Gregorian Chant

Gregorian Chant
Gregorian Chant - Photo: Nesster via Flickr (Fair Use Rationale)

A Gregorian Chant is a non-harmonic, unaccompanied melody of the Roman Catholic Church, usually but not only sung in monasteries for worship and spiritual elevation.

The earliest surviving manuscripts are from the late 9th century. The authorization of the chants for liturgical use is often attributed to Pope Gregory the Great.

Numerous recordings of Gregorian Chants are available today for listening among the general public. Some of these recordings are made by actual monks and others by scholarly musicians, such as the Ensemble Organum directed by Marcel Pérès.

Most lay people play this music for purposes of relaxation or contemplation. Among music scholars, however, there’s an ongoing debate about how best to perform the chants. The problem is that early forms of musical notation are notorious for not clearly indicating the timing of certain notes. So some may think a certain note should be longer, others shorter. This uncertainty leaves much room for rhythmic interpretation.

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