Psalm-tone terminations with asterisks
  • This might not be news to some (most?) of you; but it's something I learned very recently, and it hasn't been posted on the forum:

    An asterisk added to a letter (as A* or G*) indicates that the final cadence is extended to the note above it. These cadences are quite rare for they are only used in two modes: the A* in Mode IV and the G* in Mode VIII. The first (A*) indicates that the cadence ends on la (6) and is extended to ti (7); the second G* indicates that the cadence ends on sol (5) and is extended to la (6).


    This explanation is not given in the Liber Usualis, at least as far as I've looked.

    This doesn't seem to apply to psalm tone IV E* in the Graduale Simplex (p. 96); here the asterisk appears to imply psalm tone IV A transposed.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen smvanroode
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 112
    Yes...and in the Antiphonale Monasticum, for mode VIII it is simply designated as VIII a, and used somewhat frequently with mode VIII!
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 490
    This is laid out in the common tones section in the Aniphonale Romanum (1912), where the explanatory note regarding 4A* is as follows:

    Quando Antiphona notatur cum A*, potest ad libitum adhiberi Differentia sequens.

    [And there follows the variant with the podatus.]

    There is also a similar note regarding 8G*.

    The Liber includes the melodies for these 4A*/8G* variants in the common tones section without explanation. But when the antiphons using these endings occur, only the single note ending is given.

    Note: this is one of several instances where the Solesmes books exhibit a strong bias in favor of their preferred option, even when it is not the first option listed by the Antiphonale. Other examples are, the middle cadence for the Tonus Peregrinus (whether or not to add the sol before the te ), the pointing of the solemn middle cadences for modes 1 and 6 (whether to consider the cadence as having 1 preparatory note and two accents, or 3 preparatory notes and 1 accent), and whether to treat Hebrew words as accenting on the last syllable or as regular Latin words. A similar question involves what to do with the hypermetrical syllables in hymns, but with regard to that, the presentation in the Liber is not biased.

    The interesting thing is, with the Antiphonale Monasticum (1934), Solesmes was creating from the beginning a book for their own use, and was thus not bound to respect the existence of such variants. So the bias between options is gone - everything is simply the way they like it!

    P.S. I have thought, there ought to be a proverb: "the editor is a tyrant".
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 490
    A strange anecdote that I must add, from the Text Book of Gregorian Chant (1930) of Dom. Gregory Suñol, p. 49:

    When the antiphon is marked “ Fourth Mode A* ” this means that the cadence A* can be used ad libitum instead of cadence A. But on closer examination it becomes clear that this formula A* can never be employed, on any hypothesis, except for the last half of the verse sicut erat and for leading on to the resumption of the antiphon. In every other half verse A must be used.

    There is then a note for 8G* referring to this note for that tone as well.

    I find this opinion mystifying.
    Thanked by 1veromary
  • veromaryveromary
    Posts: 138
    That explains it - I'm going through the Baronius Press Little Office and typing up Vespers and it has some A* psalms, yet the E u o u a e shows the plain A ending. Maybe they put the plain ending to show how the psalm is sung, then the cluey ones can tell from the * how to sing the sicut erat ...

    I'm still pretty mystified how they pick which termination to use.
  • My understanding is that the * endings are a free choice variant of the standard termination. They show the standard termination (which you can always do), but if you prefer the * variant, these indicate which antiphons it might be suitable for.

    Personally, I never find utility to using the * endings.

    As for the termination choice itself, it is predicated on returning to the antiphon at the end of the last verse in a convenient way. If my antiphon starts on a FA, a "G" ending might be a good choice, because my transition would be a full tone. (Obviously, an "F" ending would be the equivalent note.)

    In some cases, the person choosing the termination makes an odd choice, but usually they are pretty clearly aligned.
  • Richard R.
    Posts: 714
    Anyone who has sung the Office from both the Liber and the Antiphonale realizes the fluidity of the endings (differentiae). For mode VIII especially, the two books use fairly different systems when it comes to these variant endings; where the Liber says VIII G*, the Antiphonale is likely to say VIII G2; where the Liber says VIII c, the Antiphonale more than likely uses VIII a. The point is that these variants try to reflect the first phrase of the antiphon (rather than just the starting tone): when it is not solidly tonic or dominant (sol to sol, or sol to do), but more subdominant or submediant-like (fa-la, etc.), both books tend to use variant (less stable) endings. This helps the transition back to the antiphon, at least theoretically. So, despite hide-bound theorists who insist harmony was born in the 17th century, I am convinced that, both in medieval monody and polyphony, composers were thinking in at least proto-harmonic terms when it came to the shape of their melodic phrases.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen tomjaw