Under the Microscope!
There is much to be observed when looking at a piece of Gregorian chant! The Introit for Week 9 is a wonderful confident chant based on verses from Psalm 26. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
Take a look below. First to be noted are the items circled in aqua. IN.II tells us that this is the introit, and its in Mode 2. You’ll see a series of letters below this information: R B (greek letter) K S. These letters represent the oldest Antiphonaries of the Mass, before notation of any kind was added. In other words, these showed text only!
This same Introit’s text appeared in:
R = The Gradual of Rheinau (about 800)
B = The Gradual of Mont-Blandin – (8th to 9th century)
K = The Gradual of Corbie (after 853)
S = The Gradual of Senlis (between 877 and 882)
The clef is also an important item. This is the FA clef, located on the 2nd line from the top.
The yellow box to the left of this information tells us that the neums above and below the square notation come from certain manuscripts. The neums above come from the Laon Manuscript [ L ], folio or page number 150.
The notation below comes from the Einsiedeln manuscript [E ], folio or page 316. What does all this mean? It means the chant that we sing today, was a part of the liturgy used in the 800’s, and the text and tune together were found in 10th and 11th century manuscripts. This living tradition has tap roots that go back centuries!
One more thing to note: there are two strategic pitches in any Gregorian chant; the reciting tone, and the home tone, or place where the chant “settles.” A quick glance at our piece below shows us that this melody fluctuates between these two important pitches,dipping below and above. The reciting pitch, FA is circled in red, while the home tone, RE is shown in green.
The more we look at these chants in depth, we realize we are handling something that has been the vehicle of the prayers and songs of the faithful for layers of time. In the chanting of them, we are transformed as they become our prayers and songs.