Dissertation Index

Author: Porterfield, Richard

Title: Melodic Function and Modal Process in Gregorian Chant

Institution: CUNY Graduate Center

Begun: January 2007

Completed: December 2013


This study proposes a theory and method of analysis for voice leading in the melody of Gregorian chant. It draws on historical theories and practices, particularly those of the cantus tradition which 1) pre-dates the imposition on Western ecclesiastical chant of scale theories based in the Ancient Greek science of harmonics, 2) observes and predicts actual melodic behavior, and 3) remains basic to pedagogy through the centuries. Central to cantus-tradition doctrine is the investment of melodic tones with structural functions which articulate modes as melodic archetypes; idiomelic antiphons are analyzed according to five melodic functions derived from formulaic psalmody in a framework modally conditioned by the qualitative and intervallic relationship of final and tenor. Medieval sources put forward this functional dyad as essential to modal cognition—sometimes as the basis of modal construction—through a widespread mnemonic I call the “Re-la, re-fa” Rule; these dyads are also embedded in the ninth-century Noanoeane and eleventh-century Primum quaerite melodic prototypes. Evidence from medieval and Renaissance sources is examined in light of the predicables (genus, species, differentia, proprium, accidens) of Aristotelian dialectic, leading to critical re-evaluation of concepts such as repercussio.

The dissertation draws upon the Schenkerian tradition, demonstrating structural levels and prolongation in dyadic contrapuntal progression. Melodic-functional analysis employs modern staff notation to trace directed motion of a structural voice of tenor function from a state of consonance to one of unity with a second structural voice of final function; hexachordal voces (ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la) identify the qualities of structural tones as well as their order in the tenor-function Urlinie which passes through modal degrees toward the final-function Urpunkt; secondary modes projected by local, in-process dyads are noted in lower-case Roman numerals i—viii. Tenor and final remain inseparate in monadic structures logically preceding the dyadic (Claire’s “modes of a single element\").

Keywords: plainsong, octoechos, echemata, pentatonic, Schenker, Aristotle, logic, grammar, concinnity, Hollywood kiss


General Introduction

Chapter One: A Simple Office Antiphon

Chapter Two: Modal Theory in the Cantus Tradition

Chapter Three: Introduction to Melodic-Functional Analysis

Chapter Four: The Modal Dyad and the “Re-la, re-fa” Rule in Historical Sources

Appendix: Historical Sources, Texts, and Translations of the “Re-la, re-fa” Rule


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