IN THE DOVECOTES
BY K. D. SMITH Gregorian Chant According to the Manuscripts, by Dom Gregory Murray (Cary, Methuen, 25s.) ICS book will set the musical -1dovecotes a-flutter. In it, Dom Gregory Murray argues that the universal "Solesmes" treatment of Gregorian chant rhythm cannot be squared with the manuscript evidence.
Dom Gregory himself has passed from the "verbal accent" school af thought through the Solesmes method ("all notes are equal but some are more equal than others"). to this present "mensuralist" interpretation, of long and short notes, in which the simpler syllabic chant will even bear a regular timesignature.
In this book he presents the parallel evidence of the most important manuscripts, and unless some fundamental flaw can be found in his reading of this evidence his conclusiona are going to be hard to refute. The term 'plainsong'. he asserts, is a misnomer. and melodic variants between manuscripts often amount In no more than half-value passingnotes.
Compilation A century after the chant had been established in France, by oral tradition. the compilation of written manuscripts began. But if these do indicate a measured music, does that prove such a performance a century ,earlier? Dom Gregory makes the telling point that you can't transmit a melody by oral tradition without also transmitting its rhythm; and in this respect four of the oldest manuscripts (9th-10th centuries) display an impressive unanimity despite their quite different systems of notation.
Everything the reader needs to know is clearly explained. Only in comparing the manuscript sources will be need to frown and concentrate. And this is made easier by detachable supplement containing the examples chosen.
If Dom Gregory's conclusions are accepted we must now hope that the artistic results will be as beautiful as those of Solest:ries, and for this to be demonstrated some courageous churches and religious houses must act as experimental stations for the practical testing of it all.