Word Painting in Gregorian Chant
  • MarkB
    Posts: 411
    I think many readers here will appreciate this article:

  • Many thanks for this.
    It is well written and beautifully done.
    (Though one could quibble about the round note heads.)
  • ARod77
    Posts: 8
    This article illustrates the incredible depth and beauty of Gregorian chant so well. Thank you for sharing it. Chant has always been so fascinating for me and it is painful to know that many Catholics do not appreciate it at all or know nothing about this treasure of the Church. If only we had the ability to put this kind of information directly into peoples' brains...
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,169
    This article is written from a temporal and linguistic perspective oriented toward the Novus Ordo. We elected to publish it as an introduction to a musical subject that may be more comprehensible to those of our readers less musically inclined from an English-language standpoint.
    I am so very glad the writing goes uphill from this introduction, which might be discouraging to some of the intended audience from an English-language standpoint.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • MarkB
    Posts: 411
    I had a hard time figuring out what that introduction meant, and I'm still not sure. Like you, I'm glad I delved into the article.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 528
    It really is interesting. Not unfamiliar to me, but really nicely explained and with great examples. I do think there is an enormous lack of general 'formation' and bridge building with regard to chant. That is, I know a number of people who aren't really sure how to relate to it, and yet are given no orientation. For instance, the schola is singing something...can I sing along? How about now? Wow, this one is not in my Missal, so I'll just mumble along...am I supposed to sing? Or just watch? It's kind of like a concert...what are they saying anyway? Why don't they sing hymns? I can sing along with hymns. That guy with the deep voice sings really well. Why does the conductor keep waving his arms in circles? (etc - I really had a guy come up to me after Mass once and ask "So, why does that one guy keep waving his hands? What's that for?" I explained it helped us sing together like one voice, so we knew how fast to sing. He was fascinated. It had never occurred to him.)

    If there is orientation, formation, and enthusiastic 'catechism' around chant, you are likely to get more buy-in from the congregation and the priest(s). This kind of article (above) is a great one for learning to appreciate how the chant is a beautiful prayer.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,917
    lack of general 'formation' and bridge building with regard to chant.

    Worst part of that is that most Catholic 'choir directors' haven't a clue about Chant, and can't be bothered with the rudiments of Latin, either.

    While the examples given in the 'word-painting' essay are nice, they are a LOT better in the original Latin, with the rhythm marks available. He certainly did a great job in pointing out "high" passages v. "low" passages, and the length afforded certain words (and their connection to the OTHER words with similar melodic figure in the same Chant). Good stuff.
  • Worst part of that is that most Catholic 'choir directors' haven't a clue about Chant, and can't be bothered with the rudiments of Latin, either.

    Present company, of course, excepted.
    Thanked by 2Elmar tomjaw
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,917
    But of course!
  • You should go to the comment section of the above article and read the anonymous comment posted by ProfKwasniewski for a fair critical appreciation of it. Unlike those W. A. Young mentions, there are some examples of true word painting in (Latin) gregorian chant. A rather conspicuous one, the word montes in the tract Qui confidunt. Probably there are some more cases, though not many.
    Thanked by 1rich_enough
  • anonymous comment posted by ProfKwasniewski

  • ProfKwasniewski
    A friend sent me his animadversions on this article, and I am posting them here with his permission.

    I tend to agree with the anonymous comments.
    Thanked by 1Andris Amolins
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,917
    Two excellent examples of word painting are the Offertory and Communion propers for today (OF, 26th/Ordinary). Note the rapidly-flowing waters of Babylon, the sobbing "flevimus" and the lengthy moaning over "Sion" in the Offertory.

    The Communion allows us to hear the murmured (crying?) prayers at the wailing wall, with the rapid-fire ONE two three ONE two three verbi tui servo tuo and at the end, the low pitch of humilitate mea.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen MarkB
  • And, there is the murmuring of the turtle dove in a certain communio which I can't recall just now.
    Actually, though some musicologists have maintained that chant has no word painting they are quite mistaken - chant is replete with it.
    There is both word painting and mood painting.
    What is the offertory Jubilate Deo, or the Alleluya verse Pascha nostrum for Easter Day but pure ecstasy? One could go on - and on.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,659

    And, there is the murmuring of the turtle dove in a certain communio which I can't recall just now.

    Passer Invenit.
  • Yes, that's it!
    LU - Lent III
    GT - Tempus per Annum XV
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • FWIW, I wrote the "anonymous" comment posted by Dr. Kwasniewski.

    (And the author's response to the comment at 1P5 misses the point.)
    Thanked by 2MarkB a_f_hawkins
  • turtle dove in a certain communio which I can't recall

    Your difficulty might be that it's been retranslated as swallow, which can't really be read into the chant melody. Here though is a New World variety I enjoy in the Berkeley hills.
  • Ahh.
    So the turtle dove becomes a swallow. The swallow was never sung so beauteously of as in RVW's setting of Psalm LXXXIV, Quam dilecta!, which speaks thusly: 'Yea, the sparrow hath found her an house, and the swallow a nest, where she may lay her young; * even thy altars, O Lord of hosts...'. Still, trading a turtle dove for a swallow seems somewhat literarily callow.

    And, many thanks for the bird-song!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,917
    Clearly, the translator has ZERO knowledge of the nesting-habits of swallows and turtledoves. No self-respecting swallow would ever place her nest 'next to the altar.'

    Is OUTRAGE!!
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,197
    We had a swallow nest successfully in our church porch for some years, just a couple of feet above our heads as we came in and out.
  • Dad,

    How would we tell a self-respecting swallow from a self-deprecating one?
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen dad29
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,917
    Also nest-placement.

    It's like bats, who prefer belfries--although one chose to set up housekeeping in the swell-box of the old organ at a parish I'm familiar with. Ol' bat wasn't real pleased when the organ played....
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