscript collection, which he relied very heavily; but Solesmes monks did not participate in the editing of the Vaticana.

    Pothier was an accentualist. His position concerning the performance of the chant is set forth in a work by his secretary, Dom Lucien David, Le rhythme verbal et musical dans le chant romain. Unlike some accentualists, he approved of counting "twos and threes" (most of the time), but he believed that in syllabic and quasi-syllabic passages the placement of the rhythmic ictus must coincide with the verbal accents.

    The editing of the Vatican edition did not presuppose that those who used it would follow the Mocquereau "Solesmes Method."

    I agree that church choirs do not have enough rehearsal time to perform chant in the 9th-10th century style (as Cardine and his disciples have attempted to reconstruct it). Time constraints bind them to a basically-equalist interpretation; but I fail to see why such an interpretation ought not in some measure to be informed by semiology. Why, for instance, should the second note of the salicus (represented in the mss. by the oriscus) be emphasized, rather than the note that follows it (which the semiologists judge to be more important)? Why should the rhythmic scansion of melismata not emphasize the notes that semiology shows to be the most important?

    In editing the Solesmes editions Mocquereau did plenty of "picking and choosing" from among the many rhythmic indicators found in the manuscripts. The "Solesmes Method" is itself an "unhistorical hybrid." Why does Incantu condone it while condemning other such hybrids?

  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    In fact, the Vatican edition was not prepared by Solesmes.

    What Bruce E. Ford writes is not entirely untrue, and perhaps I oversimplified the summary of my original post. If you really want the whole story, read Pierre Combe's The Restoration of Gregorian Chant: Solesmes and the Vatican Edition. But I think it's splitting hairs to say that the Vatican Edition was not the result of the work of Solesmes, or that the Vatican Edition and the Vatican Edition with Added Rhythmic Signs are essentially different texts. Jeff O. has written extensively on the "hidden" (or not so hidden) rhythm of the Vatican Edition which includes—wait for it—a Solesmesian (if I may) mora vocis. You may point out differences between Pothier and Mocquereau all you want, but from our vantage point in history they both appear to be fruit from the same tree. [This is not in any way to discredit their immense contributions to the study of chant, or to suppose that we'd know what we know now without their having laid the groundwork. It just so happens that they both went down rabbit holes tbased on theories hat turned out to be largely inaccurate.] Those distinctions do not interest me (at least not in regard to the present discussion).

    Why, for instance, should the second note of the salicus (represented in the mss. by the oriscus) be emphasized, rather than the note that follows it (which the semiologists judge to be more important)?


    This would be like a native English speaker walking into a Mexican restaurant and saying, "Yes, I would like a burrrrrrrito, please." People do, but it just sounds oddly macaronic to me. Why say just one word in Spanish, when "burrito" is a perfectly acceptable English word?

    You may eschew the traditional lengthening of the ictic second note of the three-note salicus (rendering it as a scandicus) without interrupting the overall Solesmes aesthetic. I would probably do that myself if adopting an equalist reading. But how would one, as Bruce E. Ford suggests, "emphasize" the note that follows the oriscus? By lengthening the top note? Well, in the Solesmes method, the top note is already treated as a long, so then you make the figure, what... long-long-double long? (or if you're considering the top note as a "short," would you make the first two notes double-shorts?) And then what do you do with the notes that precede and follow the salicus? To sing just this one figure according to the Medieval tradition and the others with a mostly equalist approach would make the salicus stand out unnecessarily from the rest of the phrase (as would lengthening both notes of the clivis with episema, the subject of my original post).

    In editing the Solesmes editions Mocquereau did plenty of "picking and choosing" from among the many rhythmic indicators found in the manuscripts.

    In a sense this is true. Not every episema and tenete is mapped onto the square note edition. Others have been added where they are not found in the manuscript (implicitly or otherwise). But the fact that what Mocquereau meant by these symbols is entirely different than their meaning in the manuscripts greatly overshadows the few discrepancies there are between the texts. In other words, the presence or absence of a dot or episema in the Solesmes Edition is basically useless for rendering a 10th century reading of the chant, unless the melody has already been memorized by the singer.

