Discussion:
Style in Gregorian Chant
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Mandryka
2019-05-26 20:07:34 UTC
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I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.

I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?

Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
Todd Michel McComb
2019-05-26 21:13:16 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over
the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style.
How do I know what makes a chant performance a good one?
Leaving aside the question, the style is indeed the thing, that is
if you want to evaluate the performance according to any condition
of historical fidelity. (If you don't want to do that, of course,
feel free, but in that case, the answer to the question would
presumably be that you know it by hearing it as good.) There are
a variety of historical styles of plainchant deriving from the
medieval period, as well as the expression of national styles
post-unification (i.e. what is called "Gregorian"), followed by
another major historical revision, that of Solesmes. In particular
the post-Solesmes style is rhythmically blunted, such that the
different historical reconstructions tend to turn on phrasing....
More specific comments than that really need a more specific
context....

Very dated at this point, but:
http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/beginlst/chant.htm
g***@gmail.com
2019-07-23 04:36:26 UTC
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Post by Todd Michel McComb
Post by Mandryka
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over
the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style.
How do I know what makes a chant performance a good one?
Leaving aside the question, the style is indeed the thing, that is
if you want to evaluate the performance according to any condition
of historical fidelity. (If you don't want to do that, of course,
feel free, but in that case, the answer to the question would
presumably be that you know it by hearing it as good.) There are
a variety of historical styles of plainchant deriving from the
medieval period, as well as the expression of national styles
post-unification (i.e. what is called "Gregorian"), followed by
another major historical revision, that of Solesmes. In particular
the post-Solesmes style is rhythmically blunted, such that the
different historical reconstructions tend to turn on phrasing....
More specific comments than that really need a more specific
context....
http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/beginlst/chant.htm
According to Wikipedia:

- Serious academic debates arose, primarily owing to stylistic liberties taken by the Solesmes editors to impose their controversial interpretation of rhythm. The Solesmes editions insert phrasing marks and note-lengthening episema and mora marks not found in the original sources.

Conversely, they omit significative letters found in the original sources, which give instructions for rhythm and articulation such as speeding up or slowing down. These editorial practices have placed the historical authenticity of the Solesmes interpretation in doubt.[28] Ever since restoration of Chant was taken up in Solesmes, there have been lengthy discussions of exactly what course was to be taken. Some favored a strict academic rigour and wanted to postpone publications, while others concentrated on practical matters and wanted to supplant the corrupted tradition as soon as possible. Roughly a century later, there still exists a breach between a strict musicological approach and the practical needs of church choirs. Thus the performance tradition officially promulgated since the onset of the Solesmes restoration is substantially at odds with musicological evidence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_chant

g***@gmail.com
2019-05-27 03:28:33 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=9ljrXNn7K4L2_wTnv4f4CQ&q=best+gregorian+chant+albums&oq=best+gregorian+chant&gs_l=psy-ab.1.1.0i20i263l2j0l3.1252.5244..8883...0.0..0.319.2305.13j7j0j1......0....1..gws-wiz.....0..35i39j0i131j0i67j0i131i67.8sQjqwqCGJ4
Mandryka
2019-05-27 04:46:00 UTC
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Hello Todd. I was, of course, thinking of you when I posted. If you could direct me to something which will help me explore the “post-Solesmes style” that would be a much appreciated. Mary Berry has written very little that I can find, and her recordings I’d always thought were mainstream Solesmes.

I’ve started to get very interested in chant because I’ve been inspired by Marcel Pérès’s book Les Voix de Plain-Chant, if you can read French I recommend it enthusiastically. He is very anti-Solesmes, which he argues is a 19th century aberration founded on inappropriate philological principles.
Todd Michel McComb
2019-05-27 06:36:27 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
If you could direct me to something which will help me explore the
post-Solesmes style that would be a much appreciated.
That old page did make some Solesmes recommendations. I can't
really suggest anything more recent, since it's not a style I follow.
Post by Mandryka
Mary Berry has written very little that I can find, and her
recordings I'd always thought were mainstream Solesmes.
I believe that Berry does explore some regional variations, in her
case English. The main national traditions are known for different
pronunciation, for instance.
Post by Mandryka
He [Peres] is very anti-Solesmes, which he argues is a 19th century
aberration founded on inappropriate philological principles.
I agree about Solesmes. I don't think it's a musically interesting
approach either, but go for it....
g***@gmail.com
2019-05-27 06:52:53 UTC
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Post by Todd Michel McComb
Post by Mandryka
If you could direct me to something which will help me explore the
post-Solesmes style that would be a much appreciated.
That old page did make some Solesmes recommendations. I can't
really suggest anything more recent, since it's not a style I follow.
Post by Mandryka
Mary Berry has written very little that I can find, and her
recordings I'd always thought were mainstream Solesmes.
I believe that Berry does explore some regional variations...
https://books.google.com/books?id=_XiEAwAAQBAJ&pg=PT77&dq=%22each+community+developing+its+own+repertoire+and+performing+style%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiq8Y2-j7viAhXqy1QKHVsJA4wQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=%22each%20community%20developing%20its%20own%20repertoire%20and%20performing%20style%22&f=false
g***@gmail.com
2019-05-28 06:01:51 UTC
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Post by Todd Michel McComb
Post by Mandryka
If you could direct me to something which will help me explore the
post-Solesmes style that would be a much appreciated.
That old page did make some Solesmes recommendations. I can't
really suggest anything more recent, since it's not a style I follow.
Post by Mandryka
Mary Berry has written very little that I can find, and her
recordings I'd always thought were mainstream Solesmes.
I believe that Berry does explore some regional variations...
Concerning regional variations, that also applies to the music of a composer as recent as Wagner:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/humanities.music.composers.wagner/mZZjPRyj4eE
g***@gmail.com
2019-05-27 07:58:05 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
- The human mind is not rich enough to drive many horses abreast and wants one general scheme, under which it strives to bring everything.

