Music for the Ages: The Influence of Gregorian Chant Through Today

Gregorian chant is a central tradition chant of Western Christianity that came into existence for that ritual services and mass celebrations. Gregorian chant originated in the West Germanic tribes, the areas of western and central Europe during 12th-13th century. Pope Gregory is believed to be the originator of Gregorian music. Gregorian chant, through its history, has survived many changes and reforms. Gregorian chants are the oldest known music to be adequately documented since 10th century. The chant of Gregorian music is learned by viva voce method. (Examples were given orally and pupils took many years of learning to expert the chant in the Schola Cantorum). The Gregorian chant originated with acceptance of monastic life when services were sung nine times a day. Neumes were the symbols that indicated tone-movements and duration within syllables in Gregorian music.

Musical forms of Gregorian chant

There are various forms of Gregorian music. The text, the phrases, the words and the syllables, can be sung in a number of ways. One of the forms is Antiphonal chant. Another form is Communion, originally referred to as chants, in which two choirs sing in alternatively. Psalmodic chants, another form, include both recitatives and free melodies (Psalmodic chants include direct psalmody, antiphonal chants, and responsorial chant). Responsorial chants (such as the Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and the Office Responsories) originally consisted of a respond sung by a choir. Responsorial chants are composed of various stock musical phrases. These pieces are pieced together in a style called centonization.

Influence of genre up to 20th century

Gregorian chanting left some prominent impact on medieval and renaissance music. Modern notations used to be be based on Gregorian neumes. The bass clef and the flat, natural and sharp accidentals were directly derived from Gregorian notes. Gregorian melodies provided materials which served as an example for tropes (Language used in a figurative or non literal sense) and religious dramas for Christians. The Catholic church also later allowed polyphonic transcriptions to substitute for the Gregorian chants. The polyphonic transcriptions used to consist of the some basics of the original Gregorian chants. Interest regenerated in Gregorian music in the late 19th century and continued for sometime in 20th century music.

Influence of Genre in the 20th and 21st century

Gregorian chanting was also used in the famous animation series known as Vision of Escaflowne and also for and xbox game with HALO as main theme. The New Age music and world music movements (1980-90) showed new signs of Gregorian chant’s revival. Classical music influences of Gregorian chants include the four chants coral settings as noticed in compositions of Maurice Duruflé (Quatre motets sur des thèmes Grégoriens), Peter Maxwell Davies and Arvo Pärt. The Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos recorded the iconic album named ‘Chant’ with a theme of music that could inspire timeless calmness and serenity. It is believed that listening to Gregorian chant increases the production of beta waves in the brain. Gregorian chant has gained the reputation of tranquilizing music.

Alternating choruses are still performed in certain German monasteries. However, today, antiphonal chants are performed by a solo cantor. This practice is believed to have germinated in the middle ages. Late medieval innovation changed the performance style with solo cantor singing the opening words of the chants and full chorus finishing the opening phrase. Modality and many other features contribute to provide a distinctive musical felling to Gregorian chant. Chants also, at times, fall into melodically groups. In present Gregorian music style, certain specific phrases are prescribed to come in beginning and others at the end. 


Information on Gregorian chant

The chant was mainly sung by men. It was originally sung by all male clergy during the mass and prayer of the clergy. Though, women were allowed to sing in the convents, the masses and the office. The choir was considered an official duty reserved for clergy and hence laymen were not allowed. Little information is available about the practices used for Gregorian chant in the middle ages.

Music resources for Gregorian chant

Recently, music score composed by Marty O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori for the Xbox game Halo had Georgian chant as the main idea. German Band Gregorian, headed by Frank Peterson, performs Gregorian chant inspired versions of modern pop and rock music. Mikael is considering using some "Gregorian chants" in his upcoming Opeth opus. In the animation series of Death Note, a theme named Kyrie has the Gregorian chant style.