Western Plainchant: A Handbook—An Audio Review with Fr. Jerome Weber

A note for non-members: During this crisis, we are honored to make our "classic" shows available to any who wishes to listen.

No membership is required. Simply click the "play" button below to listen and enjoy this classic show.

To view more of our classic shows (from 2000 and earlier), click here.

Program: #94-23, Air Date: 06/06/94

NOTE: Frequent guest commentator Fr. Jerome Weber of Fanfare Magazine joins us to discuss the publication of the volume Western Plainchant: A Handbook by David Hiley from Oxford University Press. Many recordings were used to illustrate aspects both of chant and this excellent text, many from Fr. Weber’s personal collection.

Preservation of this program is made possible by a generous grant in memory of Paul Longacre.

 
Cover for 

Western Plainchant
 
 
 
Plainchant is the oldest substantial body of music that has been preserved in any shape or form. It was first written down in Western Europe in the eighth to ninth centuries. Many thousands of chants have been sung at different times or places in a multitude of forms and styles, responding to the differing needs of the church through the ages. This book provides a clear and concise introduction, designed both for those to whom the subject is new and those who require a reference work for advanced study. It begins with an explanation of the liturgies that plainchant was designed to serve. It describes all the chief genres of chant, different types of liturgical book, and plainchant notations. After an exposition of early medieval theoretical writing on plainchant, Hiley provides a historical survey that traces the constantly changing nature of the repertory. He also discusses important musicians and centers of composition. Copiously illustrated with over 200 musical examples, this book highlights the diversity of practice and richness of the chant repertory in the Middle Ages. It will be an indispensable introduction and reference source on this important music for many years to come.
 
(from Joan Halmo:)  In this important study, Hiley arranges a vast array of material into eleven chapters. Chapter 1 provides the details necessary to understand the structure of the major liturgical services, the Church's calendar, and some special aspects of Christian worship. The next chapter describes and differentiates among the principal genres of chant, their forms and styles, and their place in the complex scheme of worship in the Roman rite; and Chapter 3 gives an overview of the liturgical books themselves. The first and third chapters in particular, with their up-to-date liturgical perspective, will be of assistance to musicologists and others who work with manuscripts and the chants they contain, but who may not have had the opportunity to take systematic training in liturgy. The second chapter, by examining and documenting thoroughly the many kinds of pieces within the chant repertoire, serves as a kind of encyclopedic catalogue: over 240 pages long, this section is in itself a valuable resource for the standard medieval chant repertoire for Mass and Office, as well as other genres such as liturgical drama and Latin liturgical songs.

Hiley examines next the matter of notation, its origins, and its evolution into the various families used in the manuscripts of Western Europe. He gives careful attention to the controversial issue of rhythmic elements in notation, and elaborates on notational systems, from those given in theoretical treatises of the Middle Ages to that used in printed chant-books from the fifteenth century onward. The discussion is supplemented by fine plates of chant manuscripts which demonstrate the diversity of notation in different regions and periods of development.

A group of chapters focuses particularly on the historical dimensions of chant and its development. In Chapter 5, Hiley reviews the major theoretical writings of the Middle Ages which apply to chant, especially in regard to how chant repertoire related to the Greek system of pitch and in regard to modality. Chapter 6 sketches aspects surrounding the emergence of chant up to the earliest recorded sources of the eighth century, and Chapter 7 recounts some of the stages in the establishment of Roman chant in the Frankish kingdom during the Carolingian period. A comparative survey of chant repertoires of the various liturgical families occupies Chapter 8, and a group of richly informative historical vignettes called "Persons and Places" comprises Chapter 9.

Analytical Table xii

xxx

Plainchant in the Liturgy

1

Chant Genres

46

1 Antiphon themes or prototype melodies

91

Ex I

118

Alleluias

130

iii Rhymed Alleluias and Late Medieval Melodies

136

Chants for the Ordinary of Mass

148

Plates

346

Frontispiece ii

406

London British Library Harley 110

412

Oxford Bodleian Library Canonici liturg 350

419

London British Library Add 10335

426

London British Library Add 17302

432

Edinburgh University Library 33

438

Plainchant and Early Music Theory

442

 

 

Gloria in excelsis Deo

156

Agnus Dei

165

Sequences

172

Tropes

196

Ex I

197

Ex I

211

1 Tropes for the Easter introit Resurrexi in Winchester sources

217

Ex

245

Ex 11

267

Liturgical Books and Plainchant Sources

287

1 Interlocking Temporale and Sanctorale in Roman use

300

NOTATION

340

Plainchant up to the Eighth Century

478

The Carolingian Century

514

Gregorian Chant and Other Chant Repertories

524

Gallican Chant

552

Conclusions

560

Persons and Places

563

REFORMATIONS OF GREGORIAN CHANT

608

Figure

620

The Restoration of Medieval Chant

622

Index of Text and Music Incipits

631

Index of Manuscript and Printed Sources

638