Sunday, July 31, 2005

Yes, Virginia, there is Gregorian Chant software

And here it is.

I make no claim about it; I haven't tried it myself, and I need to find some reliable source who has, before I download it. Call me neurotic about downloading .exe files. I do suspect it's totally on the level, though, after reading the FAQ What does the program Grégoire cost ?:
Developing the program was a considerable amount of work. To give you an impression: the complete application is compiled from over 45000 lines of code (almost 700 pages!). You might expect that such a program is sold for a very high price… but that's not the case! The program has been developed and deployed in a spirit of charity, and it will remain available along the same line, contributing to the dissemination of the vast patrimony of Gregorian chant. Today we consider it abnormal that a regular user would not make any contribution. Therefore we ask you, after you've tried the program for one month and when you wish to continue using it, to donate a minimum amount of €50 (about $50 or £35) to a charitable institution of your choice.

Hackers don't, in my experience, usually request a donation to charity. So I suspect the thing's OK. But if I can't find a reliable recommendation, I'll have to partition my hard drive or something, to try it out. Will re-post in that event.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A little help from my friends

Derek left some references in the comments on another post, and I wanted to bring them up to the main page.

He says that "As far as I am concerned, these are the four most important English books for those who love chant and want to have a firm background in the heritage of chant in the Western tradition."

* David Hiley, Western Plainchant: A Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997). This is a truly monstrous compendium that presents the main data on western plainchant. This is an excellent reference book. It's not necessarily the kind of thing that one sits down and reads cover to cover but if you can handle it, you'd come out way ahead.

* John Harper, The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy From the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century: A Historical Introduction and Guide for Students and Musicians (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991). This is one of the most accessible--yet serious--books to lay out the various complexities of the Western rites. It's an overview of the Kalendar, Medieval Liturgical Books, the Mass and the Offices. The focus is on England and English rites and includes chapters on the early Books of Common Prayer as well as the Medieval and Catholic materials.

* Cyrille Vogel, Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources, (trans. and rev. William Storey and Niels Rasmussen; Washington, D.C.: Pastoral, 1986). Also an excellent reference, this is a hard-core text that looks at the main sources of the Western liturgies from the earliest times up to the Council of Trent. To know chant, you've got to know about the liturgies that it developed in relation to. If you've ever wondered about the differences between a pure Gelasian sacramentary and a Mixed Eighth-century Gelasian, this is the source for you. Especially helpful for reconstructing early medieval rites before the rise of true Missals is the summary of all 50 Ordines Romani. Early medieval liturgical books only had the parts for the participant it was written for; the ordines were the instructions on how everything fit together.

* Andrew Hughes, Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to their Organization and Terminology (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1982). If Vogel and Harper left you itching for more, Hughes is your passport to the next level. Hughes gives you the theoretical and practical information that you need to confront medieval liturgical manuscripts on their own terms. That is, when you confront your first sacramentary, how would you even begin to find what you're looking for and not fall into the most common mistakes that modern readers make with medieval texts. Of course, to get the most out of this book you'll need to brush off your Latin and start diving into some real texts.

Once you've gotten a good grounding in these it's time to go hunting for bear--and here's one of my favorite new sites. Look for your favorite chant text and music here.

Thanks, Derek!

LutheranChik adds that she found "a website with lots of Coptic liturgical chant, hymns, etc."

Thanks, LC!

