HE VERY FIRST SENTENCE ON THE PROJECT PAGE OF MY WEBSITE says plainly, “This is a work in progress, updated regularly.” I obviously cannot utilize 100% of the time an edition that’s not yet completed. In his third response to me, Jeff Ostrowski wrote, “I was disturbed to learn that you do not use the mensuralist theories you propound in real life with your choirs.” I beg my readers’ indulgence for my addressing the entirety of this reply directly to Jeff. In fact, Maestro Ostrowski, I use proportional rhythm with my choirs alongside the Solesmes method. Chant according to the Solesmes method is used for approximately 150 Sung Masses a year at my parish. About one-sixth of those Masses also include chants of the Proper of the Mass sung in proportional rhythm according to the oldest extant manuscripts. I have shared recordings of my women’s schola singing in proportional rhythm directly with you, and many other ensemble recordings are available publicly on my YouTube channel, which is prominently linked on the homepage of my website. I also have unlisted practice recordings on YouTube that I’m willing to share upon request. To claim that I lack the courage of my convictions, implying that I am unwilling to practice what I preach, is not only ignorant and inaccurate, but offensive. Furthermore, as a form of ad hominem attack, even if your claim were factually true, it would be fallacious and invalid as an argument against my position.
Length Indications in Chartres 47 • Jeff, in your first post of this series, you wrote the following:
957AD Manuscript • Let’s go back even further, to 47chartres|957. This manuscript was created (perhaps) circa 957AD. We see that—just as the others—this manuscript contradicts Mocquereau’s elongations:
The highlighted neumes show two long, non-cursive clives. The Solesmes edition writes a horizontal episema at the beginning of each:
In what way does Chartres 47 (Ch) contradict those episemata, which you deride as “Mocquereau’s illicit modifications,” “Mocquereau’s elongations,” and “Mocquereau’s additions”? You have misinterpreted the manuscript, and so did Mocquereau—just not in the way you claim! In fact, the oldest sources show four equally long notes, not four shorts, not long-short long-short. You have discredited yourself by failing to differentiate between the cursive and non-cursive forms of the clivis. I addressed this with sufficient clarity and detail in the paragraph titled “The Long and Short of It” in my second response. I really have nothing to add to what I wrote there in November of last year, but since you have pushed the matter, I will restate what I’ve already written. Look at observaberis, circled in blue in the examples below. At -be-, there is a clivis, also called a flexa or clinis, which indicates two notes, with the melodic contour high-low. That clivis is written in a cursive form in Ch, without graphic separation between the two notes. Laon 239 (L), Einsiedeln 121 (E), Bamberg 6 (B), and St. Gall 339 (G), also write a cursive clivis there, with E and B adding the letter c.
Chartres 47 (Ch):
Laon 239 (L):
Einsiedeln 121 (E):
Bamberg 6 (B):
St. Gall 339 (G):
Look at the second syllable of sustinebit, circled in red. Among those five manuscripts, G alone writes exactly the same kind of clivis there at -ti- as at observaberis. Note that G is typically dated as the latest of the five sources. B adds the letter t. E adds an episema. L and Ch both write a non-cursive form of the clivis, where the two notes are graphically separated. Now look at propitiatio, circled in yellow. Among those five manuscripts, G alone writes the same short form of clivis there, twice, as at the previous occurrences. The others either write a non-cursive form or add an episema. Dom Mocquereau was right to add episemata at sustinebit and propitiatio, but he was mistaken in interpreting them as a nuanced lengthening of only the first note of each neume. He should have added them at Deus as well; look at the green circle in the manuscript images to see why. Unfortunately, Ch is damaged at that spot. As for the end of the introit, marked in purple, everyone doubles those notes, regardless of interpretive approach. It is inconsequential that both Ch and the Vatican edition write a short clivis to end the chant.
Faith, Common Knowledge, or Logic? • Jeff, you have asked me to give evidence for why I believe the non-cursive writing of Ch signifies lengthening. It is a somewhat improper question for a couple of reasons. Believe implies something that I accept on faith, and this isn’t that. It’s like asking why someone believes the figure 5 means the number five. It’s also like asking me to provide evidence that sixteenth and eighth notes or half and whole notes, respectively, have the exact rhythmic proportion 1:2. Is that always true? Recitative and Anglican chant are examples of music where the notation doesn’t function that way.
You must not understand what I write here to be an “always in every possible instance” type of explanation. I am addressing specific occurrences in the specific chant I’ve been asked to analyze, and those instances are sufficient to demonstrate my point. Ch, L, E, and B use one form of the clivis at observaberis and a different form at sustinebit and twice at propitiatio. In the first article of this series, you explained that the letter t means tarditas, trahere, tenere, or tene, all of which signify lengthening. In my third response to you, under the paragraph heading “Interchangeable Markings,” I noted only one instance of the letter t in the selected manuscripts for this chant, at sustinebit in B, where it corresponds to an episema in E and non-cursive neumes in L and Ch. Unless one wants to argue in favor of G against the four older sources, there can be no doubt that the clivis at observaberis is short and the ones at sustinebit and propitiatio are long. Do you really and truly believe that the version of this chant notated in Ch, L, E, and B was sung in equalist rhythm in the tenth century, or that the long marks were nothing more than “slight nuances, probably intended for individual cantors,” which agree with each other only by accident? Preposterous, I say! If you believe that, I have some nice oceanfront property here in Arizona that might interest you. If I was too dumb to notice your persuasive argument to the contrary, then kindly reiterate it for me! Are we in agreement that I have now provided the “pointed and narrow and specific reasons” you demanded, all drawn entirely from this one chant and our previous discussion of it? We find unanimity among the oldest sources, with divergence as we get farther from them chronologically.
