chant is not meant to be sung in the open air, neither in music hall or a studio for recording. Its inspirration is directed towards prayer and worshipping. It is a chant of a purely grateful basis, only to please God. After being greek the liturgical expression became latin, it had to be let mould by the accentuated diction of Latin.
Gregorian chant is not an outdoor singing. Exceptionaly gregorian is sung in the open air during procession or in extraordinary circumstances like the Carolingian acclamations a more popular gregorian at the occurence of pascal triduum of penitent brotherhoods. In France tradition still exist for instance in Perpignan. Still let us mention "The Vermeil book" of the Montserrat abbey in Catalonia has also to be mentioned.
A chant for oratory. An original element of gregorian is to be found in these public buildings, which were completly exempt of anything not related to a cult . Certain characteristicswere related to it. A church , even a small one, and having little furniture may have good acoustics. A way of singing implicitly resulted from it. " resonance of a church is a valuable contribution, in the eastern as well as in the western , to the crowned character of a church " (ecclesia. COM). To preserve a certain clearness and to avoid acoustic interaction it is necessary to know how played of the reverberation and to play about it. Church is the first and the most essential instrument for accompaniement of the Gregorian chant. In a community however well arranged and neatly dressed, there are always hairy elements, to produce vocal oddities. A good acoustic of the oratory puts a bashful veil on these divergences
and almost nothing appears anymore when maintaining a minimum distance, these elements heterogeneous. Unconsciously the choir adapte itself and plays the church as one play the flute. It is not impossible that the return of the notes by effect of echo has advantaged the creation of monodic melodies of modal type by valorizing certain cords on which one returns, one insists, in order it make chorus with the oratory. In fact any church has an affinity for a particular note or one of its harmonics and enters in resonance with it. If this is not one of the element of its genesis, at least it will have allowed a happy mariage with the modal chant. Oratory chant, the Gregorian finds its own accompaniment "a cappella" a certain way by the chapel. This expression is translated in fact as "without accompaniment" which meaning is rather "A nihilo". As to this point, accompaniement by organ is certainly not indispensable, but might be useful for some choirs as long as it remains an accompaniment and not a leading, but a very discrete thread prolonging the finishing voices to some kind of exchange between the richness of the vocal tone and the purity of the instrumental tone.
Some vere on a relation between the romanesque vaults and the Gregorian chant, especialy as to the rounded off tops named « apex ». One could say it « Gothic » as to the impulse of the melodies. But comparison is not reason.
Gregorian chant is not being created for recording purpose or a show. It therefore has to keep its interiority and moderation with regard to daily prayer. On top of that the chorists being monks or believers, it was necessary to find a simple esthetics without any vocal prowesses but but merely putting forward characteristics such as prayer.It would rather be some kind of pop. It does not have to be a "bel canto". It would rather be unbearable in the context of daily life.
The plainchant requires a certain abnegation , necessary in a ensemble, an homophonous chant with unison avoiding individual expressivity. Happiness of maying in comon, communicating by one expression is overflowing the on the final effect. Nothing is more disastrous than a cockfight to force onesÕs viewpoint. The nuances being imposed end up by being not nuances. In certain orders , the Carthusian monks for example and formerly also the Trappists being less concerned about the artistic expression, the prayer can transfigure the chant. Saint Augustin has written "Cantare amantis est": "Singing is the fact of one who loves". If one loves it sings and enchants all. Inversely, too much importance given to the artistical aspect turns out to be disastrous. Chorists or a schola are too much inclined to negotiate their neumes produce unpleasant impression that art prevail above prayer. Art and the technique singing should remain the sphere of the classes of chant. it is different, for the offices where it remains necessary to let go simply what has been acquired. The more it appears to be nature the more it will be transparent to supernatural. Naturalness does not mean arbitrary. Diligence required for this chant is actualy a prayer. We are in presence of where only one step is in between sublime and ridiculous. Avoiding close to affectation is recomanded
All that preceded until here would rather characterize the plainchant which " is a traditional type of vocal music, which generally appears in a religious context. This musical style is ancient and widespread. It is not limited to the catholic rites, and one finds also examples in the cantillations and parts of Hebrew, Moslim or boudhists rites.
