Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 31

Thread: Does Gregorian chant have a "tonality?"

  1. #1
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default Does Gregorian chant have a "tonality?"

    Does Gregorian chant have a "tonality?" Watch out, this is a trick question.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    1,041
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    The trick being the question has no answer that will satisfy you.

    I'm curious to see where this goes though.
    Last edited by Kopachris; Apr-13-2020 at 23:25.

  3. Likes Woodduck liked this post
  4. #3
    Senior Member Kopachris's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    1,041
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I guess I'll start by supposing that "tonality" is a psychoacoustic phenomenon that music doesn't have. Rather, tonality is observed, perceived by the listener.

    So no, Gregorian Chant doesn't have a tonality, but a tonality may be perceived by listeners of a Gregorian Chant who didn't realize it was actually in, say, Lydian mode.
    Last edited by Kopachris; Apr-14-2020 at 00:54.

  5. #4
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    5,365
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kopachris View Post
    The trick being the question has no answer that will satisfy you.

    I'm curious to see where this goes though.
    Curious? You've been here since 2010 and you don't know where it's going? Just for that I'm going to spoil the end of Casablanca for you: Rick doesn't get the girl!

    Your frogs make me shudder with intolerable loathing and I shall be miserable for the rest of my life remembering them.
    — Mikhail Bulgakov, The Fatal Eggs

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    — Basil Valentine

  6. Likes Woodduck, Taggart, DaddyGeorge and 5 others liked this post
  7. #5
    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    2,656
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    You can call Gregorian modes tonality if you want. Language is flexible!

  8. #6
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default

    I'd be interested in hearing some subjective responses, and also if "knowing it's in Lydian mode" changes that response.

  9. #7
    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    2,656
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Some chants might sound tonal-ish, others not. It depends on the mode and the features of the particular melody. I find this stuff interesting and fun to talk about, so here goes!

    In Gregorian chant there were eight modes, each defined by a range and a final (ending note). The four "authentic" modes were basically defined by white-note scales starting on their finals: Dorian (D to D), Phrygian (E to E), Lydian (F to F), and Mixolydian (G to G). Sometimes they also went one note below the final. (I'm using letters corresponding to white keys on a piano for convenience, but in the middle ages these weren't absolute pitches - it would be more accurate to say Dorian ran from re to re, Phrygian from mi to mi, etc.)

    Each authentic mode had a corresponding "plagal" mode with the same final but with a range running from a fourth below the final to a fifth above; these were called Hypodorian, Hypophrygian, etc.

    In the Dorian, Lydian, Hypodorian, and Hypolydian modes, B flat was sometimes used in place of B natural. This means that in practice they were often more like our major and minor modes. Later theorists would recognize two other modes, the Ionian (C-C, major) and Aeolian (A-A, minor), but the medieval theorists didn't.

    Each mode also had a reciting tone, which was a melodic point of emphasis, usually sounding more often than the final.

    An important thing to note is that the medieval chant composers didn't like the sound of the leading tone cadence that basically defines tonal music (i.e., E-->F) and consciously avoided it. That certainly weakens any sense of tonality in Gregorian chant.

    So what does this mean for how it sounds, whether it has tonality?

    Here's a seasonally appropriate chant in the Hypophrygian mode or mode 4 (medieval theorists mostly used numbers): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNstcQnf6vs

    To most modern listeners unused to Gregorian chant this will sound like it ends on the wrong note. The melody and in particular the reciting tone of this mode, A, suggest to us a home of D, but in the medieval system it ends on its proper final, E.

    Here's another beautiful and relatively well-known chant, though not seasonally appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vynCA91HDGM

    This one is in mode 1, Dorian. Note the B flats, except the B natural descending line in the middle - that kind of switching between B flat and B natural is characteristic of the medieval Dorian mode.

    To me, this one sounds more tonal. It sort of sounds like it's in F but then veers to the relative minor D for the final alleluia. But again, within the medieval modal system, it makes perfect sense.

    And here's the most famous chant melody, the Dies Irae: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMZPdSo2qUQ

    Straightforward Dorian melody here - pretty easy for our ears to understand and fit with our tonal expectations, IMO. This one was written later, 13th century, and it has a big range, going down to the A below the final...earlier chants in mode 1 wouldn't do this.

    You asked about Lydian (mode 5) specifically. Here's an example I found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXhIPtK9ABc

    Notably, it uses B flat a lot. We might say it sort of vacillates between major and Lydian...or maybe between F major and A minor.

    When Beethoven and Bruckner decided to use the Lydian mode for a special effect, they stuck to the Lydian scale strictly and avoided B flat. But medieval and Renaissance composers never really did that.
    Last edited by isorhythm; Apr-14-2020 at 19:52.

  10. Likes Woodduck, Kopachris, Tikoo Tuba liked this post
  11. #8
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Ford Nation
    Posts
    5,888
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Interestingly, there are 8 meanings/senses of the word tonality.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonality

    Whichever turns your crank.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

  12. #9
    Senior Member Tikoo Tuba's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Posts
    569
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Tonality has identity . aum

    Does the Gregorian chant still exist as monastic daily ritual ?
    Last edited by Tikoo Tuba; Apr-15-2020 at 10:41.

  13. #10
    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    2,656
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tikoo Tuba View Post
    Does the Gregorian chant still exist as monastic daily ritual ?
    It does for monks....

  14. #11
    Senior Member Flamme's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Change. Eternal.
    Posts
    2,337
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Dont knoe bout tonality but Im certain about Totality!!!
    'Listen, Mister god!
    Isn't it boring
    to dip your puffy eyes,
    every day, into a jelly of clouds?'

  15. #12
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default

    Are they wearing underwear under those robes?

  16. #13
    Junior Member anahit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    Tbilisi
    Posts
    43
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Does Gregorian chant have a "tonality?" Watch out, this is a trick question.
    It has modality - a compound of pitches.

    Tonality is a compound of harmonic progressions. So, it doesn't have tonality.
    Last edited by anahit; Apr-16-2020 at 13:33.
    მუსიკა გადაარჩენს მსოფლიოს.

  17. Likes Kopachris liked this post
  18. #14
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Kopachris View Post
    I guess I'll start by supposing that "tonality" is a psychoacoustic phenomenon that music doesn't have. Rather, tonality is observed, perceived by the listener.

    So no, Gregorian Chant doesn't have a tonality, but a tonality may be perceived by listeners of a Gregorian Chant who didn't realize it was actually in, say, Lydian mode.
    What did you think I meant? I'm glad to see you worked it all out by the end of your post.

  19. #15
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by anahit View Post
    It has modality - a compound of pitches.

    Tonality is a compound of harmonic progressions. So, it doesn't have tonality.
    So when you hear it, you don't hear it as tone-centric in any way? I always thought it sounded rather drone-y.

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •