Gregorian Rhythm Wars contains all previous installments of our series.
Please refer to our Chant Glossary for definitions of unfamiliar terms.
E ARE IN AGREEMENT that there is an official edition, with its own rhythm, which is more or less how chant was sung for many centuries, and I said so directly in part 3 of this series. Why belabor a point that hasn’t been disputed? I stated my thesis as clearly as possible at the beginning of part 2: “I will defend the position that these chants [of the Proper of the Mass] are composed with a combination of long and short notes in 2:1 proportion.” In part 8, Professor Weaver accurately summarized the essential difference in the approaches advocated by myself and Mr. Ostrowski: “Williams prefers the signs of the ninth and tenth centuries, while Ostrowski (like Pothier) takes a view that encompasses more and later sources.” To put it another way, and in practical terms: Mr. Ostrowski wants the episemata (long marks) of the Solesmes editions to be disregarded, whereas I want more long notes to be observed than are marked in those editions—and as double proportions, not slight nuances. I am interested in singing chant with the same rhythm it had at the time of the oldest extant MSS, prior to the rhythmic deterioration mentioned by the medieval writers, which Mr. Ostrowski trivializes by continuing to level the unfounded charge of belief in mass hallucination. He quoted and addressed the first two sentences of my paragraph with the heading “Unnecessary Magical Thinking” (part 2) but ignored the rest of what I wrote there. Our readers deserve to see the real issue dealt with fairly and honestly, according to the evidence.
Take Another Look! • How anyone can consider the form of the clivis (flex) at iniquitates to be identical with the two at propitiatio in 1087cluniacensem|1087, StMaur|1079, and 857noyon|1057 (here I reproduce the style of labeling used by Mr. Ostrowski) is beyond comprehension. Note that iniquitates, not observaveris, was the specific example addressed in my Facebook comment—Mr. Ostrowski’s backtracking notwithstanding. I am admittedly not as tech savvy as Mr. Ostrowski, but here is a clumsy side-by-side comparison of the clivis at iniquitates with the second one at propitiatio for each of those three MSS. Do the two neumes look identical to you?
Anyone can see that none of those three MSS uses the same neume at both words. Nowhere did I claim that the second form is long in those three sources, only that the two forms are not identical, as demonstrated above.
The Long and Short of It • As for Auvergne and Limoges, I am admittedly no expert on those two MSS, but I see what appears to be a cephalicus, corresponding to a cursive clivis, at -ser- of observaveris, and also at the end of apud. At least in Limoges, the last syllable of Israel (israhel) is written with exactly the same form of the clivis as the two at propitiatio (propiciacio), with no written indication of further lengthening, yet those notes at Israel are sung long (doubled):
I bring this example up only to point out the inconsistency with which the same sign is interpreted even in pure Vatican edition equalism, and not to make a further argument, but I believe this suffices to answer question 1 (“11 November A”) from part 6. As for Chartres 47, which was destroyed in World War II, the facsimile of the MS is illegible at the beginning of iniquitatem [sic]. Let’s compare -be-/-ve- of observaberis/observaveris instead:
They are not the same! Mr. Ostrowski asked for evidence demonstrating that he’s wrong, and there it is. In fact, I already covered precisely this example in part 2, under the paragraph heading “Comparing Other Sources.” Furthermore, he evidently still has me mistaken for a disciple of Dom Cardine, which is emphatically not the position I took in part 3.
The Meaning of the Episema • In early MSS of the St. Gall family, the episema is used interchangeably with the letter t and corresponds to non-cursive writing in Laon and other sources, which is abundantly clear in the examples I posted in part 2. As Mr. Ostrowski explained in part 1, the letter t means tarditas, trahere, tenere, or tene, all of which signify lengthening (slow down, draw out, hold). Is that not evidence enough that those notes are indeed longer? Moreover, does the consistency with which long notes are marked in the oldest MSS (presented in part 2), from 300 miles apart, not point to a uniform rhythmic tradition in the tenth century? In the Solesmes editions, the significance of the episema is explained in the “Rules for Interpretation,” not the preface, but since the preface to the Vatican edition has been mentioned in parts 4, 7, 8, and Mr. Ostrowski’s previous post, I would like to note that its authorship by Wagner is not universally admitted. In Peter Jeffery’s very informative article on “The New Chantbooks from Solesmes,” he attributes the preface, including the rubrics,* to Pothier, not Wagner, in notes 39 and 103.
Backward Methodology • I have articulated my firm opinion that MSS from the second half of the eleventh century and later are, categorically, not reliable for discerning the original rhythm, and I fear we are already talking past each other with continued discussion of such sources. Does it make more sense to judge later MSS and editions in light of the oldest extant sources, or to judge the oldest sources in light of later MSS? Perhaps we can now move on from propitiatio to est. I already posed my challenge in part 2, but I reiterate it here: Show me a long note at the end of est from any MS—just not Lagal please! On what basis does the Vatican edition add a bar line after est? Does the neumatic sign there differ in any way from the one at the first syllable of quia?
Let’s Be Honest • Mr. Ostrowski seems to be developing a habit of reading unnecessary complications into things that are actually straightforward. In a recent article for another site, he cited a Church document in order to advocate a practice directly forbidden not only by that same document, but by the very paragraph he cited—namely, the singing of English hymns during High Mass in the traditional Latin rite. Now he is portraying the Pietras dubia and response as ambiguous, even though the mention of the so-called methods of Eugène Cardine and Marcel Pérès leave little doubt as to the scope of permissible (or at least tolerated) chant interpretations. Do Pérès or the semiologists sing according to the rhythm of either the pure Vatican or Solesmes editions? Emphatically not! Does Pérès even follow the notes of the Vatican edition? I’m not sure I’ve heard a single recording of his where there was not some deviation from the melody of the Vatican edition, but please correct me if such a recording exists. Now let’s look at the examples. In the interest of the brevity requested of me, I will let the comparison below speak for itself, without further comment.
*The 1908 Graduale Romanum included a rubric directing the Sanctus and Benedictus to be sung as a single movement, without separation, but only a year later, Sacred Congregation of Rites decree no. 4243 upheld the previous practice of singing the Benedictus, whether chant or polyphony, only after the Elevation of the Chalice. That decree was superseded by De musica sacra et sacra liturgia 27d (1958) and the revised rubrics printed in subsequent editions of the Graduale, both pre- and post-Conciliar, which require the Gregorian Sanctus and Benedictus to be sung without a break.