[Smt-talk] Examples of Modes

Nicolas Meeùs nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be
Wed Aug 28 14:06:47 PDT 2013


Unfortnuately, I cannot have access to your book just now; but I read 
your paper "Arripui hymnarium" in /De musica disserenda/, which gave me 
an idea of your hypothesis. I am very interested with tonal centricity, 
which to me is essential to the very notion of 'modality'. I believe, 
for instance, that late medieval and Renaissance polyphony is modal 
because it evidences tonal centricity.
     I have two questions, however; I am aware that I may find an answer 
at least to the first one in your book, which I intend to read as soon 
as possible: in that case, don't bother to answer it.

The first question is: do you think that the leap upward from the final 
is somehow a 'natural', unconscious feature of modes, or do you view it 
as a conventional way of signaling the tonal center? On the one hand I 
fail to see how such feature could result, say, from the structure of 
the diatonic system; it is true that most melodies of the world tend to 
leap upwards and to descend stepwise, as I think Curt Sachs already 
noted, but I don't see why the leap should be from the final (especially 
that it would have to be from an intermediate final). On the other hand 
I know that music does make use of conscious signaling, particularly in 
ensemble singing, but I don't immediately see the reason for this in the 
case of church modes.

The second question that I have concerns the special case of psalm 
antiphons: many of these are too short to include any internal cadence, 
or upwards leaps of any kind (unless at the very beginning, but then not 
always upwards from the final). On the other hand, it is in that case 
that the tonal centre may be of "vital importance", as you write. I can 
see your point when dealing with hymns, but there the question of 
joining bits of music does not arise, I think.

There are many subsidiary questions that immediately arise:
– I thought that the notion of "final" did not appear in medieval theory 
before Hucbald, i.e. at a time when the modes were close to being 
"turned into scales". Is your hypothesis to be linked with the interval 
between final and tenor (reciting tone)?
– The joining of antiphons with psalm verses concerns not only the end 
of the antiphon and the beginning of the psalm tone (which very much 
involves the final as tonal centre), but also the end of the tone with 
the beginning of the antiphon, which depends on the particular 
differentia used.
– Did you consider what Jacques de Liège (and others, probably) had to 
say of melodies which did not end on their proper final because of a 
mistake of the singers, who ended on one of the affinals? Would these 
cases concern melodies lacking the upwards leap that you describe?
– Etc., but these will suffice for the time being.

I presume that the upwards leaps that you describe could often be from 
the final to the reciting note, what may suffice as 
justification/explanation, and which may link to the later theory of 
fifth and fourth species. But does not this raise a question of 
chronology (considering the theory of "cordes mères", of tenor and final 
at first not being distinct)? I'd very much like to hear your opinion 
about all this.

Nicolas Meeùs
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 26/08/2013 10:49, Fiona McAlpine a écrit :
> Coming back to Nicolas' earlier point about the 'church' modes being 
> not just scales but collections of melodic formulae: in the absence of 
> any harmonic underpinning, these melodic formulae also had to define 
> the tonal centre in a world where the tonal centre was of vital 
> importance because most of your  musical activity consisted of joining 
> discrete bits of music to each other (I'm talking abut monks joining 
> antiphons to psalm tones, which Nicolas touched on). Those modes were 
> there, and organised thus in relation to tonal centre, from perhaps 
> mid-ninth century (Aurelian), long before they got turned into scales 
> (let's say before the point of reference for most of the readers of 
> these pages, Guido in the early eleventh century). There is a 
> technique by which medieval musicians achieved this tonal-centredness, 
> given that all medieval modes used the same diatonic collection: leaps 
> upwards from the final in an essentially stepwise melodic world. 
> Forgive the self-puffery, but for further collaboration see my book 
> /Tonal Consciousness & the Medieval West/.
> (Dr) Fiona McAlpine
> Honorary Research Fellow
> School of Music
> University of Auckland
> /Le Béguinage/
> 42 Horns Rd
> RD 1
> Oxford 7495
> North Canterbury
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------

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