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FW: TMR 99.01.13, Levy, Gregorian Chant (Hen)

Poster: "Garrett, William" <WGarrett@sierrahealth.com>

> Kenneth Levy. <i>Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians</i>. 
> Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1998. Pp. x, 271. 
> $49.50 (hb).  ISBN: 0-691-01733-6
>    Reviewed by Yitzhak Hen
>         University of Haifa
>         rhhg101@research.haifa.ac.il
> Kenneth Levy is well known to early medievalists for his work on 
> early medieval music and neumatic tradition.  For more than 
> three decades Levy has written with sustained intelligence, 
> opening up new subjects and contributing some lucid and 
> comprehensive analysis to our understanding of early medieval 
> music, and more precisely Byzantine and Carolingian plainchant.  
> In <i>Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians</i> Levy seeks "to 
> consider Gregorian chant's passage from oral to written 
> transmission" (p.  3), and he does so by reproducing several of 
> his most relevant papers and by adding to them some new 
> studies.  The result is an important and most illuminating 
> book, which traces the evolution and dissemination of Latin 
> plainchant in the early medieval West.
> The book itself contains eleven chapters.  The first chapter, 
> entitled "From Gregory to the Ottonians", is a general 
> introduction to the entire volume, and in it Levy gives a short 
> survey of the various problems he discusses in the following 
> chapters.  As he explains, "between the sixth and the tenth 
> centuries, European plainchant went through three more or less 
> simultaneous processes of change." (p.  6)  First, local 
> repertories were suppressed and substituted by a single, 
> "authoritative" Gregorian repertory; second, a change from 
> variable to fixed melos took place; and third, the solely aural 
> transmission was gradually replaced by notational transmission, 
> in which neumes served as memory aids.  These three intertwined 
> changes were all completed by the end of the ninth century.  
> Given the fact that the fixing of melodic substances did not 
> begin before the reign of Pippin III and Charlemagne, the 
> inevitable question that needs asking is what happened to the 
> music during the ninth century, before the initial neumatic 
> transmission?
> According to Levy (pp.  10-13), three scenarios were suggested 
> by scholars in recent decades.  The first scenario, entitled 
> "the late independent" scenario, argues that the Gregorian 
> musical substances reached fixed, definitive melodic states in 
> the late eighth century, and since then was maintained without 
> change by aural means until neuming started independently at 
> different places ca.  900.  The second scenario, "the 
> reimprovisation" scenario, agrees with "the late independent" 
> scenario as to the late, independent start of neuming, but it 
> also adds that no musical uniformity was maintained by the 
> Carolingians.  According to this scenario, improvisational 
> strategies and great freedom continued to characterise 
> Carolingian music, even after neuming was introduced.  The 
> third scenario, "the early archetype" scenario, perceives the 
> neumes as essential agents in reaching a fixed melodic state, 
> and accordingly it maintains that an archetype Carolingian 
> model of neuming was developed ca. 800, and thereafter served 
> as a basis for nearly all Carolingian neumations.  This is the 
> scenario favoured by Levy, and this is the theory he develops 
> in Chapters 4 and 5, "Charlemagne's Archetype of Gregorian 
> Chant" (originally published in <i>Journal of the American 
> Musicological Society</i> 40 (1987), pp.  1-30) and "The 
> Origins of the Neumes" (originally published in <i>Early Music 
> History</i> 7 (1987), pp.  59-90).
> Chapter 2, "A Gregorian Processional Antiphon" (originally 
> published in <i>Schweizer Jahrbuch fuer Musikwissenschaft</i> 2 
> (1982), pp.  91-102) discusses the antiphon <i>Deprecamur 
> te</i>, which, according to Bede, was sung in 597 by Augustine 
> of Canterbury on approaching the city.  After examining the 
> various neumatic witnesses of this antiphon, Levy argues that 
> "the Carolingian melody is likely to have been received already 
> stylized from Italy, with little added in the way of 'northern' 
> or 'Frankish' retouching" (p.  30), and that the ultimate 
> Italian source was probably Roman and not Beneventan.
