Prepare the Way: An Analysis of Tu Puer

By Sywulka, Edward R. | Sacred Music, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Prepare the Way: An Analysis of Tu Puer


Sywulka, Edward R., Sacred Music


Anyone familiar with Gregorian chant knows the repertoire is massive and can afford to reserve special chants for specific days the year. Of these "propers," the most musically ornate tend to be used towards the beginning of the Mass, and the so-called "easier" antiphons find their place towards the end. It is providential if not intentional that the culmination of every Mass (the Eucharist) is accompanied by the relatively simpler sorts of antiphons. This allows more people to sing with less potential distraction, and possibly with greater purity of intention. The Church Music Association of America, in its publishing of Communio, acknowledges this group of chants as having some of the best potential for use by scholas and parishes who are just beginning to incorporate chant into their liturgies. Dr. William Mahrt has called the communion chants "a good place to begin," reasoning that "the antiphon can be sung in alternation with psalm verses, allowing the desirable repetition (a few times) to familiarize both congregation and choir with the chant." (1) One of these antiphons is the subject of this paper.

Tu puer is the proper communion antiphon for the Feast of St. John the Baptist, celebrated on June 24. The date only falls on a Sunday when chance occasions, as was the case in June 2007. This gave opportunity for a full High Mass to be celebrated. The words, the music, and their interplay provide for an exploration into some exceptional aspects of medieval creativity. A literal translation of the Latin text follows below, courtesy of Fr. Anthony Ruff, O.S.B. The Latin word order preserves that of the Vulgate (Luke 1:76), except for a minor omission of the "et" (which means "and") at the beginning of the verse.

Tu,  puer,  propheta  Altissimi         vocaberis;       praeibis
You, child, prophet   of-the-Most-High  will-be-called;  you-will-go

enim    ante    faciem     Domini       parare      vias   eius.
indeed  before  the-face   of-the-Lord  to-prepare  ways   his.

The organization is strikingly chiastic. Three main concepts appear, each having a divine and human element. "You" and "his [God's]," self and other, the contingent and the Creator: this confrontation presents a most intense paradox and frames the entire verse. It is this relationship of God and man (or God and child, here) which the scripture means to illuminate. The chiasm will be addressed further below, but first a cursory sequential exposition of both tone and word is advisable, both to give attention to the flow of the text and to accustom the reader to an older form of musical notation.

I am grateful once again to Fr. Ruff for guiding me to a revised version of the melody from Beitrage zur Gregorianik.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The most recent Vatican-approved editions of chants, such as the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Triplex (they differ only in annotation) present melodies that, over time, have been somewhat changed. For example, in the Tu puer antiphon, the Graduale gives D as the starting note, which is the final tone of Modes I and II. How much more expressive it is, however, to delay that defining tone until the first nine notes have passed, and start on a very weak degree (E) instead. In fact, compared to the melodic reconstruction, the Graduale eliminates all the Es until the very end. The four alterations are marked in the example below.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Let us turn again to the "corrected" version. The first three notes, which deceivingly hint at some form of the deuterus mode, accompany a strong plosive "t," all of which declare this "tu" ("you") to be very mysterious and important. Until the second word is uttered, it is not clear to whom the "tu" applies. Is he a sinner, or a holy man, or a way of referring to all the faithful? He is a child, "puer." Here the chosen pitches begin to clarify the mode, as the E and G of "tu" give way to the A and F of "puer. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Prepare the Way: An Analysis of Tu Puer
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.