ATURAL. It’s only natural that users of the official edition (“EDITIO VATICANA”) should sing from it the way it was intended to be sung by its creators. For twenty years, I was afraid to follow the official rhythm, due to the pervasiveness of Mocquereau’s editions. I lacked the courage in spite of many famous musicians who used the official rhythm, such as: Flor Peeters; Father Xavier Mathias (who in 1913 founded the Saint Leo Institute for Sacred Music at Strasburg Cathedral); Professor Max Springer (student of Antonín Dvořák); Most Rev’d H. Laurent Janssens; Marcel Dupré; Monsignor Franz Nekes (called “The German Palestrina”); Alfons Desmet; Aloysius Desmet; Oscar De Puydt; Father Karl Weinmann; the Wiltberger brothers; Professor Amédée Gastoué; Abbat Urbanus Bomm; Joseph Gogniat; Monsignor Jules Van Nuffel; Monsignor Jules Vyverman; Marinus de Jong; Gustaaf Nees; Henri Durieux; Edgard de Laet; Monsignor Johannes Overath; Monsignor Francis P. Schmitt; Dr. Karl Gustav Fellerer; and Dom Lucien David. I had used Mocquereau’s modifications since I was a freshman in high school. That’s how we were taught; it was (literally) “all I knew.” What finally made me abandon Mocquereau’s modifications was decades of standing in front of choirs composed of real people. Mocquereau’s rhythmic modifications—I came to believe—made plainsong fussy, plodding, distorted, and needlessly esoteric:
Guillaume Couture Project • The new project I’m working on—using the official edition—is called: “Guillaume Couture Gregorian Chant” (URL). It provides the full versions of the so-called “processional” chants: INTROIT, OFFERTORY, and COMMUNION. Pieces usually sung by soloists (e.g. Graduals and Alleluias) will probably be included in another publication. The book I’m creating—which will be made available for free download—also provides: [a] simplified versions for each chant; [b] English translations; [c] extra psalm verses taken from ancient manuscripts in the corresponding mode for each Communion Antiphon; and [d] footnotes (which will eventually be printed in light grey) to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt everything is based on solid tradition:
* PDF • DRAFT COPY (255 pages)
—Guillaume Couture Gregorian Chant is a work in progress.
Proofreading Needed • I do need help proofreading that PDF document. I’m afraid I might label a Tone 4a Psalm Tone as “Tone 7a” by mistake, and so forth. If you find any egregious errors, please send them to: Dom.Pothier@gmail.com. When I finish the missing scores, my edition will also be sold as a physical book, at a very reasonable price.
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Final Sunday after Pentecost) “Dicit Dóminus” —Live
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (23rd Sunday after Pentecost) “Dicit Dóminus”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (8th Sunday after Pentecost) “Suscépimus Deus” —Live
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (11th Sunday after Pentecost) “Deus In Loco”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (12th Sunday after Pentecost) “Deus In Adjutorium”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (16th Sunday after Pentecost) “Miserére Mihi”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (17th Sunday after Pentecost) “Justus Es”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (19th Sunday after Pentecost) “Salus Pópuli”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (3rd Sunday after Easter) “Jubiláte Déo”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Sunday after the Ascension) “Exáudi Dómine Vocem Meam”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Christ the King) “Dignus Est Agnus”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Christ the King) “Dignus Est Agnus” —Live
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (2nd Sunday after Epiphany) “Omnis Terra” —Live
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit: “Adoráte Deum omnes Ángeli ejus” —Live
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Passion Sunday) “Judica Me”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Holy Thursday) “Nos Autem”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Feast of the Holy Family) “Exsúltet Gáudio” —Live
M DEMONSTRATION • ALLELUIA (“Tu es sacerdos in æternum”)
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (2nd Sunday of Advent) “Pópulus Sion”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (3rd Sunday of Advent) “Gaudéte In Dómino”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Sexagesima Sunday) “Exsúrge Quare Obdórmis”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (1st Sunday of Lent) “Invocábit Me”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (4th Sunday of Lent) “Lætáre Jerúsalem”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Quinquagesima Sunday) “Esto Mihi”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Low Sunday) “Quasi Modo”
M DEMONSTRATION • Introit (Low Sunday) “Quasi Modo” —Live
🔴 Unnatural Groupings?
Unnatural Groupings (1 of 4) • What do we mean when we say Dom Mocquereau’s rhythmic modifications force upon the official edition “unnatural” groupings? Consider this passage from the Easter Sunday Gradual (“Haec Dies”):
Don Lucien David was the protégé of Abbat Pothier, the monk appointed by Pope Pius X to lead the commission formed to create the EDITIO VATICANA. In 1932, Dom Lucien published a special “modern staves” version which indicates (by means of little black hooks) places where the singers are to observe morae vocis (very brief pauses):
But when we come to Mocquereau’s version (which is what the Liber Usualis contains), we see that not only did he mark the morae vocis incorrectly, but his rhythmic groupings contradict the so-called “rhythm of the neums” in the EDITIO VATICANA:
The following graphic “fleshes out” the ictus groups by Dom Mocquereau. The groupings that result are “unnatural”—that is, they don’t correspond to the neums of the EDITIO VATICANA. (For the record, they also add elongations where none belong and ignore elongations mandated by the official edition.)
Unnatural Groupings (2 of 4) • Was there just one “correct” way of grouping neums during the centuries of Gregorian composition? Certainly not! Those who claim the early notation of plainsong was similar to a computer program or unblemished “code” are misinformed. It was an effort—which took place over hundreds of years—by thousands of monks who never met each other to invent some way of “making a record of” or “transcribing” music. Early musical notation was very much a language. Whether we like it or not, language operates according to its own laws. John Doe might say: “It makes no sense that English has two words (sofa and couch) which denote the same piece of furniture.” But it’s not up to John Doe, because language follows its own rules. The English language has thousands of seemingly redundant words: e.g. toward and towards. Indeed, English even has words which are identical, yet have opposite meanings. The word cleave can mean “split apart” or “remain attached to.” The word apology can be when someone defends their actions or when someone says sorry for doing wrong. The word sanction can mean “punish” or “allow.” Because early music notation was a language, there were to numerous ways to notate same thing. Dom Mocquereau used a fancy word for this: calligraphic liberty. Below are a few instances, but an expert (like Dr. Charles Weaver) could probably add a billion more:
In particular, the VIRGA was used with great freedom through the centuries. Broadly speaking, its distinctive feature was that it came higher than the surrounding notes (except when it didn’t). Dom Cardine’s boss once told me that some musicologists surmises that Virga’s tail told the singer exactly where the syllable changes. It’s also worth remembering that the neum “names” used by certain scholars were a modern invention. In other words, if you visited the 10th century (using a time machine) and started asking monks about “torculus resupinus” or “scandicus flexus,” they wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. From what I can tell, these names were created during the 19th century. Indeed, as we’ve seen, monks living in the same monastery couldn’t even agree what constituted a “salicus.”
Unnatural Groupings (3 of 4) • The point is, the EDITIO VATICANA is a cento, meaning it was created from the entire tradition rather than a handful of manuscripts. Indeed, Dr. Katharine Ellis (a professor at Cambridge) wrote on page 16 of her 2013 book:
Mocquereau’s later claims that Dom Pothier paid inadequate attention to the comparison of sources are undermined by Jean-Pierre Noiseux’s discovery at Saint-Wandrille of a comparative table of source transcriptions of precisely the kind one would expect from Mocquereau’s workshop, compiled by Alphonse Pother in late 1868 to demonstrate his elder brother’s working practices. The tables show 73 sources (66 MSS) being marshalled to establish the text of a single chant. See Jean-Pierre Noiseux, “Les Manuscrits De Chant En Communication À Solesmes (1866-1869) D’Après Des Documents D’Archives De L’Abbaye De Saint-Wandrille” Etudes grégoriennes, 32 (2004): pp 153-76, at pp 155-9, p. 174).
