02/10/14 The Medieval Era: Gregorian Chant

“A Little Bird Told Me”

Pope Gregory I
Roman, lived 540-604, became pope in 590
Gregorian chant, a large collection of sacred music, is named for him
Composed by many contributors over time, but considered divinely inspired

Use: Liturgy of the Hours, a set of daily prayers recited by monks and nuns in monasteries and convents.

They prayed A LOT: up to 8 times a day, every 3 hours:
– Matins (during the night); also called Vigils or Nocturns
– Lauds or Dawn Prayer (at Dawn, or 3 a.m.)
– Prime or Early Morning Prayer (First Hour = approximately 6 a.m.)
– Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (Third Hour = approximately 9 a.m.)
– Sext or Midday Prayer (Sixth Hour = approximately 12 noon)
– None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Ninth Hour = approximately 3 p.m.)
– Vespers or Evening Prayer (“at the lighting of the lamps”, generally at 6 p.m.)
– Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring, generally at 9 p.m.)

Every hour includes recitation of psalms, in a cycle that uses all 150 over a period of time

Also had Mass every day, with five sections:
– Kyrie Eleison: “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy”
– Gloria: a song of praise
– Credo: recitation of basic beliefs
– Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy”
– Agnus Dei: “Lamb of God… grant us peace”

Schedule for St. Gregory’s Abbey, Three Rivers, Michigan
Schedule at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Trappist, Kentucky

Why is this important to classical music in general?
– Led to development of of modern music notation (more below)
– Composers in all eras of classical music, including the current one, would use and/or be influenced by the texts and melodies of chant, and the structure of the Liturgy of the Hours.
– Settings of the Mass were performed in religious services, and later as concert works

Musical characteristics:
– Monophonic texture
– Mostly conjunct/stepwise motion: related to origin as a kind of musical speech
– Narrow range: usually about an octave

Initially an oral tradition: melodies were learned by ear and memorized, but notation became necessary as the number of melodies grew — eventually to more than 3000! Collected in a very thick book called the Liber Usualis, or “common book,” 1900 pages long.

Origins of modern music notation:
– Began as marks above text
Early Neume notation
– Developed into neumes (from Greek pneuma, meaning breath)
Neumes to modern notation

Three types of text-setting:
Syllabic: one note per syllable
Neumatic: a few notes per syllable
Melismatic: many notes per syllable

Illuminated chant manuscript:

Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179, Germany
Nun, Abbess, polymath, later made a Saint

Hildegard: Alleluia, o virga mediatrix

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