Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Universalis.com Now Offers the Divine Office with Pointed Psalms

Now a community can chant the Office in unison from their smartphones!

I was excited recently to hear that the website Universalis.com now has an option to have the psalms of the Divine Office pointed for chanting. This allows people to chant them in community or congregation in unison. The psalm tones which can be applied to these are those that are given on this site, thewayofbeauty.org on the Psalm Tones page; they are adapted from the traditional Gregorian tones.

The points (the marks over certain syllables) coincide with the naturally emphasized syllables of speech, and so are intuitive and natural to use.

The psalm tones on my website make use of the final two points in each line and are simple to use. Scores for the tones can be downloaded, and there is an instructional video along with materials explaining how to use them. All the materials on this site are free, but for those who would like greater help, I have created an online course teaching you how to sing them from the traditional chant notation at www.Pontifex.University, which costs $95 for several hours of tuition.

The pointed psalms are available on the app, which can be downloaded from iTunes or Google Play.

When you get it on your smartphone, the screen will look like this:
Martin Kochanski, the editor of Universalis, explained the procedure to me. “When you use Universalis.com with the app, there ought to be a grey box mentioning the pointing just below the first psalm on this page: in that case, just tap on it and say Yes, you want the pointing. If for any reason the box isn’t there, then
  1. Tap on the screen to get the toolbar to appear.
  2. Tap on the cogwheel to open the Settings screen.
  3. In the Liturgy of the Hours section of that screen, turn on the option ‘Show chant marks.’

The tones I have created conform to the pattern of language, rather than imposing their own rhythm on the words. This means that once you understand how the system works, which is pretty simple, they flow naturally, and it frees you to contemplate the text more deeply.

Also, with this system, any psalm tone can be sung to any psalm, so once you know even just one, you can sing the whole psalter.

These tones are arranged so that any tone can be applied to any text, and they always follow the natural rhythm of the words of the text. The system is so simple that you don’t need a deep musical training - if you can sing it, you can teach others to sing it. This means that in just a few minutes, you could have a completely fresh group able to learn a tone and sing a whole Office together.

Furthermore, because the system of matching tone to text is so natural, it makes it easy to compose new tones. I was motivated to create these because I was struggling to find any that I was happy with, and realized that there was no reason that I couldn’t do it at least as badly as anyone else. So, if you don’t like mine, compose your own. I would love to see someone doing better than me and the more people composing the better, for the best will rise to the surface, so to speak, and catch on. This way we will have a living, organic tradition!

I would love to see the Coverdale Psalms of the Anglican Ordinariate Psalter pointed in this way too. I am currently going through a Google Doc file of all 150 psalms and pointing them, and I hope to have that available later this year (it is quite time-consuming to do it, as you can imagine). If so, I may publish it myself with Way of Beauty press (which published my latest book The Vision for You - How to Discover the Life You Were Made For).

In the meantime, perhaps prayer.covert.org or another site that offers the Anglican Use Office might consider doing the same. I understand that the simple reason that Mr. Kochanski did this on Universalis was that someone wrote and asked!
St Benedict of Nursia introduces an early medieval mechanical smartphone to the community at Norcia

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