Sunday, November 27, 2016

New Year - Magnificat in the Eighth Mode

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever. 

Luke 1:46-55 (followed by the Glory Be To The Father) 

Chanting the Magnificat on the various modes is similar to chanting the Psalms:  

There is an initial melodic pattern used in each verse

Followed by sung on the "reciting tone" on which most of the words are recited (c in this case) 

a melodic patter to be used at the end of the first half of the verse, more words sung on the reciting tone 

and a closing melodic patter at the end of each verse. 

As you can see in this "chant notation" the noting of each reciting tone is not literal but left to the understanding of the singer.   There are a few kind of confusing things about this notation which doesn't really show rhythm, which is left more or less to the choir master's conception of how the speech rhythm of the text should go but the differences are usually less than that would lead you to suspect.   Of course, you can sing along with the monks as you read the notation in this video. It will probably tell you more than my going on about it will. 

If you want to read about that method the section in the Liber Usualis on the Ordinary Chants of the Office can tell you quite a bit and it gives the melodic patterns used in each mode.   That starts on page 207 of the book (page 319 of the PDF). 

This book Chants of the ChurchIn Modern Notation gives a less ornamented version of the Magnificat  on Pages 132 and 133 (148 and 149 of the PDF).   Note that the first half of the verse is on the first of those pages and the second half of it is on the next page.  Especially useful are the interlinear style translations of the texts,  the texts and their meanings are the most important thing in this.  It is prayer and meditation, after all. 

Why the priests and monks who publish even the easier to use chant books don't just give it to you straight forward is something I don't understand.  The savings in paper, I suppose. That's understandable when it's chanting the 150 Psalms on the various melodic patters, though that savings is slight in the case of the Magnificat which isn't that long and only has a couple of handfuls of different ways to chant it.  

Of course, if you are doing it alone, the best thing to do would be to come up with your own melodic setting.  Who's going to tell you you can't do that?  If you're doing it for yourself, in private, you don't have to worry about what someone else thinks.  If you decide something isn't right, you just try something else.  Critics have never added a single thing to music, they're in the business of preventing music, not creating it.    That's not the purpose of this, to start with, it's the meaning of the text.   About which, more later. 

I don't think the Gregorian melodies work well with any English translation of the Magnificat I can think of.  English has far different rhythms and patters of meaning.   If you want to do this in English or, I'd guess, other languages, coming up with your own ways of doing it is probably best.  

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