HE 1958 INSTRUCTION ON SACRED MUSIC AND SACRED LITURGY De musica sacra et sacra liturgia was the last word on sacred music prior to Vatican II. Within the intervening 65 years, there have been clarifications on various points from the now-defunct Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission. Among those was a definite toleration of the use of chants taken from ancient codices that differ from the Vatican edition. As I already pointed out in the Gregorian Rhythm Wars series, Jeff himself has admitted that is it licit to sing such chants in the liturgy, but now I must ask him: Does changing a liquescent cephalicus into a non-liquescent clivis alter “the force and meaning of the notes found in the Vatican books”? It most certainly does! I am willing to hear Jeff out on this (which will suffice to answer question #1 from my last post), but I cannot imagine any justification for making such an alteration and still claiming that one’s edition corresponds to the Vaticana, even if the alterations come from a reliable ancient manuscript. I believe that the removal of even a single liquescent note would be sufficient to disqualify a chant book from receiving a concordat cum originali declaration from a meticulous ecclesiastical censor, and “the current crisis of the church” is totally irrelevant to this determination. In my edition, you will find a number of instances where a liquescent appears that is non-liquescent in the Vatican edition, and a few instances where a Vatican edition liquescent has become non-liquescent in accordance with the oldest extant sources, but my edition makes absolutely no claim to be a reproduction of the 1908 Vatican edition. If Jeff wishes to alter the notation of the Vatican edition, he ought to be honest about it. I question why the addition of dots or episemata as long marks would not be preferable to arrows and 2N marks. As Jeff says, “an arrow pointing to an ‘MMV’ (melismatic mora vocis) does not modify or contradict the official rhythm”—but neither does a dot or episema!
Omitting Nonexistent Marks • While I do understand Jeff’s charge of Dom Mocquereau’s “omitting elongations which are supposed to be there,” his claim needs some clarification. The long notes of the Vatican edition are indicated by the formation of the neumes (pressus, strophicus, bivirga, etc.), bar lines, and space at least the width of a notehead within a melisma. In the Masses a parish schola is likely to sing throughout the year, there are only a couple of instances where the Solesmes editions mark a slur across a full bar line, one of which is in the introit Suscepimus. The 1974 Solesmes Graduale Romanum (and therefore the 1979 Triplex also) adds a slur at quite a few quarter and half bars also. I would acknowledge that those markings do indicate minor alterations to the official rhythm, but otherwise, the doubled and tripled notes, bar lines, and note spacing of the Vatican edition remain intact in the Solesmes editions, do they not? So what Jeff calls the omission of an elongation is actually the failure to add a marking that doesn’t appear in the Vatican edition either. Jeff, if the Solesmes editions marked every such instance with a dot or episema, would you still claim that the marks—and I mean those alone, not others taken from the adiastematic manuscripts—were illicit? As for the addition of breath marks, here Jeff follows in the footsteps of the Solesmes editors. In their editions, the virgula, a large comma printed in the same position on the staff as a quarter bar line, is used to indicate an optional breath mark not included in the Vatican edition. Those markings do not alter the force or meaning of the notes. I find them not only unobjectionable, but helpful. Indeed, common sense factors into such editorial decisions.
More on the 1958 Instruction • De musica sacra states that, “When the choir is capable of singing it, sacred polyphony may be used in all liturgical ceremonies. This type of sacred music is specially appropriate for ceremonies celebrated with greater splendor, and solemnity” (17). This paragraph reinforces an 1886 revision of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum permitting polyphony (cantus figuratus) at Masses for the dead, on ferial days during penitential seasons, and throughout Passiontide, where only chant (cantus firmus) had been allowed at those times (except Holy Thursday) according to the 1752 edition (I.XXVIII.13, II.XX.4). It is apparent from the abundance of polyphonic compositions specifically for those occasions that the former law was widely modified according to local custom or simply ignored. The practice of separating the Gregorian Benedictus from the Sanctus and singing it after the Elevation is suppressed (27d) along with playing of the organ or other instruments during the Consecration itself (27e; it is clear from other documents that this prohibition is not in any way meant to restrict bells rung as a liturgical signal rather than played as musical instruments per se). A motet or organ playing after the Elevation is tolerated but discouraged (27f). Another change is that any Latin chant or motet (cantiuncula) is permitted as supplementary music at the offertory or during Communion, provided that it is suited to those parts of the Mass (27b–c), whereas the previous legislation in Tra le sollecitudini (8) required that a motet (cantiuncula) sung at Mass must have words approved by the Church, which was sometimes taken to mean that one could sing a hymn from the Divine Office or a scriptural text, but not a Latin translation of a vernacular hymn, a newly composed Latin text, a troped text, or even a text by a canonized saint or ecclesiastical writer not found somewhere in an approved liturgical book.
The document states that, “Where the ancient, and venerable custom of singing Vespers according to the rubrics together with the people on Sundays, and feast days is still practiced, it should be continued; where this is not done, it should be re-introduced, as far as possible, at least several times a year” (45). A point of considerable confusion is the use of the organ in Advent and Lent, with many people thinking that the organ must be absolutely silent and not used even to accompany singing, but that is the rule only for Good Friday and the remaining period between the Glorias of Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil, including for Stations of the Cross, the Tre Ore, or other devotional exercises (84). The organ may be played to accompany singing throughout Advent and the rest of Lent and at Requiem Masses (83c); it is only solo playing that is forbidden at those times in paragraph 81, with the exceptions enumerated in 83a–b. It is not necessary to fill in with more singing those places where the organ would otherwise typically play, and, to offer a personal opinion, it may be more effective, even striking, to observe silence at those parts of the liturgy. It should also be stressed that Lent begins at Ash Wednesday, not Septuagesima, and the organ may be played freely during the pre-Lenten season, although other instruments may not be used (82), and likewise for Gaudete and Laetare Sundays (83b). Vernacular hymns may not be sung during High Mass unless there is “a centenary or immemorial custom” (14a), and the exception is clearly intended solely for popular (i.e., congregational) singing, not performance by a choir or soloist. Finally, authority is explicitly delegated to the local Ordinary to govern the application of the document’s prohibitions and permissions “according to the approved local or regional customs” (83).
Conclusion and Warning • I did not intend to post in the Rhythm Wars Series again so soon, but I saw no need to delay replying to Jeff’s latest post. I hope he will extend to me the same courtesy of not unduly delaying his reply to the two new questions from my previous post. He has already unreasonably delayed his reply to my other seven questions, some of which were first asked back in November of last year. It seems that no shots are now being fired by my opponents, only blanks. I haven’t suffered a single blow in the combat, but I’m nevertheless ready to wrap things up. I think our readers and I have been patient enough already. If Jeff wishes to extend my participation in this war into a second year, I admonish him that if any of my ten questions from September 16 remain unanswered by All Saints’ Day (November 1, 2023), I will consider it equivalent to an unconditional surrender on his part.
A CORRECTION: By coincidence, I was reminded that, because there was no year numbered 0, decades, centuries, and millennia all begin with a year ending in 1 and end with a year ending in 0. Although January 1, 2000, may have marked the beginning of “the 2000s,” the new decade, century, and millennium technically began the following year, and December 31, 2000, not 1999, was the last day of the last decade of the last century of the second millennium. Therefore, the last quarter of the ninth century should be 876–900, not 875–899, etc. I apologize for these errors in my August 19 post and elsewhere.
Jeff Ostrowski’s Response on 24 September 2023 • Sundays are busy for me owing to a whole bunch of Masses I’m responsible for (and also Vespers). Since I have a few spare seconds, let me treat your passionate plea that I respond to you about the liquescent notes. The quick answer is that, were I to submit my edition for approval—something which hasn’t been done in 80+ years—I would quickly fix any missing liquescent notes. It would take me about 15 seconds to fix, as I retained 99.55% of them. I have suggested (at least once) that those missing liquescent notes are not of great significance to me. I have tried to stress the fact that not everything is of equal weight: e.g. murdering 10,000 people in cold blood is not identical to a small fault like chewing one’s meal too loudly. Indeed, Dr. Karl Weinmann eliminated (and replaced) every porrectus, yet his versions were still considered in conformity with the official edition. Other instances could be cited in terms of things that are not of great weight; e.g. “dental” T’s. The Italians use “dental” T’s, so when they say the word Lætámini it actually sounds like they are saying “Læ-Dáh-mini.” I’m an American, so I don’t use them—even though technically, we are supposed to pronounce Latin “as the Italians do.” To me, such a thing is not of great significance. Patrick, you have been very “precise” or “punctilious” or “technical” in your articles. With regard to some of your other questions, I hope you will be “precise” and remember that I never promised I would drop everything (at any moment of the day) and respond to every single question you have. I never said that. Indeed, many of these questions have been debated for hundreds of years. Many of these questions could easily serve as the basis for a doctoral dissertation. Moreover, other contributors in the series (such as Matthew Frederes, William Fritz, and Dr. Charles Weaver) have posted quite infrequently. End of Jeff’s Response.