Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another contribution from Prof. Laszlo Dobszay for the NLM

[Prof. Laszlo Dobszay wished to contribute this piece as part of the discussion started by Jeffrey Tucker here. Here is an excerpt. The entire piece may be read by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.]

By Prof. Laszlo Dobszay.

The Mass Psalmody: a theme we had to confront also here in Hungary some 30 years ago. Our experiences might perhaps be useful also for other regions. (I excuse myself because of the linguistic failures: my obligations do not allow me to revise it carefully!)

A) The text: Graduale Romanum or Lectionarium?
The Introduction of the Missale permits a choice: Graduale Romanum, Graduale Simplex, Lectionary. Let us make, however, a distinction between repertories and genres.

1. Repertory: The series of the Lectionary is based on an thesis current some 100 years ago, but refuted in scholarship for a time. This tought, that the psalm is a response to the reading, and should reflect its ideas. This hypothesis emerged as a commentary to the liturgy, and when it was found that is not conform with the facts, facts should be changed. (The sequence was: fact 1 – commentary – conflict between commentary and facts – change of fact 1 to fact 2.)

Therefore the interlectionary psalms of the Graduale Romanum has been replaced during the reform by a new series composed following to the axiom of „reflective psalm”. But the Mass psalm (Graduale) is, in fact, an independent entity, having its own meaning. It is response in another sense: the reading presents many word with few music (speaks to the intellectual and not the emotional part of the mind); the psalm presents few word in rich music. Therefore the relationship is of psichological nature (what does not exclude, of course, that also the Graduale has its own intellectual message). Graduale Romanum is a cycle of texts which adds a lot to the understanding of the season or to the manifestation of Christian existence, but in a way different from the readings. Consequently there is no need to accomodate it to the words of the reading.

2. Genre: Another question is the way of performance, i.e. the genre. There are scholars who suppose that Graduale was in old time a responsorial psalm, which developed later to a highly melismatic music. Other scholars deny this and think impossible to deduce the second from the first. They suppose, that the psalm was originally performed by a solo singer on an ornate melody, and later, when the choir took it over, became shorter and fixed to a proper melodic formulary. At any rate, the melismatic Graduale is more suitable to the psichological „string” of the Mass. In the avarage churches, however (regarding the skill of their musicians and congregations) the responsorial psalmody seems to be much realistic form.

To read the entire piece, click here.

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