Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

The Responsory: Type and Modulation

Academic journal article Studia Musicologica

The Responsory: Type and Modulation

Article excerpt

Knowing that neumatic notation is of limited help in melodic transmission, one cannot but admire the essential uniformity of the transmission of Gregorian chant as manifested in the manuscripts. This uniformity is, however, not quite absolute. Local variants modify the shape of the melodies even when their essence is preserved, and sometimes more remarkable differences may be found even in the basic repertory of old material. Although the responsory is a genre where one does not expect major differences, I have met several such examples when working on the critical edition of the repertory of Hungarian sources. The present paper is not more than a list of such pieces; detailed analysis is still needed.

Examples 1-3 document partial transpositions that alter considerably the form of the melody.

Filiae Jerusalem (Ex. 1)

This piece, if the smaller local variants are disregarded, is uniform in the tradition; but one part of the sources transpose the first phrase a fifth down. After a short survey I do not see the logic of the spread of the two variants. The higher transposition with G as starting cannot be found in the Old Roman antiphonary, in Lucca and Aquileia/Kranj, Kraków; the lower position, starting on D is recorded in Vorau, Cambrai, Utrecht and Strigonium-Esztergom manuscripts. For a clearer view further manuscripts should be involved.

Aedificavit Noe (Ex. 2)

In the Old Roman antiphonary this is a 4th-mode responsory, with a first part moving in the low range; after a middle section somewhat higher it descends again in the region of E, and attaches a 4th-mode verse to the main section. Lucca, however, together with the great majority of the European sources, considers the piece a 3rd-mode melody and adds a verse to it accordingly. One variant develops further this interpretation, placing the whole first section a fifth higher which results in a descendent form; as usual in the 3rd mode it descends to the E region only towards the end of the piece. I was surprised to find that this variant appears in the Sarum antiphonary, the Cistercian tradition and in all Hungarian sources. Further sources should be studied to discover the reason.

Bethlehem civitas (Ex. 3)

The situation with this responsory is rather strange. During the first section of the piece, the majority of Gregorian sources keep the melody in the usual range of the 7th mode, with the pivotal notes C'-D', with motifs going up to E' or F', and modulations descending to G or F. From the words "et egressus" the chant ascends to the region between D' and G', touches upon the A' and in some sources even the B' several times. After a long and high middle section, at the words "et pax erit" the melody descends again to the C'-D' region, then modulates through a longer melisma down to around G, and closes the item with the usual motifs of this mode. This version can be read in the antiphonaries of Worcester, Lucca, Florence, Kraków, Aquileia, the Fransiscans, and surely in many other manuscripts. There are, nevertheless, some sources where the first section is transposed a fourth higher and the chant starts on C'. Such are, e.g. Utrecht, Cambrai, Prague, Augsburg, the Cistercians. Looking at this opening one might expect no more than a transposed notation of the 7th-mode. But in fact these variants descend in the last section, and close the piece on the same height as the main version. Finally, there is a small group which omits the high modulation of the middle section; the whole piece remains in the usual range of the 7th mode, only with a few higher embellishments, as is common in this mode. I have met this form only in the sources of Passau-Klosterneuburg and the antiphonaries of medieval Hungary. What is, however, really surprising is that this branch of the tradition corresponds to the Old Roman melody.

The modal interpretation is different in items 4-8:

Praeparate corda (Ex. 4)

The exchange between the 1st and 3rd mode is not unusual; but regularly they are on the same finalis and the modal reinterpretation is done by changing the fifth to the sixth and the major second to the minor second (and the whole piece is transposed accordingly on E finalis). …

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