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Alejandro Enrique Planchart

(Gk. tropos: ‘turn’, ‘turn of phrase’; Lat. tropus)

Name given from the 9th century onwards to a number of closely related genres consisting essentially of additions to pre-existing chants. Three types of addition are found: (1) that of a musical phrase, a melisma without text (unlabelled or called trope in the sources); (2) that of a text to a pre-existing melisma (most frequently called prosula, prosa, verba or versus, though sometimes also trope, in the sources); (3) that of a new verse or verses, consisting of text and music (most frequently called trope, but also laudes, versus and in certain specific cases farsa, in the sources).

The medieval terminology was far from consistent (Odelman, C1975), and scholars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries expanded it (thus compounding the problem) to include even the sequence and its proses, the conductus, verse songs that sometimes replaced the Benedicamus Domino, and the upper voices of early Ars Antiqua motets. Despite efforts by Crocker (...


Kenneth Levy, John A. Emerson, Jane Bellingham, David Hiley, and Bennett Mitchell Zon

[plainsong] (from Lat. cantus planus; Fr. plainchant; Ger. Choral; It. canto plano)

The official monophonic unison chant (originally unaccompanied) of the Christian liturgies. The term, though general, is used to refer particularly to the chant repertories with Latin texts – that is, those of the five major Western Christian liturgies – or in a more restricted sense to the repertory of Franco-Roman chant (Gregorian chant). A third meaning refers to a style of measured ecclesiastical music, often accompanied by a bassoon, serpent or organ, cultivated in Roman Catholic France during the 17th to 19th centuries (see Plain-chant musical). This article is concerned with the chant of the Roman and derived rites considered historically, including its place within Christian chant as a whole and its relationship to the liturgy that it serves.

Kenneth Levy

The roots of the liturgical chant of the Christian Churches lie partly in established Jewish Synagogue practice of the apostolic period, partly in new developments within early Christianity itself and partly in pagan music at the diverse centres where the first churches were established (...