Invitatory antiphons as an example towards a new look at Birgittine chant

March 30th, 2017 by Karin Strinnholm Lagergren

I just finished an article on invitatory antiphons in the Birgittine liturgy, which I wrote about in an earlier blogpost. So I will this time post the summary of the study, comments are more than welcome. So, a blogpost for true nerds.

My study of the Birgittine invitatory antiphons has on a larger level aimed at contributing to the little investigated chant genre invitatory antiphons. This has been made by examining the seven invitatory antiphons in the Birgittine Office Cantus sororum.

Cantus sororum as we know it today was fixed at the latest at the middle of the 15th century, from when we have the first liturgical sources. This is approximately one hundred years after the foundation of the Order and many decades after the first opening of the first abbey in Vadstena in 1384. How and when the invitatory antiphons in Cantus sororum became the corpus as we know them today has not been the aim of this study but more important to point to is that this not is relevant. If we regard Cantus sororum – in the form as it has been transmitted to us today – as a corpus originating from a collective identified by their belonging to the Birgittine Order we instead are invited to discuss questions on how this chant repertoire and its texts were used and if needed modified by this group of people. By this the question of authorship and earliest version become unimportant.

This study has showed, building on earlier research, that the invitatories in Cantus sororum just like the psalm antiphons and great responsories in a way can be said to be consist of borrowings, adaptations, and unica. This tripartite division has been a common way at looking at the material in earlier Birgittine research. Rather I have emphasized the dependence on the common stock of Gregorian chant and the formulas that to such great extent constitute this repertoire. This makes it difficult to talk about firm borders between these three categories since also unica are dependent on pre-existing material. I separated text and melody and thereafter analysing them together, which led to a more complicated web of structures and relations than if these two components are analysed as one unit. Melodies and texts do not always follow each other which emphasises my conviction that text and melody need to be considered separately in order to discuss for example questions of borrowings. I would propose that if other already studied chant genres were to be examined through this way of looking at the repertoire, it is very possible that this tripartite division not would be valid any longer or at least problematized. The very idea of Gregorian chant is to belong to a genre, and by using already existing formulas and motives the melodies take part in an ongoing conversation within this genre.

The uniqueness of the Birgittine liturgy and Cantus sororum is often stressed. I would hereby offer an alternative view stressing the dependence on the common stock of Gregorian chant. By using already existing patterns of different lengths, the Birgittines created an own repertoire owing its existence to a since centuries already existing chant repertoire.

Note! This is not proofread yet.

Karin Strinnholm Lagergren
Senior Lecturer at Linnaeus University
Senior lecturer in musicology and singer of medieval music. Research interest monastic chant, in particular Birgittines and Dominicans. In this blog I write, comment and reflect on my research project 'The Musical World of the Birgittine Order'. Expect loads of manuscript images, tricky chant problems and square notation!

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