Musicologie Médiévale

Resources for medieval musicology and liturgy


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 To distinguish short and long notes, tables were consulted that were established by me in an unpublished comparative study regarding the neume notations according to St Gallen and Laon codices.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.



Views: 4085

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Glad to hear it. If I find the time, I can do a quick recording of the very same gradual (if you whish)

That would be nice.

Is it possible for you to make a MP3, WAV or MIDI file?
Thanks in advance.


Ricossa a dit :

Glad to hear it. If I find the time, I can do a quick recording of the very same gradual (if you whish)

Here you will find a quick and dirty recording done in my armchair before my computer. By far not perfect, but it gives an idea. Note that I sung "omnes animal". It is a mistake (correct "omne animal"), but, as I said, it's quick and dirty :-)

Reply to Discussion



Listen chants of the day with

and your logo here...

We need other partners !


Soutenir et adhérer à l'Association Musicologie Médiévale !

Support and join The Musicologie Médiévale Association!



© 2021   Created by Dominique Gatté.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service