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Contents

Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century

THE MASS AND ITS MUSIC

Chapter:
CHAPTER 1 The Curtain Goes Up
Source:
MUSIC FROM THE EARLIEST NOTATIONS TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
Author(s):
Richard Taruskin

The greatest flowering of such liturgical “arias” came toward the end of the period of Gregorian oral composition, with the selection and completion of formularies—full sets of antiphons and responds—for the yearly round of Mass services.

The Mass is a public adaptation of the Christian counterpart, known as agape or “love feast,” of the Jewish Passover seder, the occasion of Christ’s last supper. It has two parts. The first, called the synaxis (“synagogue,” after the Greek for a meeting or assembly) or the Mass of the Catechumens, consists, like the synagogue service, of prayers and readings. It is an exoteric service, open to those who have not yet completed their religious instruction (known as catechism, whence catechumen, one undergoing indoctrination). The second, an esoteric service known as the Eucharist or the Mass of the Faithful, is closed to all who have not yet been baptized and consists of a reenactment of the last supper in which the congregation mystically ingests the blood and body of Christ in the form of miraculously transubstantiated wine and bread.

Mass was at first celebrated only on the Dominica and the Christian holidays, between the hours of terce and sext (i.e., around 10 a.m.). Later on, it came to be celebrated also on weekdays (feriae in Latin, whence “ferial” as opposed to “festal” Mass). Being a public service that incorporated a great deal of action, the Mass did not contain full cursive psalmody or hymns with their many strophes or stanzas. Instead, it featured short, stichic texts set to elaborate music; these short texts, assembled in large repertories, articulated the “proper” identity of each occasion at which Mass was celebrated—feast, Sunday, or saint’s day.

An antiphon plus a verse or two accompanies the entrance of the celebrants, called the Introit. Between the two main synaxis readings or “lessons” (from Paul’s Epistles and from the Gospels, respectively) come the Gradual, named for the stairs by which the celebrants ascend to the pulpit from which the Gospel is read, and the Alleluia. These are the most ornate responds of all, with elaborately set verses for virtuoso soloists. Probably the oldest psalmodic chants specifically designed for the Mass, the lesson chants are said to have been introduced by Pope Celestine I, who reigned from 422 to 432. Antiphons then accompany the collection (Offertory) and the consummation of the Eucharist (Communion).

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 1 The Curtain Goes Up." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2017. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-001009.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 1 The Curtain Goes Up. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 21 Aug. 2017, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-001009.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 1 The Curtain Goes Up." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 21 Aug. 2017, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-001009.xml