Monday, April 13, 2009

"The Holy Week Weeping Tone"

Ever since I first heard it a few years ago, I've wondered about the change in tone at the end of the plainsong Sung Passion - after Jesus "gives up his spirit," or "breathes his last." It's very beautiful, and very affecting; I wasn't quite sure of its significance, but I just learned that it is called "The Planctus Tone."

In the video below, the weeping tone begins at around 20:20, with the phrase, "After this, Joseph of Arimathea...."

Here's one in Latin; it's just the Planctus Tone section.

You can see what the notes look like in the first video above - or you can open this PDF of the Passion according to Luke, notated for singing, from Grace Church in Newark. There's a note on page 20, after Jesus commends his spirit to God, and breathes his last, that says, "Then the Chronista sings the conclusion of the Passion Gospel to the Planctus tone:" - and the tone change starts on page 21.

Under "Planctus" at Wikipedia, you find this:
A planctus is a lament, or song or poem which expresses grief or mourning. It became a popular form in the Middle ages, when they were written both in Latin and the vernacular. A number of varieties have been identified by Peter Dronke. From the 9th century, they include dirges for the dead, particularly for royals or heroes, vernacular laments sung by women, Germanic songs of exile and journeying, and fictional planctus on biblical or classical themes. From the 12th century he identifies laments of the Virgin Mary (called a planctus Mariae) and complaintes d'amour (complaints of love).[1]

The earliest planctus for which music survives are from the 10th century, from manuscripts associated with the abbey of Saint Martial at Limoges. The earliest know, the Planctus de obitu Karoli, was composed around 814 on the death of Charlemagne.[2] From the mid-thirteenth century survives an early Catalan Marian lament, Augats, seyós qui credets Déu lo Payre. Or simply a complaint poem with 27 lines and 8 syllables in each line with alliteration in each line.

See what you can learn hanging around on internet forums?

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