Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mary Christmas, Keyboarders

How come Mary instead of Merry?
Because the most recent stop on this long and complicated journey to get to music fundamentals that every child should and can know came through Gregorian Chant Mass IX, traditionally the mass used to celebrate a feast dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In my early years in the Church, before everybody got so busy either misinterpreting or downright disobeying Vatican Two, while I did chant quite steadily, it was usually Mass VIII, that of the angels, at least the Kyrie of which was not in old mode D. This was good as far as it went, and infinitely better than all that slop written by second rate priests on fourth rate guitars, but it was by no means old mode D, which was created in the mind of the Eternal from way back, and might even lead to the conversion of Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton, etc, once they realize how it cranks a Stratocaster into outer space, right up there with the angels, their boss of the feminine version, and the Face everybody both longs to see and is afraid just might show up. Grace builds on nature, as Saint Thomas was always saying, and there's nothing more natural than old mode D, especially on a git-fiddle. I haven't had time to sort it out on the 5-string yet, but we'll probably get there.
The funny thing was, Santa's little helper in all this discovery was something of an old enemy, that is, just one more publisher who wouldn't publish my novel, and was none too bright about it. But as Augustine says, the guy you let you down today just might be the guy with the helping hand tomorrow.
 Ignatius started off well, with us. In 1985, they published The Ratzinger Report,  a modest little volume that did many things for my piece of mind, but the principle effect of which was to reassure me that John Paul's theological alter ego was good at his job - running the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith - and had few illusions about the idiot factor so rife in the Church. But when Ignatius couldn't grasp the obvious significance of Contemplatives I had to write them off with that old bromide that superintendents of  schools use to mercifully identify a none too effective teacher: "Works well under supervision."
 But then in 1997 they worked very well indeed, and certainly without any supervision of me, in an area for which I was most unqualified, when they brought out Adoremus, the parish hymnal that contains all sorts of chant - although no Latin Credos - all nicely laid out in a mere three parts, making life all that much easier for the beginner. The ancient melody, from the days of no accompaniment, no harmonies, in the treble stave, with fairly simple two voice arrangements in the bass. This ordering of the notes was not original with the publisher, as  I thought too gratefully at first, but was simply in line with the original practice, as was proved by photographs from old manuscripts in a book Marianne ordered, concerning the legendary Monsignor Richard Schuler.
Nonetheless, perhaps with the interfering aid of the Muse's finger, I found the two-voices not to my taste, and then came out of my agonies with the realization that I should create a predictable, musically logical, schedule of two voices, that would do for numbers practice - eventually solfage practice - in every key. It is, after all, the fingers, not the eyes, that make the actual sounds.
I have given this for guitar, in my mind at  least in old D mode with a dropped 6th string. Here it is for keyboard. I would recommend the initial run in C major. I write it for two octaves, with the single right hand finger, preferably 3, ranging from tonic to tonic. It comes first with the smaller intervals in the left hand, 3rds and 4ths, and then with the larger, 5ths and 6ths.

 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1             middle   c         =  1

 3    5    5    6    1    1    2    3    5    5    6    1    1    2    1            e above small c    =  3       

 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1            small c               =   1

 1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    1            middle c            = 1

 3    5    5    6    1    1    2    3    5    5    6    1    1    2    3            e above small c     =  3

5     7    1    1    3    4    5    5    7    1    1    3    4    5    5            g below small c    =  5

The second schedule provides the richer sound, of course, because it creates real triads, not modified triads like the first schedule. But it is naturally harder to grasp, because the melody is hidden in the left hand. I`ve been quite close to it for years, but never so precisely as now, never so able to use it for initial reading studies, never so flooding my thoughts with images of a cathedral organ using real music theory to bring the congregation back to its senses, in the way that only chant can do.
If there are any gainsayers left out there they should be advised that the angel Gabriel was big around here last week. That`s the fellow on trumpet.
When you get good at alternating on these patterns, from the small to the large intervals and back again, you`re close to reading.

1 comment:

Rebecca S. said...

"Second rate priests on fourth rate guitars" Classic! This post didn't come by email like the last for some reason, but I discovered it today when posting my own. Thanks!