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The Plainchant of the Medieval Period - Research Paper Example

Although the chants are remarkably soothing and gentle to the ears, it would be deceiving to interpret them entirely as music because they are inseparable from their liturgical, traditional, and ceremonial background and function. Plainchant is a musical style used by the medieval church. Basically, it is a musical prayer. The musical appeal of plainchant stems from its syntax, punctuation, and phraseology. It can be as plain as melodic reading on a single pitch, normally performed in the reading of the Gospel (Grout & Palisca 2001, 31). A minor drop in pitch from the melodic reading may signal the last part of a reflection. An increase to the melodic pitch points out the start of a reading or the main part of the thought. The methods for chanting the Psalms give details about this plain melodic reading by presenting various pitch guidelines for beginnings, middle parts, endings, and continuation of the melodic reading (Haines & Haines 2010, 12). More mellow chants, even though they develop from this core composition, still hold on to the kind of oral message. The level of complexity of the song depends on the seriousness or value of the event, the role of the text in the ceremony, and the musician (e.g. choir, soloist) (Wright 2010, 68-69). In other words, it depends on the liturgy. Liturgy is defined as the “body of texts and rites that make up a sacred service” (Grout & Palisca 2001, 31). The liturgy melodies, prayers, and readings honor and celebrate special personalities, calendar

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days, or events. The liturgy of the ancient Christian church placed emphasis on a ceremony commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and his apostles. This liturgy eventually became the Mass. From the concerted meditation and chanting of psalms, which was influenced by Jewish traditions, emerged the liturgy of the Canonical Hours (Grout & Palisca 2001, 31). The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris presented the ‘organum’ by the 12th century. The ‘organum’ is a polyphonic music—composed of multiple separate musical voices—that religious songs gradually evolved into (Wright 2010, 72). Thus, the two musical styles during the medieval period were Polyphonic and Monophonic styles. Monophonic songs were usually lengthy and smooth and sung with a single voice whereas Polyphonic songs were lengthy and varied. Many of the songs that were composed in the medieval period were created by individuals or musicians who are still unknown (Knighton & Fallows 1998, 107). Many of the Gregorian Chants were passed on orally and were perhaps the outcome of spontaneity rather than composition. Nevertheless, several of the identified composers of the medieval period were Guillaume de Machaut and Hildegard von Bingen (Haines & Haines 2010, 151). The chant and the liturgy evolved over time. The repertory evolved and grew, while several rituals stayed the same. Written accounts, or also known as ‘ceremonials’, sustained the official arrangement of ceremonies, even as volumes documented the readings and prayers. Sooner or later, symbols written on top of the words specified chanting patterns (Grout & Palisca 2001, 32). The earliest volumes contain musical symbols from the 9th century, but the patterns of pitch within these manuscripts are plainly inexact, a simple reminder or note rather than an instruction of what was to be chanted. Arrangement of pitch patterns became more accurate
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Name of Professor The Plainchant of the Medieval Period The chants of the medieval period are regarded as one of the greatest riches of Western culture and history. They are regarded as a commemoration of religious life in the medieval period, representing the artistic taste and shared aims of the era…
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