The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper

The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper

The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper

The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper


"In this study in 'musical archeology, ' James McKinnon reveals one of the most important layers in the early development of Gregorian chant. With equal attention to musical and ritual practicalities, McKinnon applies an unusual combination of scholary skill and sensitivity to reconstruct how words and melodies might have been assigned to the whole church year, beginning with Advent. If liturgy is 'people doing things for which they have forgotten the reasons, ' McKinnon shows us some of the reasons for the creation of the Gregorgian Proper chants of the mass."--Richard Crocker, author of "An Introduction to Gregorian Chant

"[It] is so richly imagined and so well supported with facts and argument that the reader is compelled by its plausibility even while remembering that (s)he is peering behind what has often been depicted as an impenetrable curtain. McKinnon uses his exceptional knowledge of the sources of late antiquity, common sense, imagination and persistent belief that the story ought to make sense to piece together the history of Christian chant from 200 to 800 as one might piece together the shards of a hopelessly smashed ancient artifact. The results are simply stunning."--Edward Nowacki, University of Cincinnati

"Simply one of the half-dozen most important works of chant scholarship in the entire twentieth century. The scholarship in the book is not just superior. It borders on the inspired."--Alejandro Planchart, editor of the "Beneventanum Troporum Corpus"


Augustine lay dying in 430 as the Vandals held his episcopal see of Hippo under siege. It must have seemed like the end of civilization to him. Already two decades before, in the year 410, when the Visigoth king Alaric had looted Rome, the bishop was prompted to set down his musings on the evanescent nature of temporal power in his monumental De civitate Dei. But this later assault was altogether more final and devastating than the events of 410. the Vandals had left their native region in the Oder Valley in the fourth century and swept west through France and Spain, finally entering North Africa in 429 and moving east to subdue most of the southern Mediterranean coast. Their ruthlessness matched the popular conception of the ravages wrought by the barbarian tribes who brought about the collapse of the Roman Empire, and of the unrelieved degradation that was to follow in the centuries that we call the Dark Ages.

The historical reality, needless to say, is much more complex than that. There was in the East, of course, the survival of fortress Byzantium for more than a millennium until its final surrender to the Turks in 1453. Its frontiers were harassed, it is true, by successive waves of barbarians, Persians and Moslems, but the great city itself remained intact, as did its splendid imperial court, not to speak of its correspondingly grand ecclesiastical cadres. and if we cannot fail to note the sharp decline in the vigor and originality of its intellectual life, we must remain in awe of an architectural accomplishment such as the building of Hagia Sophia during the reign of Justinian I (527–65).

The situation in the West was essentially different. in the East barbarians were at the gates; in the West they ruled from within. Indeed, the last Roman emperor, the boy Romulus Augustulus, was deposed virtually unnoticed in 476 by the German warrior Odoacer. But certain of the new sovereigns . . .

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