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Module Code - Title:


Year Last Offered:


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Prerequisite Modules:

Rationale and Purpose of the Module:

To facilitate an understanding of methodologies and theoretical paradigms relevant to the study and performance of Western plainchant, drawing on both historical musicological and ethnomusicological approaches. To introduce Western plainchant from its beginnings until the later Middle Ages, exploring it in its historical, social, religious, liturgical, intellectual and aesthetic contexts. This will include an investigation of its origins and evolution; nature, materials, forms and styles in relation to function, date and place; written sources and their palaeography; notation (general concepts and features; notations of particular regions and periods; principles and techniques of transcription and editing).


This module lays the basis for important research and methodologies that relate to the performance practice of Western plainchant. It will introduce students to fundamental research tools in primary and secondary sources, bibliographic and referencing techniques, historical contextual knowledge, musical palaeography and semiotics. The methodological approach is presented as an interdisciplinary pursuit combining historical musicology, ethnomusicology, semiotics and relevant critical theory.

Learning Outcomes:

Cognitive (Knowledge, Understanding, Application, Analysis, Evaluation, Synthesis)

1. Demonstrate and articulate a knowledge of key texts in Western medieval chant. 2. Apply theories and methods from historical musicology, ethnomusicology and semiotics in a creative and relevant manner to the interpretation of primary sources and secondary materials. 3. Demonstrate a theoretical understanding of the Western medieval modes, and apply the theory to the practice of chant performance. 4. Explore a variety of regional chant notations. 5. Show the skills necessary for the recognition, differentiation, understanding and analysis of the musical signs of medieval chant, and evaluate how they work in different medieval manuscripts and how they are interpreted in connection with performance practice.

Affective (Attitudes and Values)

1. Differentiate between the various approaches to chant scholarship and interpretation. 2. Show willingness to embrace different practices of historically-informed chant performance.

Psychomotor (Physical Skills)

1. Demonstrate a practical knowledge of the Western medieval modes and their employment in chant by means of sight-reading. 2. Develop proficiency in the sight-reading of St. Gall and Laon scripts by means of transcription exercises and oral dictation.

How the Module will be Taught and what will be the Learning Experiences of the Students:

This module combines seminar presentations, practical work in notation and sight-reading of historical music notation, as well as laboratories in transcription, semiotics and palaeography. Seminar presentations will combine source material studies, theoretical discussion, and presentations drawn from historical, semiotical, and cross-cultural practices. Recent scholarship which is of particular relevance includes work on chant and orality - Leo Treitler, 'With Voice and Pen', Peter Jeffery, 'Ethnomusicology in the Study of Gregorian Chant' - as well as the current and ongoing work of leading scholars such as Susan Rankin, Katarina Livljanic, David Hiley, James Grier, Emma Hornby and Edward Nowacki, amongst others. The work in the module is project-based, and includes chant transcription assignments which engage students in demonstrating their knowledge of materials and methods in a creative and articulate manner. In some cases the students will be encouraged to work in teams to develop a collaborative approach to research.

Research Findings Incorporated in to the Syllabus (If Relevant):

Prime Texts:

Cardine, Eugène/Solesmes (1979) Graduale triplex [Graduale Romanum of 1974 with neumes of Laon 239, Einsiedeln 121, St Gall 359 and 339 etc. added] , Solesmes
Harper, John (1991) The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the tenth to the eighteenth century , Oxford, Clarendon Press
Cardine, Eugène (1970) Gregorian Semiology , Solesmes
Hiley, David (2009) Gregorian Chant (Cambridge Introductions to Music) , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Hiley, David (1993) Western Plainchant: A Handbook , Oxford: Clarendon Press
Treitler, Leo (2003) With Voice and Pen: Coming to Know Medieval Song and How it was Made , New York: Oxford University Press

Other Relevant Texts:

Jeffery, Peter (1995) Re-Envisioning Past Musical Cultures: Ethnomusicology in the Study of Gregorian Chant , Chicago: University of Chicago Press
McKinnon, James (2000) The Advent Project: the Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper , Berkeley; London: University of California Press
Bischoff, Bernhard; Dáibhí Ó Cróinin and David Ganz, translators (1990) Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages , Cambridge University Press
Turabian, Kate L (2013) A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th, , Chicago University Press
Mascareñas, Óscar (2010) Exposing the Play in Gregorian Chant: The Manuscript as an Opening of Re-Presentation , Doctoral Thesis, University of Limerick.

Programme(s) in which this Module is Offered:

MARCSOTFA - Ritual Chant and Song

Semester - Year to be First Offered:

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