    The "Solesmes Method" is itself an "unhistorical hybrid." Why does Incantu condone it while condemning other such hybrids?

    No, with over a century of performing tradition, and having inspired great composers such as Duruflé, the Solesmes method is, I would say, a historical hybrid. In fact, not even a hybrid (what are the component parts?). I'd say it's a 19th century invention, arrangement, etc. And I condone it (in the liturgy) because it works; but it's not the only method. There are other contemporary methods that are effective for getting groups to sing large amounts of chant rather quickly, for better or for worse. My objection was to the idea that the Solesmes Method could be reconciled with the manuscript tradition through a series of small modifications, as Cardine seemed to be suggesting in Beginning Studies in Gregorian Chant. I maintain that the two approaches are more or less mutually exclusive.

    One could, if they wanted to, perform chant from a number of different historical editions. The trend nowadays when performing polyphony, for example, seems to be to perform the chant according to the tradition known to the composer. That's all well and good, but in my opinion it amounts to singing about 900 years worth of polyphony with ugly sounding chant. That's my opinion, but I won't say it's historically "inauthentic" (whatever that means). Personally, I perform polyphony of all time periods with the earliest chants I can find. It's anachronistic, but I find it more beautiful and more interesting. But mixing a dash of semiology into an otherwise equalist reading—especially if one hasn't yet realized that "c" does not always mean "fast" and that the absence of an episema or tenete doesn't necessarily mean a neume isn't long—all the while pretending to be somehow more historically accurate, is in my opinion a fool's errand. I feel this way because it's a mistake I made early on in my semiological studies, and I mean to caution others not to do the same.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Ah, I've just reread the original post that Bruce E. Ford quoted. Or perhaps he was quoting my restatement. And yes, I can see how it appears I'm advocating use of the Solesmes method in general. I'm not. I'm saying if you're following Pothier's text, don't try to achieve a 10th century performing style. At best you'll achieve Pothier's. And if you're going to use a Solesmes book, let's not debate the meaning of the ictus on the second note of the salicus. There is no ictus on the second note of the salicus. There is no ictus. That's all just made up. In fact, half the time it's not even a salicus. And half the time there is a salicus, it's not transcribed at such.

    In short, if you're going to use an edition, use it the way the editor intended.
  • I'm not urging anyone to use the Vatican edition, because some if its melodic readings obscure the modality of certain pieces and/or obliterate melodic accentuations. In my English adaptations I corrected many of its readings by referring to Benevento VI.34. On the other hand, I am not convinced that the version of a chant with the best manuscript pedigree is always the most satisfying. I wouldn't always choose the readings in the Graduale novum.

    Cardine's theory of the "three values" is his theory, and he has the right to say what it means. According to Jean Claire, he taught that the degree to which the three values differ is very slight. The difference between a diminished syllabic beat and a syllabic beat is the difference in the time it takes to sing a syllable consisting of a vowel only and the time it takes to sing a syllable consisting of a consonant and a vowel. The difference between a syllabic beat and an augmented syllabic beat is the difference between the time it takes to sing a syllable containing only a consonant and a vowel and the time it takes to sing a syllable containing an initial vowel, a consonant, and a final consonant. (See his article, "Dom Eugene Cardine, Etudes gregoriennes XXIII (1989), 11-26.)

    In Beginning Studies Cardine also said that the symbols used to signify augmentation did not always imply lengthening but could imply other kinds of emphasis. (I can't give a page citation because I lent my copy to someone who has not returned it.) What other kind of emphasis is there besides stress?

