Instructor: R. George
Nov 20, 2014
Chants – the music of the first millennium. Studying chants presents many problems to the researcher, because its most important stages of development were not recorded in writing. From the sixth to the tenth century, this form of music existed only in songs as the medieval musicians relied on their memories and voices to pass each verse from generation to generation.
According to the most accredited theories on the history of chant, the music employed in the liturgical celebrations in medieval Europe was highly differentiated region by region up to the beginning of the eighth century. The distinction applied to various aspects of the liturgy and consequently to the choice of texts and the style of melodies (Kreutz, 94). It is well known that a fundamental policy of the early Roman Catholic Church was an intensive program to unify Europe culturally, as well as politically. A significant part of this strategy was a promotion of the uniformity in worship and, consequently, in liturgical chant. This program of the liturgical uniformity was pursued through the superimposition of the Roman tradition in every church of Europe (Kreutz, 95). Throughout the Middle Ages, Pope Gregory I (540604) was known as Gregory the Great or “the Father of Christian Worship” because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship, and commonly known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope. He was credited with founding and standardizing
the Roman and Frankish elements of chants into The Liber Usualis (Book of Use), a collection of thousands of these chants. At the time when no practical system of notation existed, the only way to transmit music was through the oral tradition, The Liber Usualis was the book, from which the church cantors might have learned the chants (Loew, 83). These Roman chants were exactly what today we call The Gregorian Chants.This extraordinary repertory, created between the middle and the end of the eighth century and transcribed for the first time in French and German manuscripts during the ninth century, must have played an extremely important role in the preservation and transmission of these chants (Jeffery, 107). As a consequence of the strenuous efforts to maintain this articulated corpus of chants, cantors might have felt the need to experiment systems of music writing. The invention of music notation in the West in fact may be connected with the aim to preserve the melodies for the Latin Church unaltered. And, since all the sources of the Gregorian chant do not show any major melodic variants among themselves, we can imagine that the diffusion of the repertory through European lands must have happened through the means of written transmission (Hughes, 380).
NeoGregorian chants were the corpus of melodies not belonging to the international repertory of the Gregorian chant. In southern Italy these nonstandard melodies were composed sometime after the acquisition of the Gregorian chant (the 8th cent.) and were found in liturgical manuscripts from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, which were produced in the ancient Lombard Ducky of Benevento. These Beneventan chants contained an extraordinary stratification of different traditions that reflect the complex political and cultural history of the region. Successive waves of invasions by Lombards, Gauls, Romans, Byzantines, and Normans
left both a political and liturgical impress that was recognizable also in the choice of texts and music employed for the rites of the Latin Church (Kreutz, 97). In order to understand the differences between chants it may be useful to compare the two of genres belonging to the two repertories. The Beneventan Ingressa and the Gregorian Introit: ...
Cited: Hughes, David G. “Evidence for the Traditional View of the Transmission of Gregorian Chant.”
Journal of the American Musicological Society 40 (1987), 377381.
Jeffery, Peter. ReEnvisioning past musical cultures: ethnomusicology in the study of Gregorian
chant. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. Chicago, 1992, 106108
Kelly, Thomas Forrest. The Beneventan Chant. Cambridge, 1989, 41 and 63
Kreutz, Barbara M., Before the Normans: Southern Italy in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries.
Philadelphia, 1991, 9498
Loew, Elias Avery. The Beneventan Script. A History of the South Italian Minuscule. Second ed.
enlarged by Virginia Brown. Rome, 1980, 8384
McKinnon, James. The Advent Project: The LaterSeventhCentury Creation of the Roman Mass
Proper. Berkeley, 2000, 101103 and 195
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