Gregorian chant

The extracts of Gregorian chant music I have listened to are characterised by:

  • A single line of music sung by one or more people
  • Simple rhythms; usually each phrase consists of notes of the same approximate duration followed by longer ones at the end
  • Predominantly step-wise melodies
  • A slowing down at the end of each phrase
  • Phrases which sound unfinished, e.g. by ending on the second or fifth note of the scale
  • ‘Call and answer’ style, where a single singer’s phrase is echoed or modified by a group of people
  • Modest dynamic changes, no extremes

This style of music has always sounded very ‘serious’ to me, and of course it’s difficult to separate my observations of the music itself from the strong associations of the church it evokes in me (especially when it is sung in Latin).  I do think though that the simplicity of the music is what gives it its reverent feel.  Particularly when sung by a group of people, as Gregorian chant often is, the joining of multiple voices on a single, simple line feels somehow divine.

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