Psalm Tones

Could someone knowledgeable please explain the different psalm tones and their purpose. I heard the Gloria in tone 2 and it was very emotionally sad sounding. That is what got me thinking about this.

Are you referring to the 8 Gregorian modes? There are psalm tones written for each of the 8 modes. Mode 2 is the “hypodorian” mode. If you started playing a scale on the “A” below middle “C” and played only the white notes, you would have played a scale in hypodorian mode.

This is a bit oversimplified, but I hope that it helps.

You can find the psalm tones for each of the eight modes here, from the Liber Usualis.

I’m sure there are folks around here (like benedictgal) who are much more knowledgeable than me who can add to the conversation.

The choice of what psalm one to use depends on the antiphon. If the antiphon is in mode 8 then you use tone 8 for the psalm; if the antiphone is in mode 4 then you use tone 4; and so on.

A number of the psalm tones have different endings. The ending for a tone used in a given psalm is indicated with the antiphon.

To have an idea of what the different tones sound like, here are sound files of a single responsorial psalm sung to the 8 different modes:

[LEFT]27th Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 128: 1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

R. May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

Mode I
Mode II
Mode III
Mode IV
Mode V
Mode VI
Mode VII

Settings at the bottom of this page by Bruce Ford from the Chabanel Psalms.

If you could supply us with a little more information…

The Gloria is not normally sung to a Gregorian psalm tone. In fact, I’ve never heard it done. The tones are designed for the setting of bipartite verses which are characteristic of virtually every psalm but not of the Gloria. It is possible, though, to force virtually any text into a psalm tone, and that may be what you heard. It is certainly not the liturgical norm or even necessarily very desirable, and for that reason the choice of tone would be entirely arbitrary.

Perhaps you meant the second Gregorian setting from the Liber Usualis or some other compendium. These settings are compilations from many early sources and were only brought together as grouped Mass ordinaries with titles (e.g., “Orbis factor”) in later publications. Though specific settings are associated by convenience and custom with certain liturgical occasions (to the extent that these chants are ever used at all anymore), the association is not rubrical or exclusive. One may use any Gloria in any Mass. Musicians will usually rely on a predetermined selection of a setting, but it is entirely acceptable and appropriate to choose a setting (or a tone, if that’s what it’s going to be) based on the subjective perception of the music conveying an emotion appropriate to the occasion, e.g., sadness.

The Gloria, as the psalm tones, are set to a Gregorian mode as Gregorian chant is modal. The eight psalm tones in fact correspond to the eight Gregorian modes. If you look at the Gloria in the Liber Usualis, there is a number next to the staff at the beginning (in the Graduale Romanum, the current approved chant book for the Mass, it is in Roman numerals). That indicates which mode it is in.

He said it was a Gloria in mode II, which could mean it is the ad libitum mode for the Gloria of Kyriale III (Rector cosmi pie), of Kyriale XI (Orbis factor), or ad libitum Gloria II.

Most likely the Gloria from Orbis factor, which is the most common setting for Ordinary Time (or if you prefer the weeks after Pentecost).

The names for the Masses (Orbis factor) come from the first words of the trope that accompanied the Kyrie; troping largely disappeared after the council of Trent, but the titles remain as a vestige of that practice. Troping is more typical of the Eastern Church where it has a deep tradition. You can hear the troped Kyrie Orbis Factor here:

Ensemble Organum-Orbis Factor

This version is taken from the Graduel d’Aliénor de Bretagne (navigate to p. 494). The origin of the words of the trope are from a litany of Pope Gelasius.

Mode II incidentally, has often been called “tristis” (sad).

Here are the “names” of the modes, incidentally:

1st mode: gravis
2nd mode: tristis
3d mode: mysticus
4th mode: harmonicus
5th mode: laetus
6th mode: devotus
7th mode: angelicus
8th mode: perfectus

A “Liturgical Tone” includes a set of several melodies fr various uses. It usually includes a specific recitation melody (for reciting psalms, lections, and the Gospels), and a different one for the Alleluia, and another for other parts of the liturgy.

That’s pretty much universal.

Gregorian Chant
Using the Solfege:
Tone 1 Recite on La and End on Re. Called Dorian
Tone 2 Recite on Fa and End on Re. Called Hypodorian.
Tone 3 Recite on Si & Do and End on Mi. Called Phrygian
Tone 4 Recite on La and End on Mi. Called Hypophrygian
Tone 5 Recite on Do and End on Fa. Called Lydian
Tone 6 Recite on La and End on Fa. Called Hypolydian
Tone 7 Recite on Re and End on So. Called Mixolydian
Tone 8 Recite on La and End on So. Called Hypomixolydian

For comparison, Most modern major music recites on Mi, Fa, or So, and ends on Do
Most modern minor music ends on La, and recites on Do, Re and Mi, but may also lower Fa and So when used in passing.

Also note that in some melodies, Tones 2, 4, 6, and 8 have some accidentals, while tones 1, 3, 5 and 7 very rarely do.

Other forms of Chant have different standards; I’m most familair with the current Ruthenian-American chant.
Ruthenian-American Tone 2 recites the DL Troparia on So, ends on Re, but the vesperal melody is Mi recitation ending on Ti…

Further, much non-church music was written down as words, with a tone indicator, but no actual notation, and occasionally an annotation of chords or indication of melodic shape and turns, but not actual pitches.

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