Thursday, July 27, 2006

Psalm Tones: Tone 5

Below is an image of Tone 5 in the old square-note notation   (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 5 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.) 

(The notes of the chant melody pictured here - it's Lutheran-style - are slightly different from what's on the audio file linked below.  There are regional and other variations in Psalm-singing.)

Follow along with either notation, while listening to an mp3 of Psalm 142 sung to Tone 5 by the St. David's Episcopal Church, Austin, Compline Choir.      The mp3 includes an antiphon (text:  "You are my refuge O Lord, my portion in the land of the living") 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 from the 1979 U.S. Book of Common Prayer:
Antiphon:  You are my refuge O Lord, my portion in the land of the living

1 I cry to the LORD with my voice; *
to the LORD I make loud supplication.

2 I pour out my complaint before him *
and tell him all my trouble.

3 When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path; *
in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.

4 I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me; *
I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.

5 I cry out to you, O LORD; *
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."

6 Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; *
save me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.

7 Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your Name; *
when you have dealt bountifully with me,
the righteous will gather around me.

Antiphon:  You are my refuge O Lord, my portion in the land of the living

(Here's an even older look at the square-note notation for Tone 5, courtesy of the Order of St. Benedict.  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.

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

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