The First Notated Gregorian Chant,
Introit: Puer natus est
Music Nobis, c.600?
590 – 1000 CE
The religious music of the Roman
Catholic Church was derived from
existing Jewish and Eastern musical
Pope Gregory the Great (Pope from
590-604 CE) is said to be responsible for
unifying chant into a uniform body of
The standardization of the chant and a
shift from improvising to composing
music necessitated the development of
musical notation. Thus, this is the first
significant body of recorded music
available to music historians.
Icon of Blessed Virgin Mary
Sources: Grove, pp 20 – 33; Miller and Cockrell Byzantine
Gregorian Chant II
Pope Gregory ordered the
collection and standardization of
chants from all over Europe:
Byzantium (now Istanbul) =
hymns (songs of praise);
Ambrosian Chant (Milan, after
St. Ambrose) = antiphonal
singing (two choirs alternate);
Gallican chant (from France;
chant with Northern European
and Celtic characteristics) ;
Mozarabic chant (from Spain;
chant with North African and
Characteristics of Gregorian Chant I
Monophonic (a single
melody with no harmony)
Modal (not in a major/minor
key, but using one of eight
ancient range of pitches)
A cappella (Instrumental
music cannot communicate
prayer as efficiently as vocal
free/flexible rhythms that
follow the natural rhythms of
Melodically conjunct (the
melody mostly rises and falls
by adjacent notes)
Gregorian Chant, Mass for Christmas Day: Kyrie, c.600
Characteristics of Greg. Chant II
Limited range (usually within an octave range, suitable for higher male voices)
Sung in Latin
Written in neumatic notation (see below)
Gregorian chant remains among the most spiritually moving music in western culture.
However, its pure, floating melody was purely functional: a means of communicating
prayer, whether it be for the eight Offices (prayers throughout the day), or for the
Sources: History of Western Music, Miller & Cockrell, Grout “History of Western Music”
The Catholic Mass
The Roman Catholic Mass is a
„recreation‟ of the last supper.
• The Mass has two main parts, the
Proper and the Ordinary.
•The Proper of the mass varies
through the year and includes texts
unique to feasts and holy days.
•The Ordinary of the mass is
invariable and contains the following
Kyrie (“Christ have mercy”)
Gloria (“Glory to God in the Highest”) Ibid.
Credo (“We believe in one God”)
Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”)
Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) Nave of Chartres Cathedral
Types of Chant
The main function of chant is to enhance the meaning of the church liturgy.
Music was set to the text in the following ways:
Syllabic (each syllable gets one note) Greg. Chant, Sequence for Easter, Victimae, c.600?
Neumatic (each syllable gets a couple of notes) Gregorian Chant, Introit: Puer natus est
Melismatic (some syllables get many notes) Gregorian Chant, Mass for Christmas Day: Kyrie, c.600?
Psalmodic (many syllables are sung to one note) Greg, Chant, Psalm 109: Dixit dominus, c.600?