As part of his introduction, Dom Alphonse Pothier wrote about Abbat Pothier’s restoration of plainsong:
You will also understand the long and laborious work of my brother which consists of restoring the true song in all its purity primitive, consequently to decipher with the most scrupulous attention all the different notations, to compare variants together, to recognize and correct inaccuracies and mistakes of the copyists. Perhaps what is most remarkable about this work is the great uniformity which exists in the manuscripts…
And that’s the miracle, which no scholar has ever been able to explain. In spite of the fact that each monastery had its own handwriting, its own singing style, and its own melodic dialect, the basic melodies (somehow) are still discernible. That is to say, if each generation makes slight changes to something, before long it becomes unrecognizable. But that didn’t happen with the plainsong melodies (!) and nobody has been able to explain this. It’s as if each monastery somehow had access to a “primary source”—yet we know that didn’t happen, because if there were such a source, someone would have mentioned its existence as century followed century.
Unnatural Groupings (4 of 4) • We do not follow the official edition because it’s the only “true and correct” version of the plainsong. After all, its creators had to make thousands of choices. The fact is, somebody had to make those choices—and it just so happens that POPE SAINT PIUS X selected a certain group of scholars. The EDITIO VATICANA has gained imposing authority over the last 120 years. No other edition comes close to its prevalence. Dr. Peter Wagner said famously of the EDITIO VATICANA: “The illuminating word of a pope called it forth.” The edition does a magnificent job of representing, broadly speaking, the entire manuscript tradition of CANTUS GREGORIANUS. The Graduale Triplex was a blameworthy initiative because it superimposed adiastematic notation from a handful of manuscripts above the musical notation of the EDITIO VATICANA. Whoever created the Graduale Triplex was unaware that the official edition is a cento. Needless to say, it is reprehensible to superimpose a particular manuscript above a cento. Moreover, it’s foolish to claim one is “correcting” the EDITIO VATICANA. A sensible person does not “correct” an elephant by giving it a giraffe’s neck. Nor does a sensible person “correct” a horse by replacing its hooves with a duck’s webbed feet.
Above, we looked at “Confitémini Dómino” from the GRADUAL on Easter Sunday. The following graphic shows how it appeared in 3823AUVERGNE|1119, an important manuscript created circa 1119AD. We see that it’s practically identical to the version found in the EDITIO VATICANA:
The following graphic shows that same section in THOMAS391|1291, an important manuscript created circa 1291AD. Again, it’s very difficult to find fault with how it’s represented by the EDITIO VATICANA:
🔴 No Justification!
Dom Mocquereau had a special predilection for a handful of manuscripts. I suppose we could call them MOC’S FANTASTIC FOUR. Broadly speaking, Dom Mocquereau had a predilection for: 121einsie|961, and 339sanGall|1039 and 359sanGall|877 and Bamberg6lit|905. These manuscripts are very clean, very complete, very ancient, and stunningly gorgeous. The problem is, Dom Mocquereau liked his “fantastic four” so much he was willing to ignore hundreds of other very important (and extraordinarily ancient) manuscripts.
