N MY LAST POST, I mentioned liturgical recitative, giving the examples of the psalmody of the Divine Office, the prayers of the celebrant, and the readings. I would like to expound upon the significance of recitative and its notation. In classical music, recitative is employed in both opera and oratorio. It is a style of singing a text more or less in speech rhythm, with the notation indicating relatively long and short notes, not exact rhythmic proportions. (Sound familiar?) Its most basic and usual form is recitativo secco, dry recitative, accompanied rather sparingly by keyboard (harpsichord, organ, or even piano), often together with cello, or with lute and/or theorbo instead. Despite the time signature at the beginning of the movement, there is no discernible beat or tactus; it is in free rhythm and unmetered.
Brock McElheran, Conducting Technique for Beginners and Professionals, p. 111
Chanting or Singing? • Those who, without any etymological grounds, distinguish between chanting and singing usually mean some form of recitative by the term chanting. The simplest kind of liturgical recitative is as straightforward as possible: recto tono, which is the recitation of text on a single pitch (monotone). We’ll look at examples of how recitation on a single pitch is notated in the adiastematic neumes. In the Vatican edition, reciting tones are either notated with a separate note (square punctum) for each syllable, or else the plain text is printed without chant notation. In other editions, a note (either black or white/hollow) with vertical bars on either side may be used, or a sort of tractulus or punctum of double or triple width. In modern notation, a double whole note (breve) is often used in either of its two forms: a whole note with double vertical bars on each side, or a hollow rectangular note with a single vertical bar on either side. Alternatives in modern notation include a black double whole note or, especially in Anglican chant, a plain whole note. I was unable to determine how long these styles of notation have been in use. If a reader knows, I would be interested in learning this bit of history!
A Striking Example • Perhaps the most striking example of liturgical recitative in the choral Proper of the Mass occurs in the communion for the Friday after the fourth Sunday of Lent. Here is the version from the Graduale Novum (1.94), with horizontal episemata added to reflect the long notes indicated in the MSS; red marks are editorial:
As you compare the two sets of adiastematic neumes, consider what Fr. Vollaerts wrote about “the value of Laon 239”:
1. By distinguishing longs and shorts in syllabic passages, only Laon 239 has preserved intact a primitive tradition. Only this MS has saved from mutilation what has been dispersed over several other MSS as incomplete fragments of a crumbling tradition. Only in Laon 239 has this tradition remained intact.
Since Laon as a whole, corresponds completely and positively with all the other MSS together, it would be patently absurd to suppose that this MS does not maintain the tradition.
2. It is evident that for its ‘noting’ of syllabic passages, Laon is superior to the other complete documents (we possess only eight Nonantolian pages); Laon is accurate, and at the same time the only MS which is accurate.
Shortly, it will be proved that this evaluation applies also to the manner in which the Laon MS clearly indicates a long sound by means of its virga, and in contrast, a short sound by its point. 
Can we disagree? Here is an edition substituting a barred hollow note (punctum cavum) in the short syllabic passages:
and an edition in modern notation, followed by commentary:
- a double whole note (breve) is used for the reciting tones, with equivalent Gregorian notation
- pes initio debilis according to the editors of the Graduale Novum (see the critical apparatus in Beiträge zur Gregorianik, vol. 26, p. 17); the normal cursive pes rotundus of two short notes seems equally probable here
- epiphonus in L
- the quarter bar line (divisio minima) here may seem counterintuitive, indicating only an optional breath if needed rather than any additional lengthening, but the liquescent note preceding it suggests that the movement to the following note is uninterrupted
- again, a pes initio debilis according to the editors of the Graduale Novum; note the discrepancy here between the Messine and St. Gall neumes
- the quilisma is transcribed as a portamento
- the top note is interpreted as long, which is not explicitly notated (cf. no. 11); note that the B-flat is included in the key signature in the modern notation edition, as there is no B-natural in this chant
- descending quilisma or tremula in some sources, e.g. Montpellier H 159 below, transcribed as a portamento; note the slanted i signifying B-flat
- oriscus in L; may be preceded by an ornamental upper auxiliary note
- the last note of the cursive torculus is interpreted as long, which is not explicitly notated
- the quilisma is transcribed as a portamento
- the rhythm given here is according to the interpretation of Jan van Biezen
- this is a pressus major in both L and E; an ornamental upper auxiliary note may be sung before the repeated note; most of the adiastematic MSS treat -tuus as a single syllable
In addition to the numbered items, I wish to mention that I have retained the bar lines of the Graduale Novum in my editions above, and the half notes in modern notation are based on those bar lines, which are purely editorial. (I wouldn’t necessarily leave all of those bar lines and double-long notes intact in an actual performing edition for my schola.) A breath after Judaeis would be reasonable, as would another after Lazare, despite the absence of bar lines at those spots. The z of Lazari/e is pronounced like dz in our Italianate Church Latin, not z, ts, or ss. An upper auxiliary can be also be sung before the last note of -za- of Lazare, although that one takes more practice for most singers to execute well.
See for Yourself! • Is it not evident that distinct short and long note values are intended in the MSS? I deliberately chose an exceptional case this time. Verify for yourself that, apart from the opening recitative, short notes come in pairs and that the normal syllabic value is long, even in this atypical chant. Now we’ll take a look at the introit psalm tones. I’m unaware of any fully notated verses in L, but a few chants have at least the intonation of the psalm notated:
GN 1.352 Intret oratio, mode III:
GN 1.71 Reminiscere, mode IV:
GN 1.268 Exaudi Domine . . . adjutor, mode IV:
GN 1.257 Respice in me, mode VI:
GN 1.3 Ad te levavi, mode VIII:
In the mode III example, the Messine psalm tone differs from the St. Gall tone used in the Graduale Novum and is actually closer to what we’re accustomed to from the Vatican edition. In the first mode IV example, note that the clivis and cephalicus are used interchangeably. At the end of the mode VI example, E writes the cephalicus interchangeably with a long note (I only marked the long notes indicated in L, but the last three have the same value). Is it a stretch to infer that the cephalicus has the same duration in both contexts and that one long equals two shorts? Don’t take my word for it; hang on to the idea as a possibility and work with it yourself. The brackets and abbreviation 2a m. in the triplex edition mean that the neumes were written “in a second hand” by a later scribe. Unlike our Videns Dominus example, there is not a single instance of repeated notes written short in these psalm tones. Moreover, with two exceptions, namely the tristropha in mode III and the long pes quadratus at the beginning of mode VI, every neume (i.e., every syllable) in these verses is either one long or two shorts. Make of that what you will, but please don’t rule out the possibility that the longs are actually exactly twice the length of the shorts, just as the medieval writers tell us.
Equalism Refuted • If an equalist interpretation of the Vatican edition were the authentic traditional rhythm preserved in the oldest sources, we should expect every chant to be written entirely with either all long or all short notes, not a combination of the two, and we should expect the normal syllabic value to be short. Why isn’t it? You already know the answer by now: because that’s not how it was originally sung. Veni foras! Come forth from the tomb! May our voices be the instruments through which God breathes new life into the ancient chants of the Catholic Church, decrepit through centuries of neglect and misinterpretation.
 Jan W. A. Vollaerts, Rhythmic Proportions in Early Medieval Ecclesiastical Chant, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1960).