Or that’s what some of the folks over at the New Liturgical Movement would have you think. The responses to a repost of my side-by-side comparison of the Solesmes method v. the Rhetorical approach range from the politely skeptical (“I doubt whether the second recording is fully representative for the semiological method”) to the vitriolic (a now-deleted comment that said something to the effect of “if this is what chant sounded like in the Medieval period, no one would want to restore it now”).
In response to one reader who commented that I was “clearly not interpreting the St. Gall semiology [sic]” (I think they mean “paleography”), I decided to challenge myself:
1) find a chant in the Graduale Novum that contains only St. Gall neumes, and not Laon notation.
2) record Solesmes and rhetorical versions of that chant
3) compare the result to pre-existing recordings in the Solesmes and semiologically-informed methods.
Well, the perfect chant presented itself — Dicit Dominus: Implete, from the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. I can hardly call this a “rhetorical” performance in that I didn’t spend a long time practicing or trying to really get the feeling for “how it goes.” I am simply giving an honest reading, pretty much at sight, of the rhythm of the St. Gall notation using the pitches from the Graduale Novum. Again, for comparison, I have included the version from the Solesmes edition.
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. Is my reading, as one reader commented on my previous post, “just an idosyncratic interpretation, and not one that actually renders neumes consistently”? Let’s see how it compares to Turco’s reading of the same chant:
Now, let’s hope that Turco’s group spent more than two minutes studying this chant before they decided to record it for a commercial release. And let’s lay aside the fact that it is given a nuanced performance, with an ensemble (not a solo voice), and in a lovely acoustic. Also, it’s clear that Turco is working with a different source for the pitches than the Graduale Novum version. Looking only at the rhythms, i.e. the long and short notes, you will find that they are largely in the same place as in my reading. The fact that the two of us came to such similar readings independently of one another leads me to think that my performance is not capricious.
The ways in which they disagree are the last note of the cursive torculus (which I treat as a long before a new syllable, by convention) and the first note of what I had instinctively guessed might be a torculus initio debilis (which is difficult to confirm without the more explicit Laon notation to compare). I admit I might not be reading these two in the same way they were performed in the 10th century, but I am an confident that in the absence of another manuscript with which to compare, this is at the very least a plausible interpretation.
Oh, and if you want to double check my Solesmes method singing, you can compare it to the version at jogueschant.org.