Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mocquereau the Semiologist

One of the more talk-about classes at the Sacred Music Colloquium was taught by Edward Schaefer, a student of Dom Cardine, who provided an introduction to semiology over four days. Essentially he taught everyone how to read the old manuscripts from the Triplex along with their subtle shadings that can't possibly be captured in "modern" four-line square notes.

In the course of the week, he refrained from presenting a normal "table of neumes" like we find in Cardine's book and rather taught the only signs chant by chant so that we could more quickly absorb the lessons. At the end of the sessions, several people were circulating Cardine's table, which I recall seeing twice: once in Cardine and once - in a slightly more foundational form - in Mocquereau's own book. Vast amounts of Mocquereau's book is spent explaining and examining the old manuscripts.

The point is underscored by David Hiley's new book: there is no real break in the Solesmes tradition; it is rather one continuous stream of research, perhaps with lost knowledge along the way or perhaps with some cumulative knowledge, but mostly with just different emphasis. In any case, it seems perfectly obvious in retrospect that there is no need to divide these schools and traditions into warring tribes. We can all learn from all of them.

This table is from Mocquereau's Gregorian Musical Rhythm, page 177.