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THE AUTHENTIC RHYTHM OF GREGORIAN CHANT - BETWEEN MENSURALISM AND SEMIOLOGY

According to my research conducted in the Netherlands, the authentic rhythm of Gregorian chant in the 10th century includes both proportional elements and elements that are in agreement with semiology (see Van Kampen, 1994, 2005).

Starting with the expectation that the rhythm of Gregorian chant (and thus the duration of the individual notes) anyway adds to the expressivity of the sacred Latin texts, several word-related variables were studied for their relationship with several neume-related variables, exploring these relationships in a sample of introit chants using such statistical methods as correlational analysis and multiple regression analysis.

Besides the length of the syllables (measured in tenths of seconds), each text syllable was evaluated in terms of its position within the word to which it belongs, defining such variables as ‘the syllable has (1) or hasn’t (0) the main accent’, ‘the syllable is (1) or isn’t (0) at the end of a word’, etc., and in terms of the particular sounds produced (for instance, the syllable does (1) or does not (0) contain the vowel ‘i’). The various neume elements were evaluated by attaching different duration values to them, both in terms of semiological propositions (nuanced durations according to the manner of neume writing in Chris Hakkennes’ Graduale Lagal, 1984), and in terms of fixed duration values that were based on mensuralistic notions, however with ratios between short and long notes ranging from 1 : 1, via 1 : 1.2, 1 : 1.4, etc. to 1 : 3. To distinguish short and long notes, tables were consulted that were established by me in an unpublished comparative study regarding the neume notations according to St Gallen and Laon codices. With some exceptions, these tables confirm the short vs. long distinctions in Cardine’s 'Semiologie Gregorienne'.

The lengths of the neumes were given values by adding up the duration values for the separate neume elements, each time following a particular hypothesis concerning the rhythm of Gregoriant chant. Both the syllable lengths and the neume lengths were also expressed in relation to the total duration of the syllables, resp. neumes for a word (contextual variables). Correlating the various word and neume variables, substantial correlations were found for the word variables 'accented syllable' and 'contextual syllable duration'. Moreover, it could be established that the multiple correlation (R) between the two types of variables reaches its maximum (R is about 0.80 !) if the neumatic elements are evaluated according to the following ‘rules of duration’:

(a) neume elements that represent short notes in neumes consisting of at least two notes have duration values of 1 time;

(b) neume elements that represent long notes in neumes consisting of at least two notes have duration values of 2 times;

(c) neumes consisting of only one note are characterized by flexible duration values (with an average value of 2 times), which take over the duration values of the syllables to match.

It is interesting that the distinction between the first two rules and the latter rule can also be found in early treatises on music, introducing the terms metrum and rhythmus (see, e.g., Wagner, 1916; Jeannin, 1930). As it could also be demonstrated by me (in fact confirming data published by Reese, 1940) that melodic peaks often coincide with the word accent, the conclusion seems warranted that the Gregorian melodies enhance the expressiveness of the Latin words by mimicking to some extent both the accentuation of the sacred words (pitch differences between neumes) and the relative duration of the word syllables (by paying attention to well-defined length differences between the individual notes of a neume).

Dr. Dirk van Kampen

- Dirk van Kampen (1994). Het oorspronkelijke ritme van het Gregoriaans: Een ‘semiologisch-mensuralistische’ studie. Landsmeer, the Netherlands.

- Dirk van Kampen (2005). Uitgangspunten voor de ritmiek van Gregoriaans. Tijdschrift voor Gregoriaans, 30, 89-94.

 

 

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Dear Mr. Gerlach,

Thank you for your response. I'm quite open minded with regard to new research on the field, and as I said before my main concern is the practical execution of the—so called—Gregorian repertoire. I other words, I am interested in the restoration of both the melodies and the rhythm of Chant in so far as this adds to the beauty and dignity of Catholic worship. And since the Church is a living thing, I will not be saddened if research proves that certain musical traditions have been lost forever. Personally I wouldn't mind a modified version of Chant like the Cistercian: I only need to know that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was the one making the changes! A lost tradition is not necessary better than a living one.

