Thursday, August 24, 2006

Psalm Tones: Tone 8

Below is an image of Tone 8 in the old square-note notation; the main melody is labeled "VIII"), and it's followed by three different possible endings, labeled "G," G*," and "c."      (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 8 in modern notation, with only one ending, 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 singers in the mp3 below are using ending G shown above, which is the same as the one ending shown below in the modern notation.)

(The notes of the chant melody pictured here - it's Lutheran-style - are slightly different, in a couple of places, 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 93 sung to Tone 8 by the St. David's Episcopal Church, Austin, Compline Choir.       The mp3 includes an antiphon (text:  "Mighty is the Lord who dwells on high") 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:  Mighty is the Lord who dwells on high

1 The LORD is King;
he has put on splendid apparel; *
the LORD has put on his apparel
and girded himself with strength.

2 He has made the whole world so sure *
that it cannot be moved;

3 Ever since the world began, your throne has been established; *
you are from everlasting.

4 The waters have lifted up, O LORD,
the waters have lifted up their voice; *
the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

5 Mightier than the sound of many waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea, *
mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

6 Your testimonies are very sure, *
and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,
for ever and for evermore.

Antiphon:  Mighty is the Lord who dwells on high

(Here's an even older look at the square-note notation for Tone 8, courtesy of the Order of St. Benedict;  you can see its three endings here, too - along with an alternate for the chant itself.  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:


onions_are_growing said...

Oh my goodness this is so fantastic. I've been looking and looking for somewhere with a list of chant tones and mp3s. I love chanting morning and evening prayer but don't know where to begin nor the proper tones. Thank you thank you! Bless you in your geekery !!

bls said...

You are welcome - hope this helps. Keep singing! :-)


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