IDS USED TO PLAY a game called TELEPHONE. They’d pass along a message and laugh at how distorted it became when the final child tried to repeat it. That’s what should have happened to Gregorian Chant as it was passed along over 1,500 years. However, through some inexplicable miracle, that’s not what happened. Even though plainsong melodies kept changing—since each monastery had its own singing style—the basic melodies never became unrecognizably corrupt (until they reached Guillaume Nivers). Even today, no scholar can explain this. It’s like each generation had access to a “primary source” … but we know they didn’t, because somebody over the last 1,500 years would surely have mentioned such a manuscript.1
This Sunday’s Introit • The Introit for this coming Sunday (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost) is Miserére Mihi Dómine. As part of an ongoing project, I took a few minutes and created a recording corresponding to the official rhythm:
Nobody Cares About This • I’m not sure anyone will care about this, but the Introit for the Friday before Palm Sunday (“Feria Sexta post Dominicam Passionis”) strongly resembles the one we just spoke about:
Ps. 30 vs Ps. 85 • The Introit from the 16th Sunday after Pentecost is from Psalm 80, whereas the other comes from Psalm 30. One is in Mode V while the other is in Mode VIII. Incidentally, in more recent times the “Friday before Palm Sunday” was replaced with a feast called The Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary (with Introit “Stabant Juxta Cruem Jesu”). Getting back to the topic at hand, some might believe one Miserére is a “corrupted” version of the other Miserére—but that’s not the case. As you can see, both go back centuries before music could even be written down:
* PDF Download • Comparison Between Introits
—16th Sunday after Pentecost VS. Friday before Palm Sunday.
The Most Difficult Thing • The hardest thing about memorizing music is not melodies that are identical. Rather, it’s melodies which are almost identical. The best example I can think of is Visiónem Quam Vidístis from the Feast of the Transfiguration.
1 If I had the time, I could easily demonstrate the truth of what I’ve just said—but such a demonstration will have to wait for another day.