11th International Congress on Gregorian Chant

The International Society for Studies of Gregorian Chant (AISCGre) hold its 11th congress from June 10 to 15 in the Bishop-Benno-House, a conference center run by the diocese of Dresden-Meissen in Bautzen-Schmochtitz in Germany, close to the Polish border.

The main topic is Gregorian Chant: Semiology and Interpretation. The central role of rhythmical articulation, with several daily plenary sessions. Moreover there are workshops in different languages, short paper presentations, and choir practice. The congress will host two public concerts, celebrate Vespers in the cathedral of Goerlitz and a concluding Eucharist in the cathedral of Bautzen, presided by the vicar-general of Dresden-Meissen, Andreas Kutschke.

Around 115 participants are going to join the congress, and the full members of the AISCGre will elect new board members (with the author of these lines hoping to be re-elected into the board of the German section).

Further information can be found on the completely redesigned AISCGre website.

7 comments

  1. Are you attending, Liborius? Maybe you could report on it, or at least share a few insights. I’m interested in what they mean by the semiology of Gregorian chant. Perhaps on a simple level!

    1. Rita,

      The website that Liborius linked to gives the following:

      Gregorian semiology is the applied science which aims at disclosing the meaning of neumes for the interpretation of the Gregorian compositions. Semiology uses the insights of musical paleography; beyond the paleographic methods and scope semiology aims at questions of an esthetical and practical nature. It is using the oldest manuscripts as they offer the most diverse and nuanced information with regard to the rhythmical interpretation and the word-melody relationship in Gregorian chant.

      Neumes are the handwritten signs which, from the 9th century, convey information on – first – the rhythmical and later the melodic arrangement of Gregorian chant. Gregorian semiology, among other things, proves that the Gregorian rhythm does not follow any metric criteria but rather is entirely word-generated and it shows the unique symbiosis of text and melody characterizing that repertoire.

      If I remember correctly, when Dom Eugène Cardine first propounded his theory, he likened the scholar’s approach to “looking down the pen of the monastic scribe as he actually writes the neumes on the page”, or words to that effect.

    2. Rita, I am sorry that I did not see your comment earlier! The congress is over, I was attending, and you can find some pictures and titles of the conferences on the German AISCGre facebook site: http://www.aiscgre.de/facebook.php

      This congress was focused on “rhythmical articulation:” How exactly should single notes and syllables be pronounced and articulated in relation to others, and how should the transitions between a note and the next one, or a syllable and the next one sound? All this depends on how you read and interpret the neumes, and there is a complex terminology in this field, and there are quite different interpretations. The congress was an opportunity to get these different interpretations in a mutual dialogue. – And furthermore there were lots of liturgies, concerts, and short paper presentations.

  2. Thank you, Liborius (and Paul) for the further elucidations.

    So, if I am understanding this correctly now… The “signs” being interpreted are the notations in early texts; sort of a musical paleography — with consequences for aural performance, but not an examination of the music of Gregorian chant as a symbol system for something else (theological or liturgical).

    The subject of rhythmical articulation sounds interesting!

    1. Well, the way you transfer (Biblical) text into an aural performance has very much to do with how you understand the text. So Gregorian Chant is the rhetorical/aural manifestation of how the Medieval singers/composers (mainly monks) interpreted the text. For example, we had a conference on Patristic influence in Gregorian Chant. The graphical signs (neumes) show what syllables, words or phrases are the most important ones, or where the sentences or phrases are seperated from each other or closely connected; or where a phrase copies another one. All that is not just music for the sake of audible beauty, but for the sake of proclaiming sacred Word.

  3. “Well, the way you transfer (Biblical) text into an aural performance has very much to do with how you understand the text.”

    As the conference program Paul quoted said, “word generated.”

    Agreed. And I am very much interested in that.

    1. I wonder how much of the scholarship exemplified in classics like Walter Ong’s “Orality and Literacy” and its progeny has been integrated into chant interpretation. The world in which chant was transcribed was much more oral than ours in many ways, but literate clerics also had a relationship with the written text that was perhaps quite different from ours. (In the latter respect, I think of the Irish monks who had a difficult time understanding the spoken Latin of Romans in the early medieval era, because the monks’ Latin was formed more by encounters with texts than socially modulated.)

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