I quickly threw together a recording of 2 Hildegard antiphons in my home
studio. Found as one track (Karitas habundat and Laus trinitati) on my
The Rationale for my recording (also quickly thrown together) is below.
Mind-Body relations in Medieval Chant Performance / Kinesthetic Cognition in
Chant Performance... (working titles)
When performing one piece of music, say a Bach Cello Suite, I have noted
that my performance of the work will be altered when performing the work on
different instruments due to the idiomatic characteristics of that specific
Similarly, when improvising on bass, I have discovered that I create
different types of bass lines on my Hofner than my fretless electric bass
and different still on double bass, (i.e. would Paul McCartney has created
the same bass lines if he used a Fender Precision?) just as a keyboardist
would when switching between harpsichord, celesta, organ and piano.
If these examples of kinesthetic influence on performance are noted, then is
it reasonable to assume that kinesthetics of vision (or any of the other
senses and combination of them) should produce different performances as
well? It is for this reason that I attempted the following experiment in
performance of medieval chant.
The following are recordings of transcriptions I made of two antiphons
written by Hildegard von Bingen and recorded in the Dendermonde Codex (ca.
1175) a gift to the Cistercian monastery in Villiers.
(Karitas habundat and Laus
There is no existing performance of Hildegard's chant like this, and mine
arises from some basic disagreement with current transcriptions.
This recording was hastily thrown together (and granted, I'm not the
greatest singer) but the principle behind its performance is that I wished
to vocally inflect the quilismas, oriscas, liquiscents and other neumes
based upon their ligatured "St. Gall neume" appearance in the original
manuscript, rather than on modern or even solesmes square note notation.
(Transcriptions made in the 13th century and after sometimes seem to
ignore/exclude clues indicated by earlier signs/neumes and ligatures as to
what earlier performance practice may have been. --- There is however the
argument that ligatures are merely a scribal convention to make the task of
writing easier. (i.e. cursive vs. print))
Instead of the artificial "standard" performance practice of chant where
there is no audible distinction between virgae, puncti, quilismas,
liquiscents, etc. I made an exaggerated distinction following the basic
rules that initial notes and virgae carry more stress; oricas and quilismas
are treated as portamenti or glissandi, and liquiscents rapidly close on m,
n, r, l.
An important feature of monophony is the marriage of the words with the
music to create a diversity of sonic expressions at varying degrees of open
and closed sounds in a reverberating space. My preference for pronunciation
was based the modern conventions of Classical Latin rather than
ecclesiastical Latin. - Natural accents and vowel shapes were thus further
treated in this performance.
The result is a new interpretation of this chant full of portamentos, slurs,
and shakes which has more in common with treatment of "blue notes" or
quartertones and other intervals as found in Middle Eastern performance to
grow beyond the limits of the unnatural half-steps used in 12-tone equal