Consider how GLORIA IV appears in the official edition:
Now consider GLORIA IV with Mocquereau’s rhythmic modifications:
In the 1990s, I remember going into our basement and listening to an audio cassette tape of GLORIA IV over and over again. Eventually, I memorized it. Needless to say, I liked GLORIA IV the way I had learned it: viz. with Mocquereau’s rhythmic modifications. However, now that I have spent two decades looking at ancient manuscripts, I don’t see any justification for his modifications. For instance, consider 376sanGall|1052 (an important manuscript created circa 1052AD). Look carefully at the adiastematic symbols above the word “u-ni-gé-ni-te” and notice how the same symbol is used:
No justification for Mocquereau’s modifications can be found in 338sanGall|1058 (an important manuscript created circa 1058AD):
No justification for Mocquereau’s modifications can be found—at least as far as I can tell—in 381sanGall|928, an important manuscript created circa 928AD:
No justification for Mocquereau’s modifications can be found in 378sanGall|1035, an important manuscript created circa 1035AD:
Consider that passage as recorded in THOMAS391|1291, an important manuscript created circa 1291AD. I don’t see any justification for Mocquereau’s markings:
No justification for Mocquereau’s modifications can be found in 18porrentruy|1153, an important manuscript created circa 1153AD:
A precious manuscript—444colmar|1014, created circa 1014AD—gives no support or justification for Mocquereau’s modifications:
No justification for Mocquereau’s modifications can be found in Austria-Klosterneuburg-588|1322, a manuscript created circa 1322AD:
No justification for Mocquereau’s modifications can be found in 786admont|1151, an important Benedictine manuscript created circa 1151AD:
There And Back Again! • We had been running a series called Gregorian Chant Rhythm Wars. Not long ago, it was decided to suspend that series. However, soon after we closed the series, I was contacted by several scholars—including international scholars—urging us to continue the series. (One scholar who contacted me is particularly impressive in terms of his knowledge, experience, and credentials.) To make a long story short, it seems the Rhythm Wars will be returning before long. I can’t reveal everything yet—as certain items are still being negotiated—but it appears we’ll be adding some new contributors. Please stay tuned!
Hoping For An Answer • I sincerely hope scholars and musicians are willing to wrestle with these questions. For example, I would be sincerely pleased if a knowledgeable person would be willing to weigh in on what I’ve written (above) vis-à-vis GLORIA IV.
Some Random Stuff • Because Dom Mocquereau added rhythmic signs to the Editio Vaticana, such books could be printed much smaller than the official edition. Technically, the editions of Dom Mocquereau were never permitted, since they modify the official rhythm. That is to say, Dom Mocquereau illicitly added elongations which contradict the official rhythm, just as he eliminates elongations which are supposed to be there. When a small Schola Cantorum (fewer than five singers) sings from the Mocquereau markings, the effect can be quite beautiful. However, when a larger group attempts to incorporate the thousands of illicit elongations, the results are frequently slow, plodding, and distorted. Moreover, violence is done to the melodic line, which ought to “flow.” I will have much more to say on this topic. I’ve already uploaded a 75-minute film explaining how to read the “pure” Editio Vaticana—that is to say, the “untouched” version of the official books. I have also included some thoughts (from a theoretical perspective) in this video. Moreover, we have touched on the important letter—dated 18 February 1910—promulgated by Sebastiano Cardinal Martinelli (d. 1918), Prefect for the Congregation of Sacred Rites under Pius X. But those items are just the beginning. Pope Saint Pius X did not like the rhythmic modifications by Dom Mocquereau, especially since they were printed in tiny books he found difficult to read. As Father De Santi wrote (20 December 1903): “The small books we have at present are completely unsatisfactory for great churches… In addition, the Holy Father complained to Dr. Haberl that these books are rather poorly printed in type which is too small.” Father De Santi wrote to Dom Mocquereau from Rome on 4 January 1904: “Give us as quickly as possible books of medium size without rhythmic signs.”
Listen To This! • If you listen to this recording (of the “pure” Editio Vaticana) you will see it matches the ancient manuscripts almost perfectly:
Searching for Colmar (1 of 2) • Dom Mocquereau took photographs of manuscripts, whereas Dom Pothier copied the manuscript by hand. He once made a comment to Dom Mocquereau (although I have lost the precise reference). Essentially, Pothier said something to the effect of: “Your use of photographs is certainly efficient, but one learns by carefully copying by hand the masterpieces of the ancient scribes.” The sheer amount of publications—to say nothing of their magnificent and pristine quality—produced by Dom Pothier while a monk at Solesmes boggles the mind: Les Mélodies Grégoriennes d’après la tradition (Pothier, 1880); Liber Gradualis (Pothier, 1883); Liber Responsorialis (this was published two years after Pothier became Prior of Ligugé, but was entirely the result of his research); Hymni de tempore et de sanctis (Pothier, 1885); Processionale Monasticum (Pothier, 1888); Liber antiphonarius (Pothier, 1891); and so forth. Dom Pothier’s workload must’ve been inhuman. Courtesy of Jean-Pierre Noiseux and the Abbey of Saint Wandrille, here’s an example of Pothier’s copy (made by hand) of Colmar MS 443:
Searching for Colmar (2 of 2) • I would very much like to learn more about manuscript 443 from the Colmar collection, specifically whether it has been placed online. I know that 444colmar|1014, created circa 1014AD, has been made available, and what a precious testimony this manuscript gives! Notice how SANCTUS (!) added a special trope: “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam.”