I'll try to follow the discussions about McKinnon, thanks for your post.

To Mr. van Kampen: I found your research very helpful, is there any recording of your schola available? Thank you!

Wikipedia: You is the second-person personal pronoun, both singular and plural, and both nominative and oblique case, in Modern English.

I hope that you finally found my proposition not that useless, though it was certainly quite within the Carolingian time. If you are able to recognize melody and rhythm just by reading the proses, as Notker once did, Dirk's statistic method could be quite useful to prove, whether there was continuity or rather a discontinuity concerning rhythm between the oral transmission of the 9th and the new written transmission of the 10th century. I have to admit that I am not that good in this field, but some experts are enough skilled (maybe not like Notker) in the poetic genres of troping and its local repertories, so that they are certainly able to recognize melodies and their rhythm by the proses, and for the very particular segment of sequences which is directly based on traditional alleluia melodies it is even possible to compare them with the transmission of Roman-Frankish chant. So much about Dirk's issue.

Concerning the current state of liturgical traditions, I would like to return to the wider horizont which I opened by my comparison of the evolution of rhythm between poetry and music in different traditions of religious chant. Among musicologists we like to mock about our own discipline, when we say, that musicology is, when the dead are burying the living. Unfortunately there were some cases within the catholic church that certain living traditions were sacrificed in favour for a very poor reconstruction of Gregorian chant (an acoustic pendant to a soma drink as Orwell would have called it, it was finally used to chill out kids). With the reform group around Bernard de Clairvaux you pointed in the direction, which is probably the first time in church history, when cantors really believed more in the Frankish version of Roman chant than in anything else. Quiet naturally they were disappointed, when the Messine chant books arrived… If we take Notker for the author of the Gesta Carolingi, he was certainly not that naive, as far as he had no illusions about the difference between the Roman chant and the Frankish idea of it. He had no problem with it, because he was within a living tradition despite the former changes during the Carolingian reform.

Here Hillaire Belloc's reflection about "the faith is Europe and Europe is the faith" in Europe and Faith (1920) might be useful, because there was something very similar in the Ottoman Empire, when certain churchmen declared the avtokephalia against the Patriarchate of Constantinople and thus founded religious nations. These men with their modern concepts of enlightenment had been always very upset, when they observed that the peasants did join services of the Orthodox church as well as those of the Mosques.

I personally think that this concurrency between the religious traditions is very useful. For the peasants it was never important to understand every word of a ceremony, but they accepted any religious tradition, as long as there was a religious tradition. When Marcel Pérès once said in an interview of Radio Vaticana, that the Orthodox sing the mass, while the Catholics sing in the mass, this can be taken as a very constructive program for the future. It is not important to implant the Orthodox singing style in the Western tradition of plainchant, but you may follow the Orthodox in that respect that they fortunately based their reconstructions of older layers on their living traditions. When I visited a service of the Cistercians at Sénanque Abbey, I was positively impressed, because they decided against Bernard's concept of plainchant in favor of a living local tradition of fauxbourdon. Hence, I like the idea of the Pope to read the gospel in Latin, but there is still a hard work to do, because a former art of recitation has to be reconstructed now, which was once as alive in different local traditions as is quran recitation today. If this work has been done, the muezzins and hazzans will join the churches again to learn from you, as they did join the Orthodox churches of Istanbul and Salonica.

Bernard was a very charismatic figure, but what happened to the church during the crusades provoked the Franciscan movement. And he had once wished so much to be better than his brothers at Cluny. The question of tradition seems to be very specialized, in fact it decides about the future. We try to be helpful, if we can.

Dear Father Desposito,

Unfortunately, there is no recording of my Schola available. But you may listen to the Graduale Oculi Omnium on the Dutch Wikipedia site. Actually, this is a purely mechanical and computerized registration that I made to demonstrate the authentic rhythm around the year 1000 according to my views. Thus long notes in neums of more than 1 note have exactly a duration of 2 times, short notes in these neums a duration of 1 time, whereas the notes of 1-note neums have a variable length in agreement with the length of the spoken text syllable. In actual practice, of course, the notes of 2 times or 1 time may deviate to some extent from these exact figures, depending for instance on the modal structure of a particular chant. Also, the various types of neums with their short ang long notes elicit particular accentuations that modify to some extent the values 2 and 1. Finally, the Commemoratio Brevis claims that one has to maintain the 2 vs. 1 ratio, but adds to this '... exceptis distinctionibus, quae simili cautela in cantu observandae sunt'. (rallentando). However, all these deviations occur completely spontaneous, hence the singer must stick to the 2 : 1 rule.