Santayana
H***@comcast.net
2019-05-27 12:54:24 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
At this end we make sure that the chant singers are not singing from preinted scores with notes in the shape of bananas. Need an expalnation? Please ask.
H***@comcast.net
2019-05-27 12:56:15 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
At this end we make sure that the chant singers are not singing from printed scores with notes in the shape of bananas. Need an explanation? Please ask.
H***@comcast.net
2019-05-27 12:59:05 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
At this end we make sure that the chant singers are not singing from printed scores with notes in the shape of bananas. Need an explanation? Please ask.
g***@gmail.com
2019-05-27 20:53:57 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
Although the following book is small and hardly scholarly, I have a vague recollection of the author describing the Solesmes approach as trying to fuse disparate manuscripts into a generic style that was supposed to be representative of Gregorian chant in general but which none of those separate manuscripts would have sounded like:

https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1093&bih=526&ei=dU3sXJiZBdWu0PEPvOWDmA0&q=The+listener%27s+guide+to+medieval+%26+Renaissance+music+Front+Cover+Derrick+Henry&oq=The+listener%27s+guide+to+medieval+%26+Renaissance+music+Front+Cover+Derrick+Henry&gs_l=img.3...716.716..1592...0.0..0.141.219.1j1......0....2j1..gws-wiz-img.....0.7t1IcAqewm4#imgrc=IcuSan_sKNblmM:
g***@gmail.com
2019-05-27 23:07:41 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
- The human mind is not rich enough to drive many horses abreast and wants one general scheme, under which it strives to bring everything.

Santayana
Mandryka
2019-05-28 04:04:01 UTC
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Thanks for finding all these references,

It’s proving very hard to find out about the Solesnes methodology, I believe they applied c19 philological principles, but with these things the devil’s in the detail and I bet they imposed all sorts of c19 prejudices about what Early music must have been like.

Neither am I clear on what the role is for improvisation and ornamentation in the Solesmes model.

In my opinion, Solesmes has become like an entrenched paradigm in science - it has become very difficult to dislodge even though there are better ways of chanting.
Todd Michel McComb
2019-05-28 04:42:54 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I bet they imposed all sorts of c19 prejudices about what Early
music must have been like.
Well, historical recreation in the sense we'd understand it in music
today wasn't really their goal. They wanted a clear system for
singing chant. (God is, after all, eternal, so vagaries of historical
style are of questionable theological relevance....)

The main musical issue is that they largely removed the rhythm.
It's very basic & subdued in Solesmes. And yes, this surely reflected
broadly Victorian attitudes, in particular regarding the sacred &
profane. (There is a lot of very sanitized medieval music style
out there, and Solesmes fits under that broad umbrella.)
Post by Mandryka
Neither am I clear on what the role is for improvisation and
ornamentation in the Solesmes model.
That's not part of it. If singers decide to do that, that's their
decision, and they'd need to select an approach for themselves.
(Whatever theological arguments that might involve would be had on
various levels.) Different monasteries were/are still known for
their own sounds.
Post by Mandryka
In my opinion, Solesmes has become like an entrenched paradigm in
science - it has become very difficult to dislodge even though
there are better ways of chanting.
Well, start with Vatican II and go backward in time through the
Counter-Reformation & beyond, and you can find all sorts of
standardizations & simplifications that aren't the most artistic
things....
g***@gmail.com
2019-07-06 05:21:01 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
https://www.google.com/search?biw=1093&bih=526&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=4C4gXazLI8vi-gTRv42ACA&q=vanguard+lp+gregorian&oq=vanguard+lp+gregorian&gs_l=img.3...121833.130149..130359...2.0..3.221.3087.13j13j1......0....1..gws-wiz-img.....0..35i39j0j0i67j0i10j0i10i24j0i24.K8gWKIHGAQY#imgrc=r1wUyGfny_EWgM:
Mark Zimmer
2019-07-09 15:52:24 UTC
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Post by Mandryka
I know this is a bit off the wall for this forum, but you never know who’s passing through a place like this.
I have listened to quite a bit of Gregorian chant of liturgy over the years on recordings. I am quite at a loss to understand style. How do I know what makes a chant “ performance” a good one? What are the elements of interpretative discretion to look out for? Do performers use rubato, for example? Or dynamic contrasts? Or make their own decisions about articulation? And if so, with what objectives?
Anyway, any guidance about these things would be much appreciated, even if it’s just a pointer to a book or article (provided it’s obtainable!)
I had occasion to work with a copy of Guidetti's Cantus ecclesiasticus (1587) that Yale kindly supplied to me, and the chants laid out there (as I recall under supervision of Palestrina) are quite different and much more rhythmically varied than the Solemnes/Liber Usualis versions. I'd be interested in hearing recordings using those more ancient but still somewhat standardized forms (maybe some groups have done so and I don't know it).

Mark
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