Although the terms are often taken one for the other, it is advisable to distinguish the plainchant (a musical style) from the Gregorian chant (a liturgical repertory composed in this style). "(wikipedia) This rejoined a reflexion of the father Kim en Joong ,a corean dominican corean, painter on stained glass, concording analogies to exist in the anointed chant of his country and the Gregorian chant.
The Gregorian chant is characterized by a certain sobriety of expression. The sensitiv cost is very thin compared to our instrumental contemporary musics or the polyphonic singing of choir. It is alike the audible form of the silence, of interior silence. Monodic, homophon, a cappella may appear austere however the notes are isochronous ie have relatively the same duration ( discussed question to moderate). Everythings is made up of nothing or so little that it confers to this chant a very serene fluidity and almost timeless with this chant. Someone like to say that all is at homeopathic dose that as soon as one becomes aware of a nuance it is alresdy too much , too materialistic. It is no doubt excessive, a observed nuance will be forgotten and not exceed the threshold of the conscience. Only the failed effects feel artificial like a fly on honey. The nuances are often done by abscence of an expected effect, to emphasize the great limpidity and simplicity of a piece. It is undoubtedly an illusion to adopt a rough style for making it medieval assuming that at that time man, being closer to the ape, his singing couldnÕt have had only little subtleness.
Inspired for prayer and thanksgiving the generosity of the singing is purely to please God. Thanksgiving « gratiarum actio » is a free of any charge trade (grace, comes from the Latin gratis, but also from gratus i.e beautiful. Graceful and grateful have these two meanings). It is because of his gratitude and love the faithful believer sings for his God. He is motivated neither by money nor a desire to becom famous. Almost all the composers of Gregorian are anonymous, the motivation is charity. St Augustin ought to say that" love is the work of the one who sings " . Love is completely priceless, and only grimaces are the exchange for money. Singing for God mean being enchanted, delighted of him, the anointed chant reflects a gracious excange.
The rhythmic one of the Gregorian chant is based on the Latin word. In contemporary late Latin of Gregorian, the short ones and the long ones seem no more having some role, on the other hand the accent tonic is essential. The Latin words are accentuated in spondee; the accent is then placed on the penult syllable and generates a binary rate/rhythm, or in dactyl on antepenultimate syllable and it is a ternary rate/rhythm. In the theory of Dom Mocquereau on "the musical number" the accent does not correspond inevitably with an ictus. Normally the accent of a spondee is with the up-beat and that of a dactyl with down-beat. According to specialists, the accent is not done in italian way. Moreover it is necessary to remain vigilant to prevent any telescoping on the dactyls and to avoid these precipitations called: « triplets ».
The melody likes its freedom, it can take its independence compared to the Latin word in very adorned parts like: introït, gradual, jubilus of alléluia, offertory, chant of communion, responsory prolix, some antiphons. The tractus and the antiphonaly chant follow the text more closely.
The rhythm for Gregorian chant is primarily a relation from up-beat to down-beat, arsis with thesis as called for the elementary rhythm of the word or the incise, or protasis and apodosis for the great broader rhythm of severals incidentals incises or for a whole piece. Concretely the essential is to make feel the underlying theme. The rhythmicals signs can give indications for the way of structuring the piece. Let us avoid returning them materially. A horizontal episem does not correspond inevitably to a lengthening, it indicates simply a nuance to be returned. Currently the tendency is to remove these rhythmicals signs. In fact they are essential only if one follows the method known as « of Solesmes » with counting, such it is currently taught in Schola Saint Gregory in Le Mans (France). This counting is not a splitting up of time in a metronomic measurement. The rhythm remains free and counting is used only for well emphasizing the sometimes ternary sometimes binary rhythm. The Ward foundation has developed a whole gestural technique for inculcating to the pupil this rhythmic well in a reflex level.
