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The earliest music in the medieval church was plainsong, or plainchant, sometimes known as “Gregorian” chant through its association with Pope Gregory I (590-604), during whose reign chants used in the Western churches were collected and categorized. Foe High Mass much of the text would be chanted to music. Some sections, forming the “Ordinary”, always had the same words on every occasion; others, the “Proper”, used different texts according to the feasts of the church year and the demands of the local liturgy.
Plainsong is a single line of text and melody, sung either by the priest or by several voices of the choir in unison, or by priest and choir in alternation. It has a smoothly flowing, undulating line, often following the rhythm of the text, and falls naturally into several phrases, with breaks for “punctuation”, rather like spoken prose. Some chants have only one note for each text syllable (syllabic chant); others have more than one note, and sometimes extended groups, to each syllable (melismatic chant). The fixed melody would normally be taken from the traditional repertory of chant, or plainsong, drawn up by the church, in which each melody is associated with a particular part of the liturgy (the prescribed form of church service); the music would thus contain an element familiar to the congregation.
The church modes were of fundamental importance to medieval composers. The plainsong melodies used in medieval churches and monasteries were first passed down orally from one generation to the next, differing in detail in different communities. There was no music staff up to the thirteenth century.
A vast body of plainsong – over 3000 melodies, each with its own significance in the liturgy – survives, and has long played an important part in church music. Chant has, moreover, been so greatly revered as a fixed point of reference that, besides being sung in its own right, it has formed the basis of much of the religious music composed during the medieval and Renaissance periods in Europe.
Credit questions on the theme “The Culture of Kyivan Rus”.
1. The culture of ancient Slavs. Beliefs and superstitions.
2. Pagan religion of Rus. Customs and traditions.
3. The decorative and applied art of Rus.
4. The history of Kyivan Rus.
5. The conversion into Christianity.
6. The wooden architecture in Rus.
7. The stone architecture in Rus.
8. Symbolism in the Orthodox church.
9. The Orthodox iconostasis.
10. The development of icon painting in Rus
UNIT 10. Russian Icon Painting