Here you will find my repetitive rants about the liturgy, hymnody, chant, and lack of such.
Friday, September 30, 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
nerdy organ ramblings
The organ tuner finally got called in today, and I have a feeling he'll be occupying the auditorium for quite a while. The instrument was beginning to sound quite horrendous.
Now, at 99 ranks and 5 manuals, this particular instrument is quite large. As a result of its size, whenever the weather changes, it gets thrown out. Of course, the loud reeds which are necessary for my French Baroque organ pieces went out first. Ever heard an out of tune Krummhorn? It's not pretty. When the mixtures don't match the Principals, that's not pretty either. When the Trompette goes out, it's positively hell-like.
Maybe it'll ruin my hearing, but I like to play with full registrations, and when those full registrations make you cringe, the tuner seems like a god.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
In the words of the Psalmist...
Meaningless, meaningless, it is all meaningless....a chasing after the wind.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Moses with horns
When St. Jerome was translating the Bible into Latin, he got to the part where Moses descends from the mountain shining with God's light. Looking at the Hebrew texts and finding that "light" and "horns" were spelled the same way, he figured it was unbecoming for a mortal to be shining with Divine Light, and therefore the passage is translated "horns". As a result, for your viewing pleasure:
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
History repeats itself...
Today, a person from the organ studio, a member of the LCMS, gave a presentation to us organists on church music and the worship wars. (This presentation will also be given at the LCMS gathering in Orlando.) As a result of this information, I've come to the conclusion that it's Orthodoxy vs. Pietism all over again. There is nothing new under the sun...
(Kill the pietists! Burn em!)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
I guess I've been lucky enough to avoid it until now. The church service had gone quite well until we reached the closing hymn. Shine Jesus Shine played on the pipe organ. As if the choice of that particular song wasn't enough, it had to be played on the least suitable instrument for it, making it sound like a herd of elephants. Rest assured, I raised quite a fuss.
Friday, September 09, 2005
I never thought I'd see the day...
Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine, has been fired over a scandal with the privatization of companies. So have the rest of the cabinet. She's now been pushed into Yushchenko's opposition, and she's working independently, not in cahoots with the Russians. I'd say that as the people's sweetheart, she has a likely chance of winning the next election.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Chant was the preferred form of music during the Middle Ages, an era spanning roughly 482 - 1497 AD. The most popularized form of this chant is Gregorian Chant, which was standardized in the 11th century.
During the 9th and 10th centuries, there were as many variations in styles of chant as there were regions. Each region of Europe had its own standard. During this era, a musician had a rather hard time learning his stuff, as the staff had not yet been developed. Instead, they used a system similar to that of the Ancient Greeks, in that directions called nuemes were written above the text. These nuemes would indicate what direction to go in, but not what interval. As a result, this notation was only used to aid the memory, but the actual music was passed down orally. Each region, in addition to having its own chants, also had its own set of nuemes. For example:
- Milan: Ambrosian
- Italy: Beneventen
- Germany: St. Gallen
- England: Sarum (Salisbury Chant)
- France: Gallican
- Spain: Visigothic
By the 11th century, the style known as Gregorian Chant had become the standard in the western Church. The origin of it is not truly known, but it is attributed by legend to Pope Gregory, who reigned from 590 - 604. Every single prayer, office, and text of the Mass had been set to the chant, and was collected in a huge volume known as the Liber Visualis. This was made possible by the development of notation, specifically, the four line staff. The origin of this staff is held by legend to have come from the Guidonian Hand.
The Guidonian Hand was developed by Guido of Arezzo. This (in)famous monk was the bloke who developed the system of solfegge, which is the bane of music students today. Solfegge assigns a syllable to each note. Thus, the first note of the scale is "ut", second is "re", and so on. There was no "ti", as this note participate in the interval known as a tritone (also known as Devil's Tone), which was the bane of medieval composers. He would thus tell his singer which tone to sing by pointing to one of his fingers, each of which had a syllable assigned to it. Four fingers = four lines in the staff, or so the story goes.
All of these thousands of chants are based on 8 Church Modes, or scales. (follow image link)
In the absence of rhythmic notation, the rhythm is completely based on the text. The 3 main types of rhythmic chant are interwoven in one piece.
- Syllabic: One syllable per note
- Neumatic: 5 - 6 notes per syllable
- Melismatic: many notes per syllable
The Melisma is a very technical subset of chant, usually placed on the last syllable of an "Alleluia", and was a chance for the scribes to show their prowess in composition. To act as a memory aid for remembering these Melismas, the scribes wrote religious poetry, extraliturgical, which was sung to the same notes. These poems were commonly used as additions to the liturgy. The use of the Melisma was abolished in the Council of Trent, because all the poetry was obscuring the message of the Service.
The Daily Office was sung only in monasteries and convents. Each office consists of an Antiphon and several Psalms. The Antiphon was sung to standard chant settings, while the Psalms were recited using a Psalm tone. In a Psalm tone, or reciting tone, the main text is sung on one note only, while the end of the phrase uses a cadence, very similar to the settings in Lutheran hymnals.
Liturgical dramas, or morality plays, were exactly what they sound like. They were incorporated into the liturgy to teach a moral to the common rabble. Being almost completely sung (except for the devil, who just drones, being tainted and unable to comprehend the purity of music), liturgical dramas were the precursor of opera.
The most famous of these plays is the Ordo virtutum, written by Hildegard von Bingen, a German mystic, in 1151. This play was, in fact, an extraliturgical work, written to commemorate the founding of her convent in 1150. There are two sets of characters, the Virtues, which were usually associate with women and were played by women:
And the acting roles:
- Happy soul
- Unhappy soul
- Militant Christ
This set of characters was very common in morality plays. Probably the most identifying feature of the music in this particular one is the drone behind the chant, which was causes by a sort of organ, which had 2 pedals connect to 2 pipes, in tone a Perfect 5th apart.
In a nutshell, Gregorian Chant rocks and you should all listen to it. Now children, who wants to learn about polyphony? ;-)