Article

The Language, Form, and Performance of Monophonic Liturgical Chants

Susan Boynton and Margot Fassler

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195394016.013.0018

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Language, Form, and Performance of Monophonic Liturgical Chants

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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This article emphasizes the performative aspects of a system, realized through repetition and voicing. The Latinity of medieval sung liturgical texts depends fundamentally on their performance, for the style of a chant is determined by the parameters of genre, local and regional traditions, and by the liturgical context within which it is sung. As a result, diverse stylistic layers and forms of Latin verse and prose coexisted within the medieval Mass and Office. Some of the elements were fairly fixed, while others changed over time and varied by region or ecclesial affiliation. Singing the liturgy was an embodied experience of group identity, both because it was performed in choir and because religious communities and urban centers had their own distinctive traditions. Singing was also a process of linguistic assimilation. The clergy internalized the Latin of the Bible. The Psalms, which were central to the medieval liturgy, were a primary point of reference for medieval writers, whose readings of Scripture were often influenced by their experience of the liturgy. The key bodies of knowledge, in their transmission across historical, geographical, and literary divides, function as “discourses” in a Foucaultian sense: as repertories of intellectual possibility that enable and simultaneously circumscribe the parameters of intelligible cultural production.

Keywords: Bible; liturgy; chants; singing; psalms

Article.  10018 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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