Ambrosian Chant

*********************DRAFT IN PROGRESS********************

From The Catholic Encyclopedia:
The question as to what constitutes Ambrosian chant in the sense of chant composed by St. Ambrose has been for a long time, and still is, a subject for research and discussion among historians and archæologists. When the saint became Bishop of Milan, in 374, he found a liturgy in use which tradition associates with St. Barnabas. It is presumed that this liturgy, which was brought from Greece and Syria, included singing by the celebrant as well as the spoken word and liturgical action. On the other hand, it is certain that the greater part of the chants now used in connection with the Ambrosian, or Milanese, rite, which are frequently designated in the wider sense as Ambrosian chant, originated in subsequent centuries as the liturgy was developed and completed. So far no documents have been brought to light which would prove that the saint composed anything except the melodies to most of his hymns. Of a large number of hymns attributed to him, only fourteen are pronounced with certainty to be his, while four more may be assigned to him with more or less probability. Like any other great man who dominates his time, St. Ambrose had many imitators, and it so happened that hymns written by his contemporaries or those who came after him, in the form which he used, that is, the Iambic dimeter, were called "Hymni Ambrosiani". The confusion brought about in the course of time by the indiscriminate use of this designation has necessitated endless study and research before it was decided with any degree of certainty which hymns were by St. Ambrose and which by his imitators. As regards the melodies, it has been equally difficult for archæologists to distinguish them and restore them to what was probably their original form.

Ambrose is traditionally regarded as the "father of Christian hymnody." A musical analysis from the same source:
The literature at the time of St. Ambrose shows that the Greek music was the only kind known to the saint and his contemporaries. St. Augustine, who wrote his unfinished work "De Musicâ" at about the time that St. Ambrose wrote his hymns, gives us an idea as to the form which the melodies must have had originally. He defines music as "the science of moving well" (scientia bene movendi) and the Iambic foot as consisting "of a short and a long, of three beats". As in the case of St. Ambrose we have poet and composer in one person, it is but natural to suppose that his melodies took the form and rhythm of his verses. The fact that these hymns were intended to be sung by the whole congregation, over which, according to the Arians, the saint cast a magic spell by means of his music, also speaks in favour of their having been syllabic in character and simple in rhythm. For several centuries it has been held that St. Ambrose composed what are now termed antiphons and responsories. There is no satisfactory proof that such is the case. The fact that he introduced the antiphonal (alternate) mode of singing the psalms and his own hymns (each of the latter had eight stanzas), by dividing the congregation into two choirs, probably gave rise to this opinion. The responsory as practised by direction of St. Ambrose consisted in intoning the verse of a psalm by one or more chanters and the repetition of the same by the congregation.

Ambrosian chant is also known as Milanese Chant:
Milanese chant is commonly known as Ambrosian chant, since it is attributed to St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan from 374 to 397, a time when the Western Roman emperor made it his capital. Hence it is sometimes called the oldest Western chant. This is ingenuous, for this makes a comparison of Ambrosian history with the oldest surviving manuscripts of other types of chant. Comprehensive Milanese chant manuscripts are no older than the twelfth century (some partial sources date from the preceding century). Mass and office chants occur continuously in the manuscripts, with separate books for winter and summer.

Yet St. Ambrose is credited with composing hymns, presumably texts and chants, for his people to sing while Arians were besieging them in their cathedral in 386. St. Augustine names four of these hymns that are still extant: Aeterne rerum conditor, Deus creator omnium, Jam surgit hora tertia, and Veni redemptor gentium. These all use the same meter, and later hymns of the same meter are called Ambrosian, and are sometimes attributed to St. Ambrose. Many of these have long been used in Gregorian as well as Milanese liturgical books.

Despite these early origins, Milanese chant is generally identified with the Lombard kingdom, founded in 569. Charlemagne became king of Lombardy by conquest in 774, and Carolingian kings of Italy ruled until 962. But the Carolingian insistence on Roman (that is, Gregorian) chant was ineffective in Lombardy. At the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century, the many local variants of the Roman rite were standardized, but Milan (and the part of northern Italy that formed its archdiocese) was allowed to retain its rite because of its antiquity. Modern editions of Mass chants in 1935 and Vespers in 1939 (no morning office was published) vary from the medieval sources.

The sung proper parts of the mass (with corresponding Gregorian terms noted) are ingressa (introit), psalmellus (gradual), alleluia, a chant after the gospel, offertorium (offertory), confractorium (in place of the ordinary Agnus Dei) and transitorium (communion).

Some Links:

An illustration of a hymn attributed to Ambrose, Grates tibi, Iesu, novas:


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