A Closer Look at Mode 3

By Sr. Fidelis

When discussing chant theory, it is important to remember that the theory came later!  These melodies were already in existence.  In truth, many chant pieces are categorized by their final note, the Home Tone, but within the piece itself, depending on where the cadences lie, it can sound like a completely different mode! This is proof that we cannot put all the chants in a “theoretical box”; they all don’t “fit the mold.”

In my recent blog on Mode 3, I stated that the reciting tone was TI—an unstable pitch that wants to pull up to DO.  The ancient theorists stated that the distance between the Home Tone and Reciting Tone was a perfect 5th for the Authentic Modes (1,3,5,7).  This theory worked beautifully for the other Modes, but Mode 3 has the “challenge” of the TI.

Many older Antiphonales  (Chant books that contain the Divine Office Antiphons and Psalms) show Mode 3 as reciting on DO, not TI.  However, the Solesmes Antiphonale of 1934, lists both the Tonus in tenore antiquo —the ancient tone reciting on TI, and the Tonus recentior or recent tone, and it is on DO.  In the most recent editions of the Antiphonale (2005j),  the recitation on TI has remained.

Here is an excerpt from Dom Mocquereau’s Le Nombre Musical Gregorien” about Mode 3:

The dominant of the third mode was regular in ancient times;  it was formerly si (TI), as we can still see in the psalmody of the Introits at Monte Cassino and at Benevento in Italy.  But the mobility of this note, its proximity also to DO, gradually attracted to this latter note the dominant – or at least the reciting tone in psalmody.  But the si (TI) remained in the body of the melody both as a reciting tone or as a passing tone, without being affected by the change which had taken place in the psalmodic recitation tone.

Below is a simple Mode 3 antiphon, followed by psalmody, with the reciting tone on TI.  It is taken from the Office of Compline. Listen for this relation! Salva Nos

This entry was posted in Church of the Transfiguration, Gregorian Chant, Liturgy of the Hours, Monasticism by Sr. Fidelis. Bookmark the permalink.


About Sr. Fidelis

I am 46 years old, and have been a Sister at the Community of Jesus for 26 years. Having grown up here, I have been singing Gregorian chant since I was 10! I was very blessed to study Gregorian chant with Dr. Mary Berry in Cambridge, England and here at home. Recently, I have been able to do some radio and tv interviews, sharing about the blessings of Gregorian chant. I love leading chant workshops, and have been able to do that in the US and abroad.

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