1st Edition

Oral and Written Transmission in Chant

Edited By Thomas Forrest Kelly Copyright 2009

    The writing down of music is one of the triumphant technologies of the West. Without writing, the performance of music involves some combination of memory and improvisation. Isidore of Seville famously wrote that "unless sounds are remembered by man, they perish, for they cannot be written down". This volume deals with the materials of chant from the point of view of transmission. The early history of chant is a history of orality, of transmission by mouth to ear, and yet we can study it only through the use of written documents. Scholars of medieval music have taken up the ideas and techniques of scholars of folklore, of oral transmission, of ethnomusicology; for the chant is, in fact, an ancient music transmitted for a time in oral culture; and we study a culture not our own, whose informants are not people but manuscripts. All depends, ironically, on deducing oral issues from written documents.

    Contents: Introduction; Part I Music Writing: The early history of music writing in the West, Leo Treitler; De accentibus toni oritur nota quae dicitur neuma: prosodic accents, the accent theory, and the Paleofrankish script, Charles M. Atkinson. Part II Notation and Performance: Gregorian chant: the restoration of the chant and 75 years of recording, Mary Berry; The Pontificio Istituto di Musica Sacra in Rome and the semiological school of Dom Eugène Cardine, Nino Albarosa; The performance of plainchant: some preliminary observations of the new era, Lance W. Brunner. Part III Oral and Written Transmission: Homer and Gregory: the transmission of epic poetry and plainchant, Leo Treitler; 'Centonate' chant: Ãœbles Flickwerk or E pluribus unus?, Leo Treitler; Evidence for the traditional view of the transmission of Gregorian chant, David G. Hughes; Charlemagne's archetype of Gregorian chant, Kenneth Levy; 'Communications', concerning Levy and Hughes, above, Leo Treitler; Levy's response; Hughes's response; The debate about the oral and written transmission of chant, László Dobszay; On Gregorian orality, Kenneth Levy; The transmission of Western chant in the 8th and 9th centuries: evaluating Kenneth Levy's reading of the evidence, Emma Hornby; Chant research at the turn of the century and the analytical programme of Helmut Hucke, Edward Nowacki; Ways of telling stories, Susan Rankin; Interrelationships among Gregorian chants: an alternative view of creativity in early chant, Theodore Karp; Index.


    Thomas Forrest Kelly is Harvard College Professor and Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music, Harvard University, USA

    '...the introductions to each volume are excellent...' Early Music Review 'It would be hard to overestimate the value of the work presented in these collections.' Medieval Review