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Rhythm, Meter and Tempo of Gregorian Chant according to Jan van Biezen

Greetings! I have taken an interest in the theory presented by Jan van Biezen, a short summary of which can be found here: http://www.janvanbiezen.nl/gregorian.html

And here also is a link to his book with a detailed review of the theory: https://www.amazon.com/Rhythm-Meter-Tempo-Gregorian-Chant/dp/194541...

I study Byzantine chant and do not practice Gregorian chant, but nonetheless take interest in any new "approaches" to interpreting the Gregorian repertoire besides the famous Solesmes approach. Having found out about Jan van Biezen's approach, I tried to search for audio recordings of chant done according to his method, but found none. Do any such recordings exist? And is there any critique of or consensus on this method by other researchers? Thank you in advance!

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Actually I published a cd according to the mensuralist interpretation with my Schola cantorum Gregoriana Assen in 2009. My interpretation may be not very convincing or satisfying, but it is at least an interesting attempt. See http://home.planet.nl/~teuli049/  for ordering and http://home.planet.nl/~teuli049/petruccigreg.htm for explanations. I used the Graduale restitutum in the edition by dr. Anton Stingl, http://www.gregor-und-taube.de/Materialien/Graduale/graduale.html .

Many thanks Arnold. Apparently I have not payed the right attention to your CD. I am re-listening it. Indeed very interesting.

Thank you. This is all very interesting. I am fascinated by ancient forms of ecclesiastical music. Gregorian chant is very unique in this matter, as the repertoire itself has not changed since the 11th or 12th century. As far as I understand, it has only been truncated, but then restored by the monks of Solem by the neumatic manuscripts. Of course, one of the main questions that remains is that concerning rhythm, since the manuscripts do not relate this information to us. So I am always interested when any new interpretations are proposed, as long as they have some ground for belief.

P.S. On a side note, is there an explanation or theory book on how Ensemble Organum interprets the neumatic notation? I understand their interpretation may be questionable, but it is interesting for me as someone practicing Byzantine chant. I would love to try and interpret in this way some of music from the Old Roman manuscripts which are transcribed and published, just for personal use, because the music sounds impressive to me when performed in this way.

the oldest neumatic manuscrits give a quite precise notation of the rhythm. About byz. chant, to my knowledge, Lingas and Arvanitis are the only ones to record it according to the ancient manuscripts. Their interpretation (Cappella Romana) corresponds to the interpretation of Van Biezen, but they came to this conclusion independently from him, and found his work only later...

Old-Roman chant is another story

Fyodor N said:

Thank you. This is all very interesting. I am fascinated by ancient forms of ecclesiastical music. Gregorian chant is very unique in this matter, as the repertoire itself has not changed since the 11th or 12th century. As far as I understand, it has only been truncated, but then restored by the monks of Solem by the neumatic manuscripts. Of course, one of the main questions that remains is that concerning rhythm, since the manuscripts do not relate this information to us. So I am always interested when any new interpretations are proposed, as long as they have some ground for belief.

P.S. On a side note, is there an explanation or theory book on how Ensemble Organum interprets the neumatic notation? I understand their interpretation may be questionable, but it is interesting for me as someone practicing Byzantine chant. I would love to try and interpret in this way some of music from the Old Roman manuscripts which are transcribed and published, just for personal use, because the music sounds impressive to me when performed in this way.

Yes, I know of Lingas and Arvanitis. The question of rhythm of the medieval byzantine repertoire is mainly Arvanitis' work I believe. However, as you probably understand, byzantine chant is an uninterrupted living tradition, unlike Gregorian chant. What we have now is not a reconstruction, but what byzantine chant naturally evolved into over time. And in my opinion, it is still a beautiful form of chant, regardless of what the repertoire was at one or another point of time in the past. 

>the oldest neumatic manuscrits give a quite precise notation of the rhythm

Are you speaking of the Gregorian chant manuscripts? If so, then why is there a problem, why are there different interpretations?


