In plainchant – that reverend and revered godparent of the Western musical tradition – words from the Bible and other religious writings are endlessly cited and recited. Simply reading a liturgical text out loud to a large audience is a difficult task when done with due respect and without microphone. The best option is to sing the text: singing as an elegant way of shouting. Down through the centuries, and starting in the earliest days of the Christian church, many musicians have made creative and innovative contributions to the development of what is now to be considered as one of the most effective text rendering formats in music history. Precisely this aspect of plainchant is considered in this series of small blog contributions (fifteen in all, issued each thursday at 3pm). Considered and reconsidered not in a historical or liturgical way, but through the artistic and creative potential it holds for the present-day performer of plainchant.
The topic at hand is part of a doctoral research project, concentrating on the development of a performance practice of late medieval plainchant. In the next few postings, and before turning to a plainchant performer’s creative explorations, attention is drawn to some methodological characteristics of the relatively new concept of ‘artistic research’, to the pragmatics of musicians’ creativity, and to some specific performance-practice issues. Reflecting a so-called topological approach, these contributions are set up as a collection of short columns, in roughly two modes. Some are written in a more or less academic style, in a relatively thorough and linear prose that considers histories, contexts and theories, and the performer’s relations to these. Others (in italics) are written in a more personal and ambiguous style, (re)considering the development of the performer’s creative signature in relation to the artistic material. This dual approach aims at portraying the to-and-fro flux between the devoted pragmatism on the one hand and the chaotic self-awareness on the other of the musician-researcher.
Hendrik Vanden Abeele