The Plainchant of the Medieval Period

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The Plainchant of the Medieval Period The chants of the medieval period are regarded as one of the greatest riches of Western culture and history. They are regarded as a commemoration of religious life in the medieval period, representing the artistic taste and shared aims of the era. This set of plainchant— a musical style during the medieval period that requires chanting– does not simply contain several of the most righteous and earliest music ever produced, it also became the greatest influence for a great deal of Western music up until the 16th century (Grout amp. Palisca 2001, 31). Although the chants are remarkably soothing and gentle to the ears, it would be deceiving to interpret them entirely as music because they are inseparable from their liturgical, traditional, and ceremonial background and function. Plainchant is a musical style used by the medieval church. Basically, it is a musical prayer. The musical appeal of plainchant stems from its syntax, punctuation, and phraseology. It can be as plain as melodic reading on a single pitch, normally performed in the reading of the Gospel (Grout amp. Palisca 2001, 31). A minor drop in pitch from the melodic reading may signal the last part of a reflection. An increase to the melodic pitch points out the start of a reading or the main part of the thought. The methods for chanting the Psalms give details about this plain melodic reading by presenting various pitch guidelines for beginnings, middle parts, endings, and continuation of the melodic reading (Haines amp. Haines 2010, 12). More mellow chants, even though they develop from this core composition, still hold on to the kind of oral message. The level of complexity of the song depends on the seriousness or value of the event, the role of the text in the ceremony, and the musician (e.g. choir, soloist) (Wright 2010, 68-69). In other words, it depends on the liturgy. Liturgy is defined as the body of texts and rites that make up a sacred service (Grout amp. Palisca 2001, 31). The liturgy melodies, prayers, and readings honor and celebrate special personalities, calendar days, or events. The liturgy of the ancient Christian church placed emphasis on a ceremony commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and his apostles. This liturgy eventually became the Mass. From the concerted meditation and chanting of psalms, which was influenced by Jewish traditions, emerged the liturgy of the Canonical Hours (Grout amp. Palisca 2001, 31). The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris presented the ‘organum’ by the 12th century. The ‘organum’ is a polyphonic music—composed of multiple separate musical voices—that religious songs gradually evolved into (Wright 2010, 72). Thus, the two musical styles during the medieval period were Polyphonic and Monophonic styles. Monophonic songs were usually lengthy and smooth and sung with a single voice whereas Polyphonic songs were lengthy and varied. Many of the songs that were composed in the medieval period were created by individuals or musicians who are still unknown (Knighton amp. Fallows 1998, 107). Many of the Gregorian Chants were passed on orally and were perhaps the outcome of spontaneity rather than composition. Nevertheless, several of the identified composers of the medieval period were Guillaume de Machaut and Hildegard von Bingen (Haines amp. Haines 2010, 151). The chant and the liturgy evolved over time. The repertory evolved and grew, while several rituals stayed the same. Written accounts, or also known as ‘ceremonials’, sustained the official arrangement of ceremonies, even as volumes documented the readings and prayers. Sooner or later, symbols written on top of the words specified chanting patterns (Grout amp. Palisca 2001, 32). The earliest volumes contain musical symbols from the 9th century, but the patterns of pitch within these manuscripts are plainly inexact, a simple reminder or note rather than an instruction of what was to be chanted. Arrangement of pitch patterns became more accurate in later periods. Several of the chants stored in these subsequent volumes perhaps reveal songs sung to their readings or wordings in earlier periods. Prior to the jotting down of songs, musicians commit them to memory or reconstructed them by manipulating rules learned from older musicians, specifically, by verbal practice (Knighton amp. Fallows 1998, 104). Eventually, several of the old chants were jotted down, particularly those that were very difficult to memorize or rarely sung. Almost all of Christianity’s chants came from the medieval period, but it has been preserved and repeatedly chanted since, even though frequently in distorted musical adaptation. The chant remains alive in Europe, particularly in a number of bigger parochial churches and monasteries. In contrast, the chant is less developed and used in America (Wright 2010, 69). Even though plainchant is still the churches’ official music and Latin is still the official language, the customary chants have been largely changed to songs regarded more appropriate for a whole congregation or worshippers to sing: adaptations that are made easier with vernacular versions of the common chant songs, songs in popular modes, and newly created songs (Grout amp. Palisca 2001, 32). Nowadays, chant is ritual music that is perhaps kept alive. The music scholar/historian who would like to present chants in renditions that are exactly of the medieval period confronts a dilemma because contemporary adaptations represent contemporary interpretations. Even so, it is undeniable that plainchant of the medieval period has greatly influenced contemporary musical styles and composers/musicians. Works Cited Grout, Donald amp. Claude Palisca. A History of Western Music. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. Print. Haines, John amp. John Dickinson Haines. Medieval Song in Romance Languages. London: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print. Knighton, Tess amp. David Fallows. Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1998. Print. Wright, Craig. Listening to Music. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.