N HIS LATEST REPLY, Charles Weaver conveniently left out the sentence immediately before the quoted text from the Scolica enchiriadis, which says, “Come, let us sing for exercise; I will stamp my feet in anticipation, and you will imitate in following” (Age canamus exercitii usu; plaudam pedes ego in praecinendo, tu sequendo imitabere). In the context of discussing metrical feet, someone else might translate the second clause as, “I will clap the feet.” Either way, are we to believe that teacher and pupil stamped their feet or clapped their hands in free oratorical rhythm, with agogic nuances instead of a steady beat? Vollaerts notes that an eleventh-century manuscript from the archives of St. John Lateran gives the melody of the Ego sum via antiphon in St. Gall neumes with episemata, which means we’re actually dealing with long and double-long notes, in 1:2 proportion, sped up to equal ordinary short and long notes.
Why We Fight • I was invited to participate in this series to defend the position that the rhythm of Gregorian chant fundamentally involves short and long notes in 1:2 proportion. I have demonstrated various ways in which that position is tenable according to the oldest manuscripts and the medieval theorists. Charles acknowledged that Guido’s meaning is sometimes obscure, which is a common complaint about many of the medieval theorists. But as Alasdair Codona has pointed out elsewhere, they use unambiguous terms such as unus, duo, and ratio. There is no good reason to think that a 1:2 ratio means anything besides what the words literally mean. Where does any medieval theorist write of rhythmic nuances of the type promoted by Mocquereau, Gajard, and Cardine—to wit, an expressive lengthening for the episema or ordinary long note (tractulus, uncinus, or virga in most instances) that is somewhere between single and double in duration? Can a single shred of evidence be produced, or is it just a made-up theory? It is imperative that we separate the nineteenth-century “tradition” of rhetorical chant from the real tradition. Charles writes of “something as difficult and ambiguous as the rhythm of Gregorian chant,” but short and long notes in 1:2 proportion with a steady beat aren’t especially difficult or ambiguous. Many of the difficulties do not arise from the oldest extant sources but are the creation of men who have turned these shorts and longs into nuances and nuances of nuances.
The Golden Exception • Regrettably, my objections to Mocquereau’s interpretation of the golden rule were left unanswered. Something that applies a mere fifteen percent of the time is an exception, not a rule:
Neumes followed immediately by a new syllable of the same word:
red – long in both sources = 22
purple – long in one source = 4
blue – long by interpretation = 8
orange – short but doubled = 1
green – short in both sources = 6
total = 41
Giving the skeptics the benefit of the doubt (quite literally), I have revised my previous figure of notes that could be interpreted as short from six to eight, including the virga in Domine and the oriscus at the beginning of exsultationis. As for the ends of phrases (or words), tenor and mora vocis are interchangeable terms for what were formerly unnoted lengthenings, later indicated with bar lines; it is futile to search for them in the oldest manuscripts! I was pleased to read the admission that, “this discussion, from the eleventh century, is already certainly from the post-Mensuralist era, if the chant was originally mensuralist.” The Hartker Antiphoner is typically dated to between 990 and 1000, when Guido was yet a child. His galloping horse analogy is unproblematic from the mensuralist perspective and is quoted by Vollaerts as well. As far as I can tell, we’re all in agreement about lengthening the last note of phrases. Lengthening several notes together or the final of every word is more contentious, but I think there is some wiggle room for interpretation of the contradictory evidence we have at our disposal, some of which may represent local practices. It is a different matter when diverse sources from hundreds of miles apart are seen to be in agreement.
Pedagogical Pedigree • I, too, can trace a direct pedagogical lineage to Marier and Guéranger, just as I can trace a keyboard lineage to Beethoven and Bach. Many musicians can do this, and it’s not as remarkable as it might sound. As Jeff recently reminded us, we all came from somewhere! The first person I learned Gregorian chant from was Cal Shenk, who studied with Marier. Two of my organ teachers studied with Arthur Poister (“now play it with stug!”), who studied with Marcel Dupré, who studied with Guilmant and Widor, both of whom studied with Lemmens, who studied with Hesse, who studied with Rinck, who studied with Kittel, who studied with J. S. Bach. Two of my piano teachers studied with Roy McAllister, who studied with “Madame” Isabelle Vengerova, who studied with Theodor Leschetizky, who studied with Carl Czerny, who studied with Beethoven. Unsurprisingly, as the subject becomes more specialized—piano, then organ, then chant—the number of generations to a teacher immediately recognizable by surname only diminishes.
Poister, Vengerova, Marier
Master Teachers on American Soil
I play and sing the music of Bach, Beethoven, Dupré, Guilmant, Lemmens, and Widor, but I don’t sing anything composed by Guéranger. Who taught him chant? Who taught Gontier? And more importantly, which of their masters’ ideas did they ultimately reject? Gontier is more than nine centuries removed from the oldest extant sources, which is a lot of time for countless errors, alterations, corrections, and revisions to have crept in. Charles says, “at the very least the Mocquereau method retains its value as a way to learn to make beautiful liturgical music out of the notation in the Liber.” But now let us move beyond the Liber, back to the sources! The rhythmic adiastematic manuscripts are much closer to the pure tradition. Even if they aren’t totally reliable in every instance, they’re the best guide we have; the later sources are rhythmically corrupted, and anything earlier is highly conjectural because of the lack of notated sources. I am not a theorist, and my objective is simply to complete a performing edition based on the more critical edition (i.e., the Graduale Novum) for parish use.
Beauty and Musicality • Charles wrote, “let us also set aside the idea of correctness in performance as the ultimate musical value.” I can speak only for myself, but I have no such idea of correctness as the ultimate musical value. The right notes and rhythm are the beginning of musicality, not the end of it. That is what I teach my choirs. My editions are a tool for the performers to make music with. Music, after all, is a combination of sounds, not notes on a page. Did I not recently write of my editions, “Whatever you do, make music with them!”? As Charles said, “Let us strive to perform historical music in a way that conforms to the historical data, sure. But let us also perform in a way that is beautiful.” Also is a key word. To perform in a beautiful way that willfully ignores the historical evidence is a misinterpretation or distortion, especially if passed off as the original version. Besides, I would prefer the best semiological recordings, such as those of the Coro Gregoriano de Lisboa, Einsiedeln under Bannwart, or the Schola Resupina, or even the more exotic or soloistic recordings by Pérès, Poisblaud, or Vellard over those of Fontgombault, Clear Creek, or the Institute on purely aesthetic grounds any day of the week, hands down, with or without the neumes in front of me.
Reinventing the Wheel • There are copious recordings, of varying quality, of chant in the Solesmes style, many of which are now available for free. Nevertheless, there are constant endeavors to make new recordings in the same style. I have my own “warts and all” live liturgical recording of the Gregorian Requiem Mass on YouTube, sung from the Liber Usualis according to the Solesmes method with a completely different group of men than now make up our schola, all volunteers, and live recordings of the congregational chants are available on our parish website. Those were added primarily to help our parishioners learn the chants themselves and for out-of-town families planning funerals to hear what a Requiem Mass sounds like here. On my hard drive, I surely have recordings of the Propers for every Sunday and holy day of obligation sung from the Liber Usualis by my schola, but I have no inclination to share them with the world. Why? Because they’ve been recorded in that style already—some of them dozens of times—and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. How delightful it would be to hear chants sung beautifully in a style that hasn’t been recorded hundreds of times already! I hope Dr. Weaver’s encouragement of learning multiple approaches will not fall on deaf ears.