Musicologie Médiévale

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A thorough more recent monograph about Old Roman chant seems to be missing.
Some thoughts what should be included in such a monograph:
ALL sources for Old Roman (including fragments) should be listed with exact descriptions of their datings and contents. Some facsimile pages of sources should be included.
ALL text passages from theoretical sources concerning the history and performance of Old Roman chant should be included with English translations. The liturgical peculiarities and their implications for historical performance practice of Old Roman chant should be described. All places where Old Roman chant was being sung should be listed and their importance for the repertory be made clear. All genres of Old Roman chant should be listed and their musical styles be outlined. The stylistic peculiarities of Old Roman chants should be analysed (with many and well-chosen notational examples in modern transcription) and be compared with other chant traditions. The (probable) influence on other chant traditions and from other chant traditions should be outlined.
The book should of course include a summary of the discoveries from secondary literature (only certain and probable findings).
The monograph should outline what we can assume as probable about the historical performance practice of Old Roman chants (ensemble sizes, on what occasions boys might have been used, which passages/chants were sung by soloists, how improvised polyphony was probably used etc.) - certain sources for Gregorian chant (including theoretical sources) are probably also important to consider here.
The book should include a complete bibliography (including all facsimiles and editions of course) for Old Roman chant and a good index (places, names, neumes, sources, terms etc.). All web links for Old Roman chant should be given.
The monograph should also include a CD/DVD with a new recording of Old Roman chants (it would be best to choose especially "typical" and especially beautiful ones as well as some which were probably of special liturgical or historical importance).

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Replies to This Discussion

Aucun traité connu ne parle du chant Romain. C'est si simple que ça. L'analyse critique des mélodies est une autre chose et, certainement, le système des "absonia" est très utile pour décrire une réalité qui émerge avec force de tous les répertoires connus, phénomène qui était PROBABLEMENT encore plus ample avant l'introduction du système des lignes et des clés

I wrote here about the history of iconoclasm and the second Nicaean council to offer a deeper insight which includes the Byzantine history and its own reforms. I am convinced that it had a strong impact on Rome also via Greek immigrants and it was Rome's chance to finish the period of Byzantine papacy and its long dependence on Constantinople. I know that these questions are usually left untouched by scholars of Western plainchant. They just draw a connection between the Council and Charlemagne's admonitio generalis two years later, and the synode at Frankfurt in 794 without really looking at Rome.

A very interesting exception was Charles Atkinson, who once wrote about the changing relationship between Eirene and Charlemagne. But it was in connection with the Missa greca and his focus was on the diplomatic relationship between the two empires.

If you regard this history in a broader context, we understand, how political history motivated reforms and how it did support the consilidation of religious orthodoxy (the new dominant role of the Benedictine rule for instance). It created new dogmas (although they failed to prevent the second crisis of iconoclasm at Constantinople) and a completely new view on the past. More recent Byzantine studies try now to regard more sceptical the iconodule point of view of certain chroniclers, who were affiliated with monastic institutions or related to the court. They often exaggerated beyond any measure, not only in order to characterise the actions of their political enemies as heresies, but also to distract an attention to drastic actions from the opposite side, including murder in more than one case. Sometimes a careful reconstruction is needed to understand, what their enemies really did and what they did not.

Eirene was made a saint, because she organised the council against the will of Emperor Constantine V and against his influence on the court and on the imperial forces. She also asked for the ritual blinding of her own son, after she had decided to reign alone as Empress a second time. Now imagine the worst fears of Nikephoros, if she had married Charlemagne, do please also imagine, what a reduced view we would have on a possible Byzantine influence, bereft of one of the most important living traditions of Christian monody today.

I definitely agree with your observation (and your decision against the Scolica), that theoretical sources confirm the active role of cantors involved during a transfer of the Carolingian Renaissance. I also agree that the question of absonia occupied later theorists for quite a long time. But we should not raise the level of this theoretical argument higher than it really was, and the simple absence of Roman treatises is not always and necessarily an evidence, that their role was so passive as we usually tend to believe. The late date of Roman books made their surprising content even more interesting.

Concerning Adrian, his approbation of earlier councils seems rather be motivated by other interests than by one in the oktoechos, while the Carolingian interest in tonaries might be a coincidence. Concerning the sanctoral, I am convinced that the Schola cantorum did work on its compositiono since its foundation.

Nevertheless, we have to bare in mind, what was also created much later, since the chant books you can refer to, had been written during the later eleventh century. An exchange with other traditions and recent reforms is visible, but I would not go so far to speak of a "Frankish redaction of Old Roman chant," despite a certain Cluniac influence. Such a revision of history is not plausible, it is just a helpless compensation, since earlier hypotheses do no longer convince anyone.

Geert, if you mean the Algerian psalm singing, what I hear is non "professionnal singers" who are not concerned about their level of perfomance, and certainely not asking themselves if their singing his historically informed.



Geert Maessen a dit :

Please listen to the next, AMAZING, Bonum est, and tell me what you hear:

Bonum est

Good point!

I guess the monks of Solesmes started to inform themselves historically about a lost tradition, but it is a shadow, if you compare it with the information you can get from a teacher out of a living tradition.

Who does not desire to have once a lesson by a Roman cantor of the eleventh century, at least in a dream?

Please write it down, if you can still remember it. It must be definitely published in such a handbook :D

who are not concerned about their level of perfomance

I wonder, whether they would agree...

At least two of the four were concerned with historically informed performance. As non-algerians they made special study of the Constantine tradition. It is also interesting to compare this Jewish chant with the chant of Christians in Eastern Turkey. More comparisons you can make through Bonum est. 

On the list you find also recordings made of other important traditional singers of Turkey like Hafız Kanı Karaca, Samuel Benaroya, Isak Algazi, Iakovos Nafpliotis and Konstantinos Pringos. Since most of them are regarded as the last of their tradition, there are many singers who still try to learn by listening to these recordings.

You can definitely tell the difference between those musicians who worked hard and learnt from traditional musicians—even those who never could make theories about it, and those who feel already satisfied to reproduce their academic teachers and to repeat the latters' theoretical concepts.

In my dream the imagined Roman cantor shouted "Ammazza! Ma che cazzo stai faccendo?", when I tried to sing "my quilisma" the very first time. I could not help it, but I had Old Roman neumes in my visual mind. Following a bad habit I took a scandicus for a quilisma...

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