Melodic Function and Modal Process in Gregorian Chant

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  • City University of New York (CUNY)CUNY Academic WorksAll Graduate Works by Year: Dissertations, Theses,and Capstone Projects Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects


    Melodic Function and Modal Process in GregorianChantRichard PorterfieldGraduate Center, City University of New York

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    Recommended CitationPorterfield, Richard, "Melodic Function and Modal Process in Gregorian Chant" (2014). CUNY Academic Works.




    A dissertation submitted to the Graduate Faculty in Music

    in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

    Doctor of Philosophy

    The City University of New York


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    All Rights Reserved

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    This manuscript has been read and accepted by the Graduate faculty in Music in satisfaction of

    the dissertation requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    Codex hic lectus acceptusque est

    William Rothstein

    ____________________ ___________________________________

    Date Chair of Examining Committee

    Norman Carey

    ____________________ ___________________________________

    Date Acting Executive Officer

    Ruth DeFord ___________________________________

    Anne Stone ___________________________________

    Joseph Straus ___________________________________

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    Advisor: Professor William Rothstein

    This study proposes a theory and method of analysis for voice leading in the melody of

    Gregorian chant. It draws on historical theories and practices, particularly those of the cantus

    tradition which 1) pre-dates the imposition on Western ecclesiastical chant of scale theories

    based in the Ancient Greek science of harmonics, 2) observes and predicts actual melodic

    behavior, and 3) remains basic to pedagogy through the centuries. Central to cantus-tradition

    doctrine is the investment of melodic tones with structural functions which articulate modes as

    melodic archetypes; idiomelic antiphons are analyzed according to five melodic functions

    derived from formulaic psalmody in a framework modally conditioned by the qualitative and

    intervallic relationship of final and tenor. Medieval sources put forward this functional dyad as

    essential to modal cognitionsometimes as the basis of modal constructionthrough a

    widespread mnemonic I call the Re-la, re-fa Rule; these dyads are also embedded in the ninth-

    century Noanoeane and eleventh-century Primum quaerite melodic prototypes. Evidence

    gathered from sources including the Metz tonary, De octo tonis, Musica Enchiriadis,

    Commemoratio Brevis, and treatises of Aurelian, Hucbald, Guido, Johannes, Amerus, Petrus de

    Cruce, Marchetto, Coclicus, Wollick, and Ornithoparchus is examined in light of the predicables

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    (genus, species, differentia, proprium, accidens) of Aristotelian dialectic, leading to critical re-

    evaluation of concepts such as repercussio.

    The dissertation draws upon the Schenkerian tradition, demonstrating structural levels

    and prolongation in dyadic contrapuntal progression. Melodic-functional analysis employs

    modern staff notation to trace directed motion of a structural voice of tenor function from a state

    of consonance to one of unity with a second structural voice of final function; hexachordal voces

    (ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la) identify the qualities of structural tones as well as their order in the tenor-

    function Urlinie which passes through modal degrees toward the final-function Urpunkt;

    secondary modes projected by local, in-process dyads are noted in lower-case Roman numerals

    iviii. Tenor and final remain inseparate in monadic structures logically preceding the dyadic

    (Claires modes of a single element). Other key terms: concinnity, tenorization, finalization,

    transfer of function, occursus, Hollywood kiss.

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    How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life!Ludwig Wittgenstein

    In the late 1990s I was juggling three musical professions: as a member of the vocal

    ensemble Lionheart I was researching and performing medieval and Renaissance chant and

    polyphony; as music director and organist for a traditional-minded Roman Catholic parish I was

    conducting a choir in similar repertoire, and playing a lot of Baroque organ music besides; I was

    also teaching tonal harmony and counterpoint at the Mannes College of Music. In the Scherman

    Library at Mannes I discovered Murray C. Bradshaws analysis of keyboard Intonazioni by

    Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli as elaborations of psalm-tone harmonizations,1 and a paper David

    Loeb read at a Mannes symposium inspired me to try applying modal theory to the analysis of J.

    S. Bachs Orgelbchlein preludes.2 Studying the chorale melodies on which Bach based these

    settings brought to my attention points of contact with the psalm tones. Sometime after Joel

    Lester sat down with me to discuss my Bach project, the thought struck mehow small a

    thought, and how dependent on a peculiar mix of interests and experiences!that the psalm tone

    presents a structural summary of its mode, along with characteristic embellishments, that in a

    way the psalm tone virtually is the mode. I soon began to see that the psalm-tone tenor functions

    1 Bradshaw, The Origin of the Toccata. Musicological Studies and Documents 28 (American

    Institute of Musicology, 1972). 2 Loeb, Dual-Key Movements, in Schenker Studies, ed. Hedi Siegel (New York: Cambridge

    University Press, 1990), 7683.

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    remarkably like Schenkers Kopftonand that this was but one of several similarities between

    psalmodic practice and the upper voice of the Schenkerian middleground.

    This Anschauung soon led to further realizations: first that the Bach project would have

    to wait for the theoretical ground to be prepared with treatment of monophonic melody; second,

    that someone must have heard and described this virtual identity of recitation tone and mode

    before me. When I finally read the article by Harold S. Powers that Joel Lester had

    recommended, I found the following: by the end of the 11th

    century, in a passage at the

    beginning of chapter 11 of the De musica of Johannes Afflighemensis, the practical distinction of

    mode and psalm tone is obliterated with respect to the tenor.3

    I offer this autobiographical vignette in order to emphasize that although the De musica

    of Johannes and other historical treatises have confirmed my idea and guided its further

    development, what I present here ultimately stands or falls depending on how well it accords

    with the repertoire. With or without the intervention of theorists, the melodies of Gregorian chant

    speak to those who have ears to hear.

    I owe a debt of gratitude to others who have aided, encouraged, or challenged me in this

    project: to Carl Schachter, George Fisher, and Robert Cuckson; to Ian Bent, Susan Boynton,

    Matthew Cheung-Salisbury, David Cohen, Andrew Hughes, Cristle Collins Judd, Patrick

    McCreless, Stefano Mengozzi, Robert P. Morgan, Luca Ricossa, William Renwick, and Daniel

    Zimmerman; to Kyle Adams, Jason Hooper, ve Poudrier, and Alan Richtmyer; to my gracious

    advisor William Rothstein and to the other members of my dissertation committee Joseph Straus,

    Ruth DeFord, and Anne Stone; also to Mark Anson-Cartwright, Allan Atlas, Stephen Blum,

    Poundie Burstein, David Gagn, and Chadwick Jenkins; to Margot Fassler, who alerted Yale

    3 Powers, Mode, in The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians