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In the liturgical music of the early Christian centuries, a well developed manner of improvisation preceded any written composition. The earliest manuscripts present attempts to rationalize, i.e. explicate, an existing oral tradition. Translate: they sang by ear, not by eye, and did not have written music. This assertion is supported by the fact that plainsong (“Gregorian” Chant) was transmitted for centuries through oral tradition, albeit assisted by hand gestures. Developing an adequate written notation was long and “gradual”, and required the process described above. Succeeding centuries came to rely almost exclusively on the written scores, and vestiges of the oral tradition (including oversights in the notation) were neglected and lost.

origins of polyphony

This booklet contains about the simplest of Gregorian Ordinaries (hence “Simplex”). It also presents models of the earliest attempts at polyphony (singing “parts”). A reading knowledge of music is required only of the conductor. The arrangements are simple enough not to require prior training among the schola, or group of singers. These arrangements are intended as models, and invite elaboration and even improvisation. Unfamiliarity and inhibition are the only obstacles to achieving these goals.

For the MISSA SIMPLEX 1.2 booklet, FREE OF CHARGE, click here (0.2 mb)
includes settings of the Ordinary and some hymns

The manner of singing suggested above has been employed successfully by such a schola of six members, of whom only two,  including the conductor, had prior musical experience. Special thanks are due to the schola member who made the following  recordings (.mp3) of this endeavor.

                                                                                          RECORDINGS (.mp3)

                                                     Also free of charge; press the blue number to the left of each file name:

CREDO I  (for use with Sets 1 through 4);  
1.1 (2 pages, also included in booklet)

SET 1  Missa Simplex, pp. 02-07, the melodies alone

                                           01 Kyrie XVI                                         
03 Sanctus XVIII
                                           02 Gloria more Ambrosiano                     04 Agnus Dei XVIII
                                                SET 2 Missa Simplex, pp. 08-13; with drones

Kyrie XVI with drone a 5th below                             07 Sanctus XVIII with drone a 5th below
                                           06 Gloria more Ambrosiano with drone a 4th below         08 Agnus Dei XVIII with drone a 4th below

                                                SET 3 with organum; rf. Missa Simplex, page 01

Kyrie XVI                                  11 Sanctus XVIII
Gloria more Ambrosiano              12 Agnus Dei XVIII

                                                SET 4 elaborations on the forms suggested, descant added to drone, and the following experiment:

Kyrie XVI each section is intoned, and a drone continued on the tonic (key-note), with tropes, here
                                                English translations, inserted in the drone. (The term trope can refer to any addition to the original text.)

                                           14 Gloria more Ambrosiano          15 Sanctus XVIII        16 Agnus Dei XVIII

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