Kind regards,

Dirk van Kampen   

Padre Nicolás Despósito a dit :

To Mr. van Kampen: I found your research very helpful, is there any recording of your schola available? Thank you!

Wikipedia: You is the second-person personal pronoun, both singular and plural, and both nominative and oblique case, in Modern English.

Dear Padre Nicolas.

I forgot to mention where you can find the graduale:
http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregoriaans_ritme

The name of my contribution is Gregoriaans ritme

Dirk

Dear Mr. Gerlach,

Thanks again for your time. If I am not mistaken St. Bernard himself was, in his reform of ecclesiastical chant, looking for a reconstruction of a more primitive tradition, and in so doing he was bound to leave behind many of the living ones he considered decadent. Was he right, was he wrong? I don't know. Personally I don't think that's the real important issue.  As I said before the goal of any restoration of the Chant melodies and rhythmic proportions should be the proper rendering of divine worship. I don't agree with Marcel Pèrés...the only time we Catholics sing in the Mass is when there is a Low Mass (i.e., not Cantata nor Solemn) and the congregation sings some hymns and/or motets during it. But the very rite of Low Mass is something exceptional and quite "new". The proper way of celebration of the Roman rite is the Solemn High Mass (N.B.: we reject Vatican II in toto).

I look forward to more posts about McKinnon theories. I really liked his idea that the Carolingians kept the essence of Chant intact, but if that happens not to be the case...too bad!

Fr. D.

Dear Dr. van Kampen,

I did listen to the Gradual. Thank you!

Fr. D.

Dear Father Desposito,

Unfortunately, there is no recording of my Schola available. But you may listen to the Graduale Oculi Omnium on the Dutch Wikipedia site. Actually, this is a purely mechanical and computerized registration that I made to demonstrate the authentic rhythm around the year 1000 according to my views. Thus long notes in neums of more than 1 note have exactly a duration of 2 times, short notes in these neums a duration of 1 time, whereas the notes of 1-note neums have a variable length in agreement with the length of the spoken text syllable. In actual practice, of course, the notes of 2 times or 1 time may deviate to some extent from these exact figures, depending for instance on the modal structure of a particular chant. Also, the various types of neums with their short ang long notes elicit particular accentuations that modify to some extent the values 2 and 1. Finally, the Commemoratio Brevis claims that one has to maintain the 2 vs. 1 ratio, but adds to this '... exceptis distinctionibus, quae simili cautela in cantu observandae sunt'. (rallentando). However, all these deviations occur completely spontaneous, hence the singer must stick to the 2 : 1 rule.

Kind regards,

Dirk van Kampen  

Dear Padre Despósito

Whatever was called "Gregorian chant", it was something which was invented several times during history, and if you were in one of these fantastic Southern Franch Abbeys as Sénanque, Silvacane or Du Thoronet, you knew what it would mean to withstand the seduction of singing the chant for which this architecture had been created once. I guess that you spoke about the Regulae de arte musicae by the Cistercian Abbot Guy d'Eu which also had a part about organum singing—so it was after all not that different from the Cluniac Benedictine reforms (after several editions which were mainly based on Ms. 2284 of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, Christian Meyer and some very gifted young colleagues made a new edition based on four other sources, mainly Italian, this is a very generous present). The simplification of the regulae followed modal patterns, mainly based on Guido of Arezzo's Micrologus, but also rules, that plagal and authentic ambitus should not be mixed together (which was the case in some Lydian and Dorian compositions). If you understand the tonaries and intonation formulas as the essence of chant transmission since Carolingian times, you can quiet well argue that Frankish cantors kept it for Roman chant. On the one hand, tonaries were used to classify an existing huge chant repertory a posteriori, nevertheless they played a vital role in oral transmission, on the other hand, there is no tonary so far which can be attributed to Roman cantors, despite the fact that Pope Adrian I accepted the Hagiopolitan oktoechosreform for Roman chant as well during the synode of 787.