> Chapter 3, "Toledo, Rome and the Legacy of Gaul" (originally 
> published in <i>Early Music History</i> 4 (1984), pp.  49-99) 
> explores the antecedents for certain Gregorian offertories, 
> suggesting that Gallican rather than Roman tradition is 
> reflected in many of them.  In this chapter Levy focuses on 
> "close multiples", that is, neumed versions of a certain 
> plainchant which, although written in different times and 
> different places, have some melodic agreements.  These "close 
> multiples" point to a shared aural version behind the various 
> neumed versions, and through these "close multiples" one can 
> get a rare glimpse of the archaic melodic states, before 
> neuming was introduced.
> "Close multiples" is also the subject of Chapter 6, "On 
> Gregorian Orality" (originally published in <i>Journal of the 
> American Musicological Society</i> 43 (1990), pp.  185-227).  
> Here Levy compares the various neumed recensions of the old-
> Gallican offertory for Saint Stephen, <i>Elegerunt 
> apostoli</i>.  The melodic agreements which these recensions 
> represent point to a stable melos, even before its music was 
> neumed.  However, the lack of a full agreement indicates that 
> the melos was not yet firm during the period of neumless 
> transmission.
> Chapter 7, "Abbot Helisacher's Antiphoner" (parts of which were 
> published in <i>Journal of the American Musicological 
> Society</i> 48 (1995), pp.  171-184), and Chapter 8, 
> "Aurelian's Use of Neumes", are dedicated to particular texts.  
> The former examines Helisacher's letter to Archbishop Nidibrius 
> of Narbonne (dated to ca.  820), while the latter discusses 
> Aurelian of Reome's <i>Musica disciplina</i> (dated to ca.  
> 850).  Both texts, according to Levy, discuss a melos that was 
> rather fixed, down to the fine details, and quite possibly 
> profiled in neumes.  Thus, submits Levy, these texts "should 
> lay to rest any notion that improvisation was a continuing 
> option in the ninth-century Gregorian melodic transmission" (p.  
> 194).
> In Chapter 9, "Plainchant before Neumes", Levy turns to study 
> differences of musical behaviour in the notational states in an 
> attempt to understand the aural states, before there was any 
> neuming.  Consequently, Levy distinguishes between four classes 
> of Gregorian chant, that is, "remembered melodies" 
> (<i>idiomela</i>); "accommodated melodies"; "Psalmic matrices", 
> and "<i>centonate</i> compilations", each of which "having 
> something of its own behaviour, and each reflecting perhaps a 
> different process of aural generation, or, a different path 
> from aural to notational delivery" (p.  195).
> Chapter 10, "The Carolingian Visual Model", is, in more than 
> one respect, the culmination of the entire book.  It "ties 
> together proposals made in earlier chapters, concerning neumes' 
> origins and the start of neumed Gregorian states" (p.  15) and 
> it persuasively presents "the early archetype" theory.  By ca. 
> 800, argues Levy in this paper, a full, authoritative Gregorian 
> repertory was established (probably in Metz), in which melodic 
> refinements were attained by visual-notational control.  This 
> repertory--Charlemagne's Archetype--provided choiremasters 
> throughout the Frankish realm with the memory support they 
> needed to maintain the Carolingian-Gregorian melodies.  Thus, 
> according to Levy, neumes were already in regular use during 
> the late eighth century.
> Chapter 11, "Memory, Neumes, and Square Notations", concludes 
> the book and in it Levy traces in broad lines the nature and 
> development of melodic variance from the tenth to the 
> eighteenth century.
> Although Levy's hypotheses and discussions may generate some 
> criticism and controversy, there is little place to doubt that 
> <i>Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians</i> is an important 
> contribution to the study of early medieval music.  It provides 
> a strong and quite convincing case for the "early archetypal" 
> scenario, and it contains much that will be of interest to 
> academics and research students of early medieval music and 
> liturgy.
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