The Latin language perhaps has a secondary effect on the Gregorian chant. It is a language, like the Latin languages in continuation, where the vowels have an important role, contrary to the semitics languages with a whole lux of consonants rather diverting for a Westerner. However it is well-known that the value of a note, its height, is fixed only on the vowel of the syllable. The emission of the preceding consonant presents only musical transitories, complex timbre having not yet a stabilized frequency. The sound takes its cruising stability only on the vowel with the tone of this vowel and the vibratory frequency giving the height within the staff. A language whose vowels have a determining audible role , will be dressed by a melody which will emphasize well these vowels with well defined and well adjusted notes. The vocalises are always done on the vowels without reflecting the associated consonant.
Very quickly, diatonic scale (IE: chromatism with no sensitive) imposed itself. This staff divides the octave in 7 tones plus an option on B flat. One has to refrain from the sport of sliding from one note to another: the rubbing of voice or sirens in Gregorian, give bad impression. All is clear and distinct but without disruption of sound. The notes are connected one by one with "mora vocis" in a way to give impression of an headband or of a writing into downstroke and upstroke, without "crottatim" on the notes what would harm large the legato. To this purpose, it is desirable that all the chorists do not take their breathing together. Moreover, in singing voice (and not spoken) the sound never concludes abrupt manner ,it dies out gradually.
The mode is a characteristic of the Gregorian chant. It results from a long tradition of Jewish and Byzantine modal chant (called the oktoechos). It was studied and systematized for our modern scientific methods. It was probably rather intuitive at the begining. At least, one did not take the mode of a fragment for a barrier not to be transgressed.
Eight modes are distinguished. The classical music has no more than two :the major one, the minor. Each mode is kind of ambiancecharacterized by privileged notes: tonic and dominant. It is difficult to describe the impression given by each one. For instance one could say that the fourth is that of interiority, the sixth makes often childish, but the words miss, as more as the variety of each one dissuades for wanting to define them. Undoubtedly such type of piece is characteristic of a mode as one could say such human face is certainly Slavic, Latin, German, Anglo-Saxon. However all the Slavic ones do not resemble each other, nor Latin, even there are the Slavic ones who starts to resemble Latin under the Mediterranean sun. In Gregorian a great extent is due to the centonization of the piece. Centons are melody formulas which one finds easily in such or such mode. For reason of simplification one should know that the modality of many parts change in order to improve the suspense of the recitation. Some réponsories of the Holy Week give impression by their modaly changes to be in an unconfortable bed with no good position. This is not astonishing when considering the aim to communicate passion of Christ as a bed of pain.
For well restoring the Gregorian chant, the ideal would be to know exactly how it was sung by those who had the genius of these melodies.
Let us imagine that the rock'n'roll preceded the Gregorian one. Our experts could drawout their last bits of hair, when confronted with an old manuscripts, they not find more signs to restorethis chant than those on top of a text. Certainly his musical restitution would be rather distant from that was practised among our medieval rockers, especially reying on the only manuscripts, they had not even realized that was a fashion music, for spectacleÕs hall, supported by artificial acoustics of overpowerful sound system and for getting immense profits. The reverse of the Gregorian chant! As much the rock'n'roll is sensational as much the Gregorian chant is ascentional! In creating néorock, it is useless to say that not having rock'n'roll sense anymore, a very approximate compositions would come out of it, although perhaps not valueness, if they emanated from really artists and perhaps even brilliant composer. It would be a new still not yet edited style.
No doubt, the situation is not completely symmetrical for the Gregorian chant and its return became urgent at the XIX th. It has been the ambition of Dom Guéranger, restorer of the Benedictine order in France trying to work for the best possible restitution of this chant. Under his incentive, several monks,started working inter alia Dom Jausions, Dom Mercure and Dom Pothier, who starting from manuscripts photographed all over in Europe, launched musical paleography and finally Dom Mocquereau and Dom Gajard published many books on liturgical chant. Two popes, Pie X and Pie XI promoted the Gregorian chant again, the first by the apostolic Constitution motu proprio in 1903; the second by that entitled "Divini cultus" in 1928. The Gregorian was once again imposed as liturgical chant of the Church. The Constitution on the liturgy, of the Vatican II, still recommends it but in a nonexclusive way: "the Church recognizes in the Gregorian chant the authentic chant of the Roman liturgy, it must therefore be at the first place in liturgical actions " all equal things besides.
