The literature and music of the canonical hours
Smith, Betty Jane
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Material was compiled for The Literature and Music of the Canonical Hours (1) to collect information on the subject; (2) to bring about a deeper appreciation and understanding of the subject; (3) to arouse interest in the need for further research. The data was assembled from factual information, participation in and observance of liturgical music programs, and personal interviews with authorities in the field. The Book of Psalms has been the most influential source of text in all musical history. They were important in the religious life of the Hebrew before the coming of Christ, and since the spread of Christianity they have become even more significant. Originally the Psalter used in the Divine Office was arranged numerically as is the Psalter in the Bible, and all of the Psalms were recited in the course of Sunday and ferial office each week. In many cases they had marginal notes indicating the Psalm belonging to each day and hour. There were, however, a few Psalters in which the Psalms were arranged as in the Breviary, in the order of their occurrence in the ferial office. Both of these classes of books were known as the Psalteria Feriota. The Psalter contained the bulk of the Divine Office and was supplemented by the Lectionary, the Antiphonary,the Responsorial, and the Hymnary. In the sixth century a new version was circulated, and replaced the Roman Psalter. This was known as the Psalterium Gallicanum. The oldest Psalter at the British Museum is that of St. Augustine of Canterbury, and he is supposed to have brought it to England. Among the ancient Psalteria of the ninth century which have survived are the Psalterium Aurem of St. Gall, the Utrecht Psalter and the Psalter of the Emperor Lothair. The books needed for the sue performance of the Canonical Hours were: The Antiphonary, the Old and New Testaments, the Passionary, the Legendary, the Homiliary, the Sermologus, the Treatises of the Fathers, the Psalterium, the Collection for the Prayers, the Martyralogy etc. Some simplification became imperative, and thus these books were condensed into one volume called the Breviary. The first Breviary, as we know it today was developed in the eleventh century. Other examples of the Breviary exist from the twelfth century, but all are Benedictine. In reality the Breviary owes its origin to the rest of religious orders, which formulated and preserved the dogmas of the church. Leo I, St. Benedict, and Innocent III all organized Breviaried. That of the latter was known as the Breviaria de Camera or Breviarium secumdum usum Romanie Curiae, and was reserved exclusively for the use of the Roman Court. The Friars Minor or Franciscans undertook the task of popularizing the Breviary, and compiled an abridged volume, small enough to be carