Musicologie Médiévale

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Here you may find two realizations for the mozarabic Advent sacrificium "Venient ad te". The first (VI) based on its Renaissance counterpart. The second (IV) based on the most close melody of 423 medieval offertories.

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It is a pity - regardless of the authenticity of the deciphering - that it is so badly sung: a pitiful Solesmes manner for an Iberic chant of High Medieval times; impossible!

So what would you suggest? Details for improvement are always welcome, as are suggestions for singers who may do better.

Dear Geert,

It would be good to meet and give examples (for intervals, neums, etc.), orally, otherwise, it's just words. Maybe sometime next year in Holland (in the past and last year, I had workshops and concerts in Holland) or at some conference.

Congratulations for your tenacity in trying to decipher the Wisigothic tradition.

Dear Iegor,

Thank you. Of course Solesmes reinvented chant in the late nineteen century and remained dominant in liturgical practice ever since with editions and recordings. In the sixties they launched their semiological interpretation which became mainstream around the year 2000. These two schools still dominate liturgical practice. There is nothing wrong with this; both schools enable authentic prayer and can bring about real beauty. However, since the seventies and eighties there are four other views on early (tenth-century) chant practice. Your individualism, John Blackley's mensuralism, Dominique Vellard's semiology and Marcel Pérès' orthodox interpretations. Although mensuralism should be reconsidered, I think that as they are only two of these six approaches are convincing concerning the state of affairs in the tenth century. It is good to see therefore that more people adopt the views of Vellard and Pérès. My background is Solesmes semiology, but my inspiration comes from Vellard, although maybe it should have been Pérès. Now I am an old man with only limited vocal possibilities. I think it would not be wise to try and change my practice. But of course, I would be happy to learn whatever is useful.

By the way, I did not "decipher" anything. I only produce melodies that agree to what we already know. Much of the confusion seems to arise from the premise that I pretend to "decipher" or "restore" lost melodies. I do not. As Charles Atkinson suggested, maybe it is better to speak about "realisations". My only claim is that we can learn "something" from the lost tradition by the singing of melodies agreeing to the early notation. Only two things matter: the agreement with our knowledge and the quality of the music. It's up to you to decide.

For me it matters to gain more knowledge instead of agreeing with somebody else's, but I was not aware that you already are that old! Your approach is definitely very interesting, but I think this might be a weak point. Because who tells us that Mozarabic melodies must be adapted to oktoechos melopœia, even if you regard Gregorian chant as a pool of different local traditions?

But don't you worry, a good teacher just helps you to work with your vocal possiblities instead of adapting to his or hers... They have to look after that you become better than them!

Dear Oliver,
It seems you still don't understand what I am doing. Your criticism "it's not sure Mozarabic melodies should agree to oktoechos", is just an illustration of the "confusion" I was talking about. It simply looks like another way of saying that there is no reason to believe my melodies represent the lost melodies. And, of course, that's true, there is no such reason. To the contrary, in order to get a glimpse of what mozarabic chant may have looked like, it is of major importance not to project "any" expectations on this tradition. As a consequence I am not projecting anything, I simply produce melodies and in doing so try to find arguments how we can improve these melodies. It's all work in progress, not pretending at all to have reached any conclusive position. And even though in this sense my melodies are "fake" I believe, even in this stage, that you can learn "something" of the lost tradition.

I am quite surprised, because what you did write here was exactly what I tried to tell you.

But concerning the relationship between melopœia and neumes, there is no neumatic notation in the world which can be separated from it. The only open question is, what kind of melopœia, what is the modal system?

In case you do not know it, there is nothing left than to project another kind on it which seems familiar to you. A statistic information about a certain neume sign is not free from this kind of projection. You freely admitted that talking about your semiological background.

But as soon as you know something like the mode or just the final note, there is a base to improve a melody as you like to call it, even if this information is not sufficient to understand the melos. Just take your reconstruction of the cherouvikon as an example.

Otherwise, the melodies are not fake, you are just in the dark, exactly as you said. Of course, I do agree and I have a great respect that you have the courage to be so frank about it.

The point is that if we want to be really serious concerning interpretation, we have to return to ancient scales and not as it is always done, sing in the tempered scale. It is what I have done for more than 40 years. Among other performers, only M. Pérès tried a non tempered way but he took a very 'Byzantine" one, that pushed him away from the neums we see on the manuscripts and in which we trust. The ancient modes and intervals can really be understood and it's possible to progress in this direction by looking to the relationship between the core of the modes as given by the octoechos, the high or low vowels in the words, and the high or low precise intervals. It is absolutely impossible that the Western ancient tradition would be the only one with a rough unprecise approach of intervals, contrary to all others (Byzantine even now, ancient Greek, Persian, Indian, etc.); up to the 17th-18th c., the natural intervals were the base of all music. People usually say "but between the natural and the tempered intervals, the difference is so small!"; they say so because they never really tried. All other spiritual learned traditions that still remain say: "why in the West, do you play always a little false?" In fact, just intonation changes completely; the intervals and indeed the modes become meaningful. (If you give me your email address, I can send you some papers).

Concerning your work, I used the word deciphering in a broad sense. I think I understood your work and admire it.

All the best!

By the way is there any Mozarabic Christmas concert planned in Amsterdam with Ensemble Gregoriana?

Without further ado I immediately agree with you. I guess this could be part of an explanation for the fact that (outside the liturgy) I don't like to listen to chant at all, but prefer to sing it (or pray, for that matter), and in listening to music I prefer to listen to the vocal traditions of the East. Many years ago I really tried to study the subject, but it remained a kind of meaningless mathematics. The only way to open my ears seemed to move to the East and learn from living traditions, but that was simply a bit too much. I have no idea if it is still possible to open my ears, how difficult this would be and who could help me here in the West. You can mail me if you want, I mailed you my address here at MM. I will study the papers, but I think it is a matter of practice in the first place.

I see, I just asked one week too late this question... I apologise!

À propos cherouvikon, there is actually one source (and the only one I know) which has the Western cherouvikon in Latin translation (version of St Denis) in diastematic notation. A little sensation! The appendix of the Gradual of Quedlinburg (see my Christmas surprise for this year!).

I have to admit, I do not trust the accidentals. Thus, the devteros mode was tamed into a Guidonian tritus!

I'm very happy to discover and impressed by this latin version of the Cherubikon. By the way, I remember discussing about it with M. Huglo, that he said that it was sometimes, at least in the Western tradition, sung as a trecanon, that is in three voices and probably as a canon. Certainly, it was not the same version that the one you found. But it is another subject (I'm still in the noneane).



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