We will continue our discussion with the Old-Roman alleluia.

Dear Dirk

Thank you very much for the link. Although your rhythmic example is made in a very mechanical way, I find your proposition very convincing and helpful for performers. I was surprised that there are two entries for "Rhythm of Gregorian chant" in the Dutch wikipedia, one is about Eugène Cardine and the other about your interpretation (the "real rhythm"). Of course, now I understand very well the bizarre title which you gave our discussion. I wonder, but according to the strict rules of wikipedia you should discuss your and other interpretations of the sources in a section rhythm of the article neumes, while the other article belongs to a rhythm section of an article dedicated to Séméologie. Honestly, I am happy to see that they are not always so strict in practice. If you rather insist to the 2:1 rule, you will find what Marcel Pérès called the rhythmic energy, but I guess that somebody who made a course with Godehard Joppich, will rather stick to Luca's rule, that the accent has to be according to the prosody of language. Because of the poor knowledge that we all have about the medieval use of rhythm (see my summary), I would rather encourage performers to go their own way than to prescribe them a certain approach. As far as I can remember, there has never been such an active participation as in your discussion here.

> , will rather stick to Luca's rule, that the accent has to be according to the prosody of language

did I say this weird thing? I am surprised to find that I disapprove my own opinion! I speak of a Musical-Poetic rhythm in simple antiphons and of a proportional free rhythm in the prosaic chants. On the contrary, the prosodic accent is often contradicted by the musical and poetic accent. Please, don't attribute to me opinions that are not mine!

I am quiet aware that mine is not your way to take your point of view. In general you agreed with Dirk van Kampen, as you said, but you emphasized to take the rules rather flexible. But as far as I experienced Marcel Pérès, it was essential for him to follow the 2:1 rule very strictly (as a musical rhythm whatever is the poetic accent). This is what divides his interpretations from any semeological one, but also from yours, no matter what is the genre.

The prosody has three levels of accents, and one of it is certainly the poetic one (in ancient Greek the only concern of metre had always been the quantitative level, whatever the dynamic accent was, which was independent). Nevertheless, it is certainly possible to make a difference between the poetic and the musical accent. Concerning the musical accent it could be as well discussed, whether there was a correspondence with the poetic accent, and as far as it had become dynamic as it is common sense among philologists, this could mean that not even an episema as an accent was quantitive at all, so it had nothing to do with rhythm.

But what is your opinion concerning Dirk's example? Would you do it exactly the same way as he did?

If you speak of this : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/Graduale_oculi_o...

I find it quite correct, apart from some details. The main problem for me are the neumes of three notes, like the torculus. He plays them always as three quick notes, but it should be (in the case of torculus) :

b-b-L      OR (often) : appoggiatura+b-b

The porrectus should be b-b-L

Some pes quassus I whould play or sing quicker and I sing the quilisma wit an ornament (vox tremula). But the main thing is correct.

Dear M. Ricossa,

Indeed, in my musical example presented on Wikipedia, I followed Cardine's (1970) 'long' vs. 'short' scheme in interpreting the last note of a torculus, porrectus or climacus, but I am aware of Van Biezen's (2005) modifications of this scheme. You are also right that no attention was given in my example to the performance of such ornamental notes as the quilisma, oriscus, etc. In that respect, I think Geert Maessen's solution seems particularly relevant. So, we basically agree.

Dirk   

Ricossa a dit :

If you speak of this : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/Graduale_oculi_o...

I find it quite correct, apart from some details. The main problem for me are the neumes of three notes, like the torculus. He plays them always as three quick notes, but it should be (in the case of torculus) :

b-b-L      OR (often) : appoggiatura+b-b

The porrectus should be b-b-L

Some pes quassus I whould play or sing quicker and I sing the quilisma wit an ornament (vox tremula). But the main thing is correct.

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