Thursday, July 27, 2006

Psalm Tones: Tone 4

Below are images of Tone 4 in the old square-note notation; notice that there is a main melody (labeled "IV"), with two possible endings (labeled "g" and "E"), and also an alternate melody (labeled "IV alt" - although as far as I can see it's actually just the same melody as "IV", displayed on a different line of the score), with four possible endings (labeled "c," "A," "A*," and "d").    (Keep in mind that chant notation can be difficult to read if you're not used to it - but picking up the Psalm Tone melodies by ear is actually quite easy.  That's the way I learned, and I recommend it highly.  You'll find an audio file (mp3) of the chant further down the page - and there are links to all the Tones at the bottom of this post.)

Here's an image of Tone 4, without endings and in modern notation, from the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood Psalmody Page.      The stuff in the parenthesis is the "flex," sung in the first half of the Psalm for a particularly long verse; it's rarely used, so you can safely ignore it for now.  Remember, too, that the "incipit" - the notes in the very first measure - are only used once, when singing the first verse; for all subsequent verses, skip directly to the "reciting tone," which is the first note of the second measure, used until you get to the end of the line.  (The "reciting tone" is the repetitive note in the chant; it's indicated on the score by the dark, heavy doubled note.)  Don't worry too much about endings now, either; you can easily pick that stuff up as you go.

(Keep in mind that this is Lutheran style Psalm-singing; the melodies are slightly different from those pictured in the images above.)

Follow along with either notation, while listening to an mp3 of Psalm 113 sung to Tone 4 (he's using ending "A" above) from the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood Psalmody page.   The mp3 includes an antiphon (text:  "Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore") sung before and after the Psalm; don't be confused by the antiphon's melody, which is completely different from that of the Psalm Tone.   Remember:  it's quite easy to pick up these melodies by ear, so don't be discouraged!  Just keep listening and singing.

The translation is the King James Version:
Antiphon:  Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore

1 Praise ye the LORD.
Praise, O ye servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.

2 Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time forth and for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun
unto the going down of the same
the LORD's name is to be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like unto the LORD our God,
who dwelleth on high,

6 who humbleth himself to behold
the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!

7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,
and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill;

8 that he may set him with princes,
even with the princes of his people.

9 He maketh the barren woman to keep house,
and to be a joyful mother of children.
Praise ye the LORD.

Antiphon:  Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore

(Here's an even older look at the square-note notation for Tone 4, courtesy of the Order of St. Benedict;  you can see its two possible melodic interpretations, and its total of five possible endings, here as well.  These charts are quite a bit more confusing, though, I think - so look at it later, after you've gotten more of the hang of the thing by singing:


Here is a good, one-page tutorial on chant notation. On the left is the old Gregorian style; on the right is modern musical notation.

In my opinion, one of the most important things to know - and one of the only things you can't figure out on your own without hearing the music - is the "podatus." Here it is, first in Gregorian notation:

As the tutorial says: "When one note is written above another note like this, the bottom note is sung first, and then the note above it." Here's the modern notation:

That one is used over and over again, and many other neume-types are created from it.

Gregorian melodies are written on a staff of four lines and three spaces (as opposed to modern music, which is written on a staff of five lines and four spaces). The notes indicated on the lines or in the spaces of the staff represent those of the sol-fa system (the usual do re mi deal). The sol-fa scale consists of eight notes comprising an octave; each of the eight notes is one whole tone from the one before it, except for fa and do, which are only a half-tone higher than mi and ti respectively. This is the regular major "doe-a-deer" scale; nothing complicated about it, really.

The notation uses one of two clefs to designate either do or fa on the staff. These are moveable and not fixed as they are in modern notation: the do clef may appear on the second, third, or fourth line from the bottom (but is usually found on the third or fourth); the fa clef may appear on the third or fourth line (but most often on the third):

The choice and position of clef are determined by the range of the melody. A particular clef is chosen and located so that the melody will fit conveniently within the lines of the staff. It all sounds very complicated, but really it's done simply for convenience. One more interesting point: there are no sharps in Gregorian Chant, and only one note - ti - may be flatted. When it is, it's called te instead.

Below are some staffs that show the various positions of the clefs and their influence on the notes:

Here are Chantblog pages for all the Psalm Tones, with sound files included at each entry:

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