plainsong


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Related to plainsong: Gregorian chant

plainsong

or

plainchant,

the unharmonized chant of the medieval Christian liturgies in Europe and the Middle East; usually synonymous with Gregorian chant, the liturgical music of the Roman Catholic Church.

In the Western church four main dialects of plainsong developed—Ambrosian, Roman, Mozarabic and Gallican—that seem to have been derived from similar sources. Gregorian chant is named for Pope Gregory IGregory I, Saint
(Saint Gregory the Great), c.540–604, pope (590–604), a Roman; successor of Pelagius II. A Doctor of the Church, he was distinguished for his spiritual and temporal leadership. His feast is celebrated on Mar. 12.
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, whose credited role in compiling liturgical books during his papacy (590–604) is now considered questionable.

The origins of the chant go back to early Christian times, and it seems to have derived from musical practice in the Jewish synagogue and Greek musical theory. During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and also in later times, the chant melodies were used as the basis for polyphonic composition. In the 19th cent. the Benedictine monks of Solesmes sought to restore the Gregorian chant to its original form and their published editions from 1889 onward became the official music of the Catholic Church. The texts of plainsong are the words of the Mass, the Psalms, canticles, and certain verse hymns.

The tonality of Gregorian chant is based on the system of eight modes (see modemode,
in music. 1 A grouping or arrangement of notes in a scale with respect to a most important note (in the pretonal modes of Western music, this note is called the final or finalis
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). The notation of the chant evolved into systems of neumes (see musical notationmusical notation,
symbols used to make a written record of musical sounds.

Two different systems of letters were used to write down the instrumental and the vocal music of ancient Greece. In his five textbooks on music theory Boethius (c.A.D. 470–A.D.
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) that were still used in the 20th cent. in preference to modern mensural notation for plainsong. Little is known of the rhythm with which the chants were performed in the Middle Ages. The chants were contained in two principal books: those for the Mass in the "Gradual," those for the Office in the "Antiphoner." The modern Liber usualis is a compilation of most frequently used chants from the two.

Bibliography

See W. Apel, Gregorian Chant (1958); J. R. Bryden and D. G. Hughes, ed., An Index of Gregorian Chant (2 vol., 1969).

plainsong

the style of unison unaccompanied vocal music used in the medieval Church, esp in Gregorian chant
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References in periodicals archive ?
It reveals evidence that important groups of medievalists, especially those who have not focused on English music before, are directing their attention towards the musical remains of England, both plainsong and early polyphony.
Appendixes provide plainsongs used as cantus firmi, brief descriptions and bibliographies for each source, and a thorough textual commentary.
THE start of a national tour by the reformed line-up of Plainsong, featuring former chart-topping singer-songwriter Iain Matthews, begins in the Midlands next week.
Textured Lives - Here and Now could not have provided a greater contrast to the festival's location, the quiet and graceful city of Quimper dominated by its great mediaeval cathedral where the haunting harmonies of Latin plainsong can still be heard on a quiet weekday afternoon.
The liturgical context allows us to appreciate the adaptability of Monteverdi's motet Currite populi, into which the appropriate saint's name can be interpolated, as well as to hear (sung by a soloist) the plainsong hymn Ut queant laxis, from which the syllables of the Guidonian hexachord are derived.
Whenever polyphony alternates with ritual plainsong, the author's method makes both practical and musical sense and does indeed preserve the modal purity of the polyphonic verses.
Passionate about church music, he says: "I love the music because there is such a range, from plainsong to something written yesterday.
Sir Peter had long planned a work for double choir, combining the poetry of the Middle Ages mystic and visionary St Hildegard of Bingen, with the plainsong text Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Ghost).
Explicit religious messages derived from plainsong were introduced in Les Offrandes Oubliees: layers of seamless unison strings flowed, exploring the haunting mesmerising genre.
These were juxtaposed with freely adapted settings of the plainsong, Veni Creator Spiritus.
But there was also simplicity, the Agnus Dei taking on the mantle of monastic plainsong, while in the concluding and extended Libera me (Free me), the threat of damnation is all the more sinister for being whispered in contrast to the earlier outright retribution.
The record company placed adverts in religious papers several months ago, asking for singers of plainsong to submit entries in order to be considered for a record contract.