View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gregorian Chant was ... Contemporary Liturgical Music!

Curious about the history of Gregorian Chant, I dug out a few books I have about the house.

I found in numerous sources the same basic bits of information: Chant (Gregorian is the form of chant that came to dominate Catholic hymnody) developed out of a variety of sources and with various ethnic flavorings, and sometimes employed popular and secular tunes.

Music the people would have known, with which they were comfortable.

"... Christian chant appears, however, to have been drawn from the ritual music of the Jewish synagogue and from secular tunes of the time."

"... set their lyrics to popular tunes, rather than compose original melodies."

"But later sequence texts were metrical poetry, with a melody adapted from the Alleluia or from a popular tune ... St Thomas Aquinas, for example, set his sequence for the new feast of Corpus Christi to a popular tune by Adam de la Halle."

"St. Thomas Aquinas wrote not only Lauda Sion (adapting music from a popular song by Adam de la Halle) ... "

Interesting. So Gregorian Chant was in effect contemporary liturgical music! Employing some contemporary musical styles.

And there was debate even then over what style was more appropriate for use in liturgy.

As I'm sure there will be debate when our great-great-grandchildren are sitting in the pews singing the hymns of their day.


Blogger Ben Anderson said...

Interesting find on the FUS video and interesting insight in this post. I suppose either a rebuttal or acquiescence is due. I am willing to acquiesce if I'm wrong, but not w/out further research :-) (especially since the majority of orthodox voices have come to a different conclusion than you). I probably won't have time to delve into it for a few weeks or so, but you have my word I'll give you one or the other... eventually :-)

It's been a most enjoyable debate thus far - they way debate should be done. Perhaps both the view-from-the-choir-haters and the cf-haters could learn a thing or two. Of course, we've talked past each other a few times, but that's only helped us narrow it down.


9:33 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

And as for me, school meetings start Monday. Back to work.

Don't forget to come to Church Rocks next Friday night. You can hear me sing off key!

9:59 AM  
Blogger ben said...

I'm not sure if I aught to even respond. but... I'm not sure what your sources are but here it goes.

Gregorian is the family of chant that came to dominate the Roman liturgy, it is not hymnody. (If were talking about the Mass their are no hymns they are foreign, if the office they are the very late the very last thing to become part of the office. if your going to talk about chant hymns are a side note.)

"employed popular and secular tunes" you would haft to be specific, perhaps this is true in the case of very late compositions(hymns, sequences and tropes, most of which have been suppressed) We know very little of the origin of the bulk of chant, its a product of the liturgy and predates musical notation by at least hundreds of years.

"music the people would have known" this is your conclusion and it fits what your view, but with the exceptions I've noted isn't.

"."..chant ..drawn from Jewish Synagogue (thats one theory, most musicologists no longer hold it)and from secular tunes" adapting tunes can only really be done with metrical music in other words the examples I mentioned above.

Yes the church has had nothing but problems with adapting secular usages within her liturgy.Secular forms must be altered to make them different. Italk about this in several posts here

Anyway while I disagree with you on the subject of rock masses. I should say that I'm personally opposed to the classical "concert Masses" for the same reasons I'm against the Rock of folk Mass. I know you intend well, God bless you

12:36 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

I found those quotes and others in various sources, including a Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia!

2:17 PM  

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