Thursday, August 24, 2006

Psalm Tones: Tonus Peregrinus

Below is an image of the Tonus Peregrinus 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 the Tonus Peregrinus in modern notation from the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood Psalmody Page (they call it "Tone 9," actually).  The stuff in the parenthesis is the "flex," used for 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.)   

Follow along with either notation, while listening to an mp3 of Psalm 114 sung to the Tonus Peregrinus, again taken from the LLBP Psalmody page.     The mp3 includes an antiphon (text:  "Tremble thou earth at the presence of the Lord, the God of Jacob") 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 mp3 is the King James Version:
Antiphon:  Tremble thou earth at the presence of the Lord, the God of Jacob

1 When Israel went out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;

2 Judah was his sanctuary,
and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea saw it, and fled:
Jordan was driven back.

4 The mountains skipped like rams,
and the little hills like lambs.

5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?
thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?

6 ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams;
and ye little hills, like lambs?

7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob;

8 which turned the rock into a standing water,
the flint into a fountain of waters.

Antiphon:  Tremble thou earth at the presence of the Lord, the God of Jacob

(Here's an even older look at the square-note notation for the TP, 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.

At Sunday Vespers, Psalm 114 is sung using this tone; it's the only time I've ever heard it used in the Divine Office. The name, of course, means "Wandering Tone" (literally, "Pilgrim Tone"), and it's fitting to use it to sing Psalm 114, since it describes Israel's flight from Egypt. (At the Vespers I attend, Psalm 115 - "Non nobis, Domine" - is tacked on to 114.) This is also the only tone in which the intonation is sung at every Psalm verse. The tune is very old, according to this page that seems to have something to do with Boston Camerata:
The synagogue gave to the Early Christian church some of its ancient melodies; the recitation formula of the psalm B'tset Yisrael ("When Israel went forth out of Egypt"), for example, survives in the Gregorian chant repertoire as the tonus peregrinus. It is thanks to a Christian that we have the oldest surviving example of written-down Jewish music, the beautiful Eulogy of Moses.

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

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