    When the three values are interpreted as he interpreted them, the difference between a Mocquereau-based or Pothier-based performance and a true Cardine-based performance is not dramatic. Most performances purportedly based on Cardine's teachings are hard to distinguish from Vollaerts-Murray-Blackley "proportional rhythm" performances. I have never heard a performance that conformed fully to Cardine's teaching. Recordings from Solesmes produced under Claire's direction come closest; but he did not attempt to incorporate all the nuances conveyed in the pre-diastematic neumes. (I think Claire's approach was sensible; and I don't like the performances based on semiology that I have heard, such as those of Gloria Dei Cantores.)

    How would I emphasize the third note of the salicus? If an important note followed it, I would lengthen it--ideally, less than Mocquereauvians lengthen the second note, but often to the same degree. (Why waste five minutes over this?) If an unimportant note followed it, I would simply accent it. (This is pure Ford, I admit. The reason for it is that in speech, when one accented syllable immediately follows another, we lengthen the first. We cannot do otherwise and still observe both accents.) I would treat the note following the quilisma in the same way.

    There is an ictus not only in all music but in all speech; but it is an accent-based ictus (modo Pothier). We cannot pronounce more than three syllables or sing more than three notes without placing stress on more than one of them. The second stress may be slight; but it is there. When we sing five notes in a melisma, the secondary stress will fall either on the third or fourth of these notes. If some singers place it on the third note and others on the fourth, the sound will not be as good as if they all place it on one or the other. In melismata, I would take care to place the ictus at "neumatic breaks" and on notes that appear modally important (cf. Saulnier).

    What I favor is a modification of the Pothier approach that gives emphasis to some of the notes identified in the "signs" as important. I think that's better than sticking strictly to Mocquereau and emphasizing other notes. I see no reason to take an "all or nothing" approach--especially when the meaning of "all" is questionable.
  • I apologize for "going on," but I'll proceed to do so anyway.

    Incantu wrote: "Remember that the Vatican and Solesmes editions were both prepared by Solesmes. It follows that the best method for interpreting them is the method set forth by their editors." Why does it follow? If you use and old G. Schirmer edition of a Bach organ work, must you interpret the ornamentation signs the way Schweitzer did? Must you go out and buy the Bahrenreiter edition before you can start trills on the upper note? I see no reason why you could not use the melodic readings from the Graduale novum for a piece like the introit Reminiscere and follow Mocquereau's rhythmic interpretation, if you chose.

    Question: What leads Incantu to say that according to the Mocquereau-Solesmes method the top note of the salicus "is already treated as long"? I cut my teeth on the method, and I am not aware that this it is.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I am not convinced that the version of a chant with the best manuscript pedigree is always the most satisfying. I wouldn't always choose the readings in the Graduale novum.


    Fair enough. The Graduale Novum does not give definitive readings of the melodies, nor does it claim to. As you well know, the gap between the adiastematic manuscripts and the fixed pitch of staff notation is substantial. In some cases the evidence in any two sources suggests at best a divergent tradition. But these examples are relatively few and far between, and it remains that the Graduale Novum is (to my knowledge) the best complete resource, i.e. containing both pitch and rhythmic information, for performing chant according to the 9th and 10th century tradition.

    Most performances purportedly based on Cardine's teachings are hard to distinguish from Vollaerts-Murray-Blackley "proportional rhythm" performances. I have never heard a performance that conformed fully to Cardine's teaching.


    Cardine's contribution to the field was his catalogue of neume forms and the comparative method used to decode their meaning. This research is of course foundational to the field of semiology, but it does not represent a conclusion or method. I would not claim that my performances conform to his teaching, since Cardine didn't teach a method of how to perform chant according to the earliest notated traditions. He was attempting to reconcile the Vatican and Solesmes editions with a new, deeper understanding of the neumes on which they were based. I believe if he were alive today he would have discovered that the corrections to the Vatican Edition necessary for a Medieval performance of chant extend beyond a few melodic changes and the extension of the episema over the clivis. [Vollaerts, by the way, does supply a sort of method which is taken up and added to by Murray. It's unfortunate that Kelly, as a result of his dissertation on the cursive torculus of St. Gall, threw the baby out with the bath water when dismissing Vollaert's theories wholesale].

