Modal Accompaniment
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    where can I find a good explanation of "modal scales," versus "tonal scales?" I have a music school degree, but somehow this was bypassed in my education! I really want to learn how to properly accompany gregorian chant (of course the discussion of that appropriateness has been beaten to death, but, well, sometimes it is necessary.)
    I appreciate articles like this:
    in it's great discussion of things that I can understand like voice leading, but in this and in other things I've read, there is an assumption of a knowledge of what actually a "mode" is, and how to utilize it. Is the explanation something so simple that I'm just skipping over it? Like, for example I've heard some explanation that didn't really make sense at all to me, that the white keys from D-D on a piano are one mode? Is it simply the starting and ending notes which affect what mode it is in, and certain accidentals can't be used? Isn't it really then that the last note is the only thing that matters? (if you use all white keys on the piano) Or is there disagreement over this? (I know people can fail to distinguish between the church modes and greek modes...and I certainly have no idea of the difference!)
    I'm looking at this webpage, which seems to have a chart that should be helpful at the bottom
    but...when the chart describes the "range" and the "tenor" (the reciting tone, which should be the Gloria Patri attached to at least the Introits?) and then I compare what the particular notes should be with the chants in the Graduale, it often doesn't seem to be true! (after my quick glance at several chants, it seems the only consistently correct thing is what the "final" is.)
    If I'm trying to accompany a chant in Mode Whatever, which notes can I use? (that are legitimately part of the "scale.")?
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    In general, a mode has important notes that define it.

    However, that doesn't mean that the mode cannot wander all over the place (into other areas). And one can also find "transposed" modes.

    Also, it is important to remember that for many centuries, only antiphons and certain other chants that had to be connected to Psalm tones were classified at all. Originally, chants were classified by the FIRST note, but soon, people started classifying them by their LAST note. Also, many will be interested to learn that not all ancient Antiphonaries agree about which mode a chant belongs to. In other words, the primary REASON for modal assignment is to get you to and from the psalm tone.

    I suggest Willi Apel's book (from Amazon or Abebooks) because it covers this topic well and you can get a used copy for pennies.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The Grout textbook from Norton actually covers this in depth. I'll relay what I learned later.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746

    Here is a small comparison that I created to help one hear the modes and to see how they relate to our modern understanding of major and minor key signatures.

    Another thing to remember is that we (modern world) have lost the nuances in the modes due to the tempered scale which flattened out the differences between the beginning and ending notes. In other words, all half steps were not alike just a few hundred years ago. However, when singing a cappella, this is not a problem since the voice is not locked into a particular cps (cycle per seconds) for the definition of a particular pitch. I think I may be getting off track, but you can learn more about the various tunings of the past on the internet. Have fun!
  • soli
    Posts: 95
    Marajoy: Francis' helps on his website, especially this one:
    helped me to wrap my ear around the basic sounds of the modes and begin to feel more at home with them. Thank you, Francis! These are a great help:)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    ancilla: glad to be of help!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    So you want to know about modality...

    The first thing to know is that the system of modes is made up. It was an invention to explain things that were already there, like using V-I to analyze Palestrina. It actually works really really well, but still realize it's a late, imperfect, generalized system.

    Lesson 1: Finals. The final is the note chants in that mode typically start and end on. Mode I and II have the final D. E for III and IV, F for V and VI, G for VII and VIII. Why do two modes share each final?

    Lesson 2: Authentic/Plagal. The odd numbered modes are authentic, the even number are plagal. An authentic mode typically has a melodic range of an octave up from the Final. Think Gloria VIII in the 5th mode, notice any low Es in there? On the other hand, a plagal mode will usually have a melodic range that goes below the final. Usually it goes up to a fifth above the final and down to a fourth below. These are general principles, but for example if you see a melody which has a range of only a few notes above the final, it's probably in a plagal mode. These are named hypo- in the Greek system, so the modes are (by their Greek names) Dorian, Hypodorian, Phrygian, Hypophrygian, Lydian, Hypolydian, Myxolydian, Hypomyxolydian.

    Lesson 3: Tenor. Each chant contains a "tenor", which is the reciting tone in psalm tones. This is usually a fifth above the final for authentic modes (6th in mode III), and in plagal modes, the tenor is always a third lower than in the related authentic mode. This functions, in my mind, as sort of the "dominant" of the chant. Let me illustrate: sing Kyrie IX, but JUST SING THE FIRST 4 NOTES! How do you feel? It's energetic! It's like someone just played a V13 chord and you're waiting for it to resolve! Now go back down to the D and ahhh the stress is relieved! On the other hand, flip to Kyrie XI and sing the first 6 notes, then stop. Nice little melody, kind of abrupt, but complete! No reason to go anywhere from there. That's the tenor, it's the point of the most energy.

    If you want to learn more, I recommend the 9th century organum treatise "Musica Enchiriadis", which has a nice simple explanation of the modal system and an interesting tetrachord theory. If you want to know specifics about accompaniment practices, I'll chime in with those another day.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 988
    I would really love to have a workshop at the 2009 Colloquium on this topic. I know just the barest bit about modes, and still struggle to explain it to my schola.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    I completely second that idea! It seems that given the increasing number of people attending every year, it would be beneficial to offer more smaller and specialized sections/workshops/talks.
  • Hi:

    Here is a book (Potiron, "Treatise on the Accompaniment of Gregorian Chant, 1933, 92 pages) on the accompaniment of Gregorian Chant which discusses these (modality, etc.) issues:

    Also, here is an organ accompaniment to the Kyriale by Desrocquettes and Potiron (Accompagnement du Kyriale Vatican, 1929, 115 pages):

    John D. Horton
    Tacoma, Washington
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Carl D

    Modes are simple. Think of them as picture frames placed around pitch ranges.

    Say you have the pitch range D to D: that's called Mode I. Because its defining pitch is located at both ends of the range, this is called the mode's "authentic" range. So D to D is one frame, i.e. the "authentic" frame of the mode.

    Every mode also has a "plagal" range, which just means that the frame is placed a fourth below the defining pitch and spans the octave up from itself. Visualize it thus:

    G A B C [D E F G A B C D] E F G = mode I, authentic range
    G [A B C D E F G A] B C D E F G = mode I, plagal range

    Every mode has these two ranges.

    Why do this? Convenience. Sometimes a chant will range both above and below the defining (called "final") pitch. It's convenient to discuss its nature as something a little different. What's different? The pitch centers of gravity in a chant.

    I'm not an expert, bit it seems to me that chants can sometimes be described as mixtures of modes: for conventional and expressive purposes, they range around different key, crucial pitches. Every (temporarily) central pitch will have a different array of whole and half steps around it, so expressive possibilities differ. Wonderful! These subtle differences, in the right hands, provide quite a palette.

    As to how these modes are derived, well, someone else will weigh in on that. It's possible to define other modes with an even wider palette of pitches. Messiaen, for example.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    THIS PAGE also has a bunch of modal Gregorian chant accompaniments you can download for free (although we hope to put a BUNCH more up) and I think the best way to learn how to accompany modally is to play through a bunch of accompaniments that others have already done.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Pes: but there's also the issue of tenors. I say the best way to figure it out is collect a variety of chants of the same mode, sing through them all, and see what sounds the same in them. What you don't notice probably isn't important.

    As for why chants have different modes in them, the theory of tetrachords expressed in Musica Enchiriadis addresses that well I think. Also we should keep in mind that the idea of modality was developed late to explain why chants do what the do.