Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Psalm Tones: Tone 7

Below is an image of Tone 7 in the old square-note notation; the main melody is labeled "VII," and there are five different possible endings that can be used (labeled "a," "b," "c," "c2," 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 7 in modern notation, without endings, 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.

The incipit is not used in the mp3 sample below; that's because the first line of the Psalm is very short, and the incipit is not needed.  So the singing begins with the large note at the start of the second measure.

Follow along with either notation, while listening to an mp3 of Psalm 8 sung to Tone 7 (they're using ending "b" above) by the St. David's Episcopal Church, Austin, Compline Choir.      The mp3 includes an antiphon (text:  "How exalted is your name O Lord in all the world") 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 on the audio file is from the 1979 U.S. Book of Common Prayer:

Antiphon:  How exalted is your name O Lord in all the world

1 O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children *
your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries, *
to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, *
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5 What is man that you should be mindful of him? *
the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but little lower than the angels; *
you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands; *
you put all things under his feet:

8 All sheep and oxen, *
even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, *
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor, *
how exalted is you Name in all the world!

Antiphon:  How exalted is your name O Lord in all the world

(Here's an even older look at the square-note notation for Tone 7, courtesy of the Order of St. Benedict;  you can see its five endings here, too.  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 some links that might be interesting to you:
  • Many topics of interest here, at the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood website: PDFs on "Psalm Tone Distribution Table—Only know one or two Psalm tones? Find the Psalms that use the tones you know by using this index"; "Seasonal Psalm Tones—These tones may be used when the Brotherhood Prayer Book does not specify any tone, such as for responsories and canticles in the Seasonal Propers, Saint’s Day Propers, and Common of Saints."; etc. And there's an interesting page full of "questions and comments" here.
  • Liturgica.com (where on this page you'll hear "The Kontakion of the Annunciation from Cycles of Grace," and of course don't forget to click around to listen to the many chant clips all over the site), a "new content" article titled The Return of Chant: Rediscovering the Church’s Musical Tradition. That one's about the Catholic Church, and the writers have also put up
  • Another page titled Sacred Music and Its Time: Articles on Liturgy, Chant, and polyphony. Lots of PDFs and text files there, too, again from the Catholic perspective.

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

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