    ...the degree to which the three values differ is very slight. The difference between a diminished syllabic beat and a syllabic beat is the difference in the time it takes to sing a syllable consisting of a vowel only and the time it takes to sing a syllable consisting of a consonant and a vowel.


    This is true when we are discussing the neume element on which the syllable is pronounced (either a single note, or the last note before a new syllable). I like to give the example of the following two syllable words:

    eo
    ego
    ergo
    tergo
    tempo
    templo
    templum

    If we were to sing each syllable on a single virga, "eo" would be shorter than "templum." The variation would be less between words closer together on this chart and greater for those farther apart. That's the primary syllabic value, which is variable. The variable length of syllables is generally not notated in St. Gall and is only occasionally indicated in Laon by the size of the uncinus. The difference is admittedly "very slight."

    However, if in a given stereotyped melody we ornament the first virga by making it a pes or clivis, we have created two notes that together have the value of one syllable. Again, the difference between a pes or clivis on the first syllable of "eo" and the first syllable of "templum" will be very slight. But the diference between either one of the two notes of the first syllable and the virga of the second syllable is not very slight. It approaches a ratio of 2:1. This is not a strictly "proportionalist" interpretation, since we have already discovered that the value of 1 (i.e. the syllable) is variable.

    I did not know the recordings of Gloria Dei Cantores, but I've just now listened to some samples from their website. They're obviously not using the Graduale Novum melodies for chants like Factus est repente. But their rhythmic reading is nearly identical to my own amateur choir in their performance on Pentecost. [The execution is not perfect, but the intent is the same]. How is it that we arrived at this conclusion independently of each other, when I do not strictly follow the teaching of Cardine, Vollaerts, or Kelly? I believe an increasing number of performers are making more and more accurate interpretations of the earliest manuscripts, thanks to resources like the Graduale Triplex and Graduale Novum and that soon we will see a method or treatise that addresses this kind of performance. None of the book currently available adress these issues in any sort of comprehensive way.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I apologize for "going on," but I'll proceed to do so anyway.

    Please do!

    What leads Incantu to say that according to the Mocquereau-Solesmes method the top note of the salicus "is already treated as long"? I cut my teeth on the method, and I am not aware that this it is.


    Semantics. Is an eighth note long, or is it short? It depends on whether you're counting quarters or sixteenths. In the Solesmes method, all notes not marked with a dot or episema (or in the case of the salicus, the vertical episema or ictus) have the same value. You can call that value "long" or you can call that value "short." It's all relative.

    If you maintain that the standard unit (the undotted punctum) is "short," then the top note of the salicus is also "short" in the traditional Solesmes method (i.e. it has the same value as a punctum). If you wanted to make the two notes that precede it subordinate (as one would following the manuscript tradition), they would become "double short."

    In the St. Gall manuscript, the virga is the basic unit of length (transcribed in square notes as a punctum). I would call this a "long" in that it normally has the full value of a syllable (not without exception, cf. Communio Qui biberit aquam). In assigning the top note of the salicus the same value as the punctum (which stands for a virga in St. Gall, which we have called "long"), the Solesmes method could liekwise be said to treat the top note as a "long." To give that note additional emphasis, then, it would have to become a "double-long."

    You can see how this quickly gets very confusing. That's the folly of trying to reconcile the Solesmes edition with the new scholarship. It involves the basic unit of length. The Solesmes method already treats the regular clivis as two longs (i.e. twice the length of a single punctum). Therefore, it would be inconsistent with the manuscript tradition to give additional length to just the first note of a clivis with episema (which should only be long, not double-long). But it would be just as inconsistent, if not more so to lengthen both notes of the clivis with episema. (It would make more sense to shorten both notes of the clivis without an episema, but even then you're getting into murky waters). That's what I was trying to get across in my original post.