The Influence Of Early Gregorian Plainchant On Liturgical Music Music History Ii Research Paper

2297 words - 10 pages

The Influence of Early Gregorian Plainchant on Modern Choral Music
Hayley Bowser
MUMH304: Music History II
November 1, 2018
2
Before music was regularly transcribed for an accurate performance or used in formal
church settings, various styles of music were used with the intentions of detailing specific
actions or get-togethers in societies or communities. These gatherings were held amongst
people in specific groups or tribes and the music sung and played was passed down from
generation to generation. These pieces were referred to as “Plainchant” and often took on one of
two forms: Gallican or Gregorian. However, “[d]uring the 8th and 9th centuries, a process of
assimilation took place between Gallican and Gregorian chants; and it is the chant in this
evolved form that has come down to the present.”1 The new form of plainchant that evolved is
often known as a common form of music assimilation from past to present. Many people may
argue that music from as early as the second century has no similarities to music that is
performed today. However, it is important for all musicians to understand where the basis from
current music theory began. Knowing where many tunes got their origin, and how they
influenced the occurrence of music that we know and love today is vital for a complete
understanding of music history. “Gregorian chant was the original music of the Christian
Church in western Europe.”2 Early Gregorian Plainchant led to the emergence of many church
hymns, which also had a major influence on future choral compositions.
Plainchant can be defined as “a single line of melody with a flexible rhythm sung
to Latin words by unaccompanied male voices. Manuscripts date from ninth century and used a
1. Gregorian Chant (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2014), 1.
2. Robert Fowells, A New Look at Gregorian Chant (The Choral Journal 33, no. 5,
1992), 1.
3
system of modes, specific patterns of whole and half steps. This single line of melody, called
monophony, characterized music until about 1000 AD.”3 Early plainchant was likely introduced
around the year 300, following the legislation of Christianity. Although plainchant is often
given a general term of “Gregorian” there were various other forms of plainchant that also
existed. The Gregorian Chant Resources and History guide explains the various types of chant
in the following quotation:
[D]ifferent forms and flavours [sic] of chant began to develop by region. Roman Spain
produced Mozarabic chant, whose title refers to the Moorish rule over Spanish
Christians after the invasion of 711. In fact, the chant was composed and complete by
the 7th Century, and altered little thereafter. From Milan came Ambrosian chant, named
in honour [sic] of St Ambrose; from Gaul, or what is now France, Gallican chant; from
Rome, Old Roman and Gregorian; from England, the Sarum; from the Church in the
East, Syrian, Byzantine, Coptic, Ethiopian and Armenian. Some of these chants were
suppressed by Roman pontiffs striving to establish...

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