* PDF Download • SANCTUS & TE IGITUR (Colmar 444)
—With trope: “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam.”.
Below is what Father Fortescue wrote in 1912 about farcing (a.k.a. “tropes”):
In the middle ages the Introit (as almost every sung part of the Mass) was often “farced” with strange texts added as “Tropi.” The Tropus was an additional clause, introduced to fill up the long neums; it expanded and applied the original text. Pius V’s reform happily banished all tropi except some sequences. [Note: Father Fortescue doesn’t mean there was a special proclamation “banning” or “prohibiting” tropes. He means the revised Missal did not include them, which consequently lead to them being phased out. There seems to be great confusion these days over this matter. Some pretend that Pius V had to create a special document banning tropes, but that’s not how things worked in those days.] When it comes to elaborate compositions, like the Kyries, their long neums were in mediaeval times sometimes filled up with a new text; so that there were farced Sanctus (though less often) too. […] In the middle ages they farced sometimes even the lessons.
Dangerous Dots? • Without question, many will ask whether it really matters to follow the official edition. Perhaps a small example will suffice. I can’t record it myself—because people will accuse me of “exaggerating”—therefore, I must use a real example. Not long ago, a Facebook video popped up from four men (excellent singers, by the way) currently associated with something called “The Gregorian Chant Academy.” The video presents the VEXILLA REGIS hymn. In my humble opinion, this illustrates the Danger of the Dots. That is to say, Abbat Pothier feared that adding dots and dashes would lead to a distorted and mechanical performance, whereas Pothier’s “barline method” encouraged singers to take into consideration the melodic line and text (“lyrics”).
In my humble opinion, those dotted notes are elongated excessively. Indeed, this has become a “hallmark” of the Mocquereau method. Now sing through it according to the official rhythm (EDITIO VATICANA) and see whether you agree the elongations solve themselves:
Article Summary • In a 1992 interview, David Dubal told Horacio Gutiérrez about the time he could sense that Vladimir Horowitz was in an “honest” or “vulnerable” or “open” mood. Therefore, Dubal asked what he really thought of Rachmaninov as a pianist. Horowitz made his fingers about the width of a mouse and said quietly: “I am this big.” Then, stretching his arms as far apart as they’d go, he declared: “And this is Rachmaninov.” But Sergei Rachmaninov always said JOSEF HOFMANN was the greatest pianist in the world. Indeed, when Rachmaninov heard Hofmann play a piece, he would never again perform that piece. When Abe Chasins asked him to explain, Rachmaninov responded: “Look, that’s the music itself. There’s no other way to play it once you hear it like that! And who can do but Josef? Nobody.”
My entire life, I’ve struggled to understand why some artists perform certain repertoire to which they can add nothing. Without question, a masterpiece can be interpreted differently: Alfred Cortot may emphasize one idea, Ignacy Friedman another, and Josef Lhevinne another still. But I have often (!) wondered whether I, personally, have anything of value to contribute. What I’ve tried to describe in today’s article is the recovery of (and justification for) the official rhythm: what Dom Gregory Murray called the “untouched” EDITIO VATICANA. I’m talking about singing the official edition the way it was intended to be sung by its creators. If I have any “unique legacy” to add to the art of music, perhaps it is this.