Friday, May 02, 2008

"Gregorian chanting 'can reduce blood pressure and stress'"

From this article:
Stress levels could be reduced simply by participating in some Gregorian chanting, researchers claimed today.

Dr Alan Watkins, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London, revealed that teaching people to control their breathing and applying the musical structure of chanting can help their emotional state.

He said: "We have recently carried out research that demonstrates that the regular breathing and musical structure of chanting can have a significant and positive physiological impact."

The research involved five monks having their heart rate and blood pressure measured throughout a 24-hour period.

Results showed their heart rate and blood pressure dipped to its lowest point in the day when they were chanting.

Dr Watkins pointed to previous studies that also demonstrated such practices have been shown to lower blood pressure, increase performance hormone levels as well as reduce anxiety and depression.

The lecturer also runs Cardiac Coherence Ltd, a company that helps executives perform under stressful conditions.

He said: "The control of the breathing, the feelings of wellbeing that communal singing bring, and the simplicity of the melodies, seem to have a powerful effect on reducing blood pressure and therefore stress."

"We have found that teaching individuals to control their breathing, generate more positive emotional states and connect better with those around them – all key aspects of Gregorian chanting – can significantly improve their mental state, reduce tension, and increase their efficiency in the workplace."

Record company Universal recently chose the monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, Vienna to make an album after responding to a public interest in the genre.

The company also believes the Halo computer game series, available on PCs and Xbox consoles, sparked a resurgence in the music traditionally sung in male church choirs, as Gregorian chant-like melodies form the main soundtrack of the games.

Well, we already knew that....


Anonymous said...

Hi, this is a general question not keyed to your post today, but I thought you would be a good person to ask. I've been looking for a decent all-in-one book for English renderings of Hymns and Antiphons with chant notation, and I thought you might have some advice since you seem familiar with the literature. Usually, I sing Matins and Evensong using the Saint Dunstan's Psalter, which I got based on your and Derek Olsen's recommendation. I've enjoyed that book very much, and as a result have been considering getting a copy of the Monastic Diurnal Noted, but I wanted to check first to find out if there are other options worth considering.

At this stage I'm just looking for seasonal hymns and antiphons with chant notation that I can memorize and plug into the Anglican offices. So far I have been using your site, but it would be nice to have it all in one book. I know there are many breviaries out there, but the MDN is the only noted one I know much about, so I'd love to know whether there are other options worth considering, and I figured you might know.

Any reflections or advice would be most welcome. Thanks!

Derek B

bls said...

I don't know of any books of hymns, actually; it seems to be the one thing that's really been neglected. OTOH, the reason I do this online is so that I can post sound files; I wanted a resource for people to actually hear the tunes so they could learn them by hearing them.

What I'm trying to say is that the only place I know offline to find these hymns is at monastic communities - but none sell the hymns. I don't know of any breviary that includes them - and actually that makes a bit of sense because Anglican communities have only existed again since 1850 or so, so everything has essentially had to be reconstructed. See this page at St. Mary's East for more about that.

Two of the resources linked in the "Hymnody" section might be of interest to you, though: Hymn Melodies for the Whole Year from the Sarum Service Books and The Hymner: Containing Translations of the Hymns from the Sarum Breviary, both at Google Books. You need the second to supplement the first, which gives only the chant scores and not the words.

These are excellent resources - except that the words don't come with the scores! You'll have to merge them somehow. And "Hymn Melodies for the Whole Year from the Sarum Service Books" is a bit weird to get used to at first; the hymns are listed by Season and Saints' Days and Office in the front, with a number matched to each hymn name. That number indicates which chant score (not which page number!) in the back to use. It's not hard, just confusing for a few minutes. But as a bonus, it lists many Sequence Hymns in the back!

I have just searched online for a book like this - you'd think one would exist, wouldn't you? - but still haven't found anything. I suppose it makes sense in a time when vocations to the religious life are tiny, and since Anglican religious orders are even tinier; there's not much call for these, I guess. But if you can read square notes, "Hymn Melodies," plus the Hymner, will allow you to sing the correct hymns for the offices.

I hope this makes sense, and that it will help you at least a little. Meantime, I'll continue to search the web....

bls said...

I forgot to talk about antiphons.

I'm fairly sure the Monastic Diurnal includes antiphons and chant scores; I've been to the convent and I think I remember seeing that. I don't have a copy of the book, though, but I'm sure the sisters would be happy to answer this question if you emailed them.

So then, if you got the Diurnal, and printed out and massaged the Google Books I mentioned above, you'd have everything you need, I think. I think Derek is working on merging the two Google books electronically right now, in fact; you might want to ask him about that.

Again, I hope this helps a bit.

bls said...

One more thing. If you look at this page, you'll see descriptions of the contents of the St. Mary's Monastic Diurnal Revised.

Here's one such description: "The Proper of Seasons contains all the variable parts of the Office for the seasons of the Church Year according to the usage of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (Except for the proper offices of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, which are found in a separate Volume II). Rubrics provide detailed directions for use. An Ordinary of the Season is provided for the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Paschaltide."

Which would sort of indicate that hymns are included - but I don't remember seeing them. Again, an email question to the sisters would clear this up, I'm sure.

(I'm assuming this is the Monastic Diurnal you're talking about! Maybe not, though?)

bls said...

Ah, I just realized you're probably talking about the other Monastic Diurnal, which I'd forgotten about completely. (I'll have to put up a post here about that one, now that I think of it.)

I don't have that book, either, though, sorry. Maybe Derek does, and could advise you?

Sorry for the misunderstanding. But at least now you have a couple of different options.)


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