Avoiding the Crux of the Matter • Jeff, you wrote, “looking at the entire manuscript tradition (and not just two or three codices that are particularly clean and accessible) we see the most astonishing, breathtaking, and mind-boggling correspondence between the various MSS.” In fact, by the eleventh century, we see not “mind-boggling correspondence” regarding the rhythmic indications, but confusion, which soon degenerates into cantus planus without differentiation between long and short notes; indeed, such confusion is already somewhat evident in St. Gall 339, shown above. Let me ask you: Is it “miraculous” that Old Hundredth is sung with the same melody today as in 1551? I don’t think so, but we can demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that the rhythm has been altered and now exists with several variants, which are more than the straightforward duple versus triple meter changes you make them out to be. Each version represents how the tune was sung in a given time and place, but only the oldest version shows the original rhythm. This concept should not be hard to understand.
This version is presumably identical to version published in the 1551 edition.
Recording, sung in Dutch.
In this edition, there is already a tendency toward an isometric (equalist) version.
Recording of the arrangement by Vaughan Williams, with the same rhythm.
Before 1750 (Bach):
This version differs so drastically from the original that I haven’t attempted to mark the rhythmic divergences. A melodic alteration is marked in blue.
Recording of the isometric version, sung in Dutch.
Recording in the traditional American “fasola” style, with four-syllable solfege sung first.
This is the same as the 1628 version.
Here the rhythmic and isometric versions are printed together on the same page.
In all of the above examples, there is only a single melodic variant, yet it would be impossible to sing the different rhythmic versions simultaneously without cacophony ensuing. If you listen to the Dutch recording of the isometric version, you hear that it’s sung so slowly that you hardly miss the differentiation of long and short notes. There are indeed a few traces (“intermediary steps”) of the rhythmic decay, but not millions or even dozens. In mischaracterizing the rhythmic variants as merely a change from quadruple to triple time, you have demonstrated your ignorance and misunderstanding of the original chorale rhythm just as blatantly as your ignorance and misunderstanding of the original Gregorian chant rhythm. In another recent post, you claimed that, “We find a breathtaking one-to-one correlation of the pitches in more than 95% of the manuscripts,” yet I counted five discrepancies out of a total 39 notes, just from omnes to the first allelu-, in the three manuscript examples you shared in that very post. Why not take the time to compare a few sources carefully, note for note, instead of making up your own bogus statistics? Your claim of “astonishing,” “breathtaking,” “mind-boggling,” and “miraculous” correspondence of the chants throughout the centuries in your latest response—right after stating that “the oldest manuscripts often contradict one another”—strikes me as a way of sidestepping the matter I entered into this series to discuss: the rhythm of the oldest extant sources. It is not sufficient to say that they often contradict one another; there is much that can be determined with a high degree of certainty by consulting and comparing them. There is no rhythmic agreement across the centuries, from the tenth through the fifteenth, because the authentic traditional rhythm was lost; whether you believe so or not doesn’t change the historical facts!
Calling Your Bluff • Jeff, do you believe that there was a conspiracy among the Protestant printers to suppress the authentic rhythm of the chorale melodies and that the Reformed congregations magically forgot the true rhythm because of mass hallucination? Is that a reasonable accusation for me to make against you? Of course not. I implore you to retract immediately your insinuation, with which you began this debate, that Wagner, Mocquereau, Gajard, Vollaerts, Cardine, Murray, Agustoni, Göschl, Joppich, Fischer, Berry, Kelly, Saulnier, Blackley, Weaver, I myself, and nearly every chant scholar of the modern era all believe that “Catholics across Europe suffered a type of mass hallucination, in which they all forgot the ‘true’ rhythm of plainsong,” or that the chant “magically switched its fundamental rhythm practically overnight, without a trace.” It is disingenuous and ludicrous to inject the notion of hallucination and magic into the historical narrative, which you have repeated even in your most recent response to me. When I first called you out on this nonsense, you responded that you were “attempting to give a summary of what people like Dom Mocquereau believe.” If you’re going to stand by your insidious claim, then PROVE IT from something one of us has written. Who has theorized mass hallucination or magical amnesia? As far as I can tell, it’s an invention of none other than Jeff Ostrowski!
Parting Shots • Jeff, if you were unable to find the time, over the course of more than half a year, to read a single “enormously lengthy” 21-page chapter by Fr. Vollaerts—which amounts to less than one page a week from November 3 to May 16!—I question whether it is worth my time and energy to continue this discussion. You waited five months to reply to only several of my questions and asked that I wait a minimum of five days to reply to yours. I seriously considered making you wait five months or longer, but doing so would serve no purpose other than spite—especially since I haven’t said anything new. Frankly, I am unconvinced that you are any more capable of interpreting a triplex edition correctly than you are of reading Chartres 47 correctly. You’ve repeatedly proclaimed your opinion that the oldest sources shouldn’t be considered more valuable or authoritative than “the other 10,000.” If you don’t think Laon 239, Einsiedeln 121, and St. Gall 359 are superior to any random codex from, say, the fourteenth century, then what’s the point of studying the adiastematic neumes anyway? After more than eight months, it appears quite possible that, despite our shared skepticism of the Solesmes method, we have little common basis for constructive dialogue regarding the rhythm of the oldest manuscripts and are reaching the point of merely repeating ourselves ad nauseam. If I were in your shoes, I would have waved the white flag already! Regardless of whether or not this post concludes my contribution to the Gregorian Rhythm Wars series, I would like to say that I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have presented the proportional chant rhythm of the Early Middle Ages to a wide audience. Anyone interested in delving more deeply into the material is welcome to visit my website, where my contact information and many valuable resources can be found.