Ricossa said:

the oldest neumatic manuscrits give a quite precise notation of the rhythm. About byz. chant, to my knowledge, Lingas and Arvanitis are the only ones to record it according to the ancient manuscripts. Their interpretation (Cappella Romana) corresponds to the interpretation of Van Biezen, but they came to this conclusion independently from him, and found his work only later...

Old-Roman chant is another story

Fyodor N said:

Thank you. This is all very interesting. I am fascinated by ancient forms of ecclesiastical music. Gregorian chant is very unique in this matter, as the repertoire itself has not changed since the 11th or 12th century. As far as I understand, it has only been truncated, but then restored by the monks of Solem by the neumatic manuscripts. Of course, one of the main questions that remains is that concerning rhythm, since the manuscripts do not relate this information to us. So I am always interested when any new interpretations are proposed, as long as they have some ground for belief.

P.S. On a side note, is there an explanation or theory book on how Ensemble Organum interprets the neumatic notation? I understand their interpretation may be questionable, but it is interesting for me as someone practicing Byzantine chant. I would love to try and interpret in this way some of music from the Old Roman manuscripts which are transcribed and published, just for personal use, because the music sounds impressive to me when performed in this way.

It is the mensuralists who claim that there is "a quite precise notation of rhythm". They mean precisely mensural. The research scholars of Solesmes find free rhythm and do not use the word "precise." There have been nine opposing mensuralist theories in the 20th century, so precise may not be the right word. 

A priori. The same a priori that ruined the transcriptions from the byzantine manuscripts in the past... You don't need to give attention to those saying the contrary

Fyodor N said:

Are you speaking of the Gregorian chant manuscripts? If so, then why is there a problem, why are there different interpretations?

As often I completely agree with Luca.

Semiology has more to do with folklore than with science. Yes, it is an improvement compared to before. But it is far from the "truth". In my view Van Biezen "proved" the inconsistency of semiology. That's really something else than just an "opinion".

There is also an important difference between theory and practice here. I was educated in the semiological method. And for me as a chant singer, it is very difficult to change my style. I would have a hard time to work on this and feel the music again. You can also say that I would have a hard time before I would be able again to pray like I used to. But that's all something else than saying semiology is the truth. Because it is not.

Bravo



Geert Maessen said:

As often I completely agree with Luca.

Semiology has more to do with folklore than with science. Yes, it is an improvement compared to before. But it is far from the "truth". In my view Van Biezen "proved" the inconsistency of semiology. That's really something else than just an "opinion".

There is also an important difference between theory and practice here. I was educated in the semiological method. And for me as a chant singer, it is very difficult to change my style. I would have a hard time to work on this and feel the music again. You can also say that I would have a hard time before I would be able again to pray like I used to. But that's all something else than saying semiology is the truth. Because it is not.

Indeed, as clearly put by Geert Maessen, "semiology has more to do with folklore than with science". But, for the mensuralist 'solutions', the same reasoning applies. My own research (see my JMRO paper mentioned above) offers a mid-between position, substantiated by both arguments drawn from medieval theoretical treatises and by statistical evidence. 

Ici, un petit exemple de chant byzantin médiéval interprété plus ou moins selon les principes découverts par Van Biezen (j'aurais dû mieux faire le Kolaphismos...) :
http://paraphonista.hostarea.ch/mp3/Tin_pnevmatikin.mp3

Hello, Fyodor.

I am the translator of the book which you linked to.  I suggest you also read van Biezen's online articles on Byzantine Stichera, Office Antiphons, and Latin Hymns, for a holistic view of his findings.  Three of the four articles are in the book.

Professor Ricossa's YouTube recordings of the Office Antiphons are close to van Biezen's interpretation.  Close interpretations of neumatic-melismatic melody are more scarce, not only because the theory is relatively new, but also because it will require mensuralists to adjust their paradigm, namely:

Since the pulse is constant and regular, the note durations become more colorful than strict long and short (quarter and eighth).

This basic difference opens a multitude of doors to new opportunities and insights.  These would be too many to discuss all at once:  suffice to say, they are profound.  For that reason, I consider this theory to be a "giant leap" for chant science.

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