In spite of an almost general disaffection, Solesmes continued its efforts. The extensive knowledge in the work of Dom Eugene Cardine, with his "Gregorian Semiology" (Solesmes 1970) was continued by Dom Jean Claire and Dom Saulnier.
By means of semiology Dom Cardine pushed ahead the study of signs on manuscripts. This allowed a thorough knowledge in the interpretation of melodies . Although everybody does acknowledge a progress in the decoding of the manuscripts, the practical indications however recommended for this new method did not meet unanimity. Numerous of those prefer to maintain "the method of Solesmes", the one from the time of Dom Gajard.
To the difference of Dom Cardine and Dom Saulnier, Dom Gajard who worked a lot with paleography was at the same time the master of choir at Solesmes. He had an approach of scientist moderated by pragmatism and knew how behaves a choir and what one can require from it. Numerous are those who consider that under his direction, the choir of Solesmes reached its best level.
In practice the monastic choirs express a certain consensus even when not sharing the same method. The differences become more sensitive for execution of cantors in schola or solo. It is not the same for laical chorals societies, a who offer spectrum of interprétations from the parochial worshipper to the highly spectacular performance.
The method of Solesmes (Dom Gajard) recommends a great basic regularity with relative variations of tempo. The tops are rounded off. It is like ballistics strichen that exhausts gradually to the top where the speed is totaly lost, folowed by the opening of a parachute allowing a beautiful landing. Dynamics can be released from the Latin word in the vocalize, the melody takes again its rights there. Chironomy of the Master of Choir is very coded and precise. General impression is a acrowned timelessness.
The new method ( Dom Cardine, Janneteau Canon, Dom Jean Claire, Dom Saulnier) The orientation is different and one could almost say that it is an lack of method in a way where more latitude is left for interpretation. Let us have a look at more striking features however. The modal cords (tonic dominant) are more developed and getting closer to it the attraction stronger stronger. It is like a magnetization with often supported tops. On the model of the ŅSong of SolomonÓ if the lover comes to hide, it is as a sudden releasing, the climacus of help is descended at full speed. The rhythm of the Latin word imposes always itself. Counting is not used. Chironomy of the Master of Choir is intuitive. General impression is one of a more alert movement, a more marked modality.
The first generation of manuscripts was stringy in melody indications. Signs were drawn above the text. Most known of these manuscripts is that of Saint Gall Abbey in Switzerland. These manuscripts with neumatic notation, if they do not indicate the value of the notes however they give many precise details of nuances. That supposes in background, a good oral tradition of these melodies
" One allots to Guido of Arezzo, during the first fifty years of XIe century (he died in 1050), the invention of the staff of several lines, and the names of the notes of exacord basic Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La (cf Hymn"Ut queant laxis"). These inventions will finally provide with precision the melody line of the chants.
It is certain, as pointed out by the moderns authors, that the diastematic notation poor in rhythmic indications, when compared with the neumatic notation (St Gall) ". (Pierre Billaud).
" In the XIIe century, the goose feather replaces the reed and involves a handwriting deformation: the signs coat and the square notation, still used today for the Gregorian chant, replaces gradually the neumes ". (Mireille Helffer).
The square feather is not cut at a peak but presents one right mark. This mark is placed perpendicular to the lines of staff. This characteristic allows to make square notes, possibly a little bit convex as for the punctum, or for the longer neumes, like the porrectus, with a variable line weight, lower at the beginning and higher at the end, according to the curve of the draw. For the oriscus the feather describes a small "S" horizontally. On the other hand, for the strophicus, stop is placed at 45°. For small liquescences, it is not not possible to do it with the same size of feather etc. The printing-house will respect more or less this esthetic of handwriting obtained by the square feather. The software " GregEdit " is trying as close as possible to it by providing all the panoply of the multiple neumatic combinations.
The Gregorian chant currently knows a certain renewal of interest. Many interprétations are tested generating a certain stimulative competition. In religious office however, the liturgical meaning reduces the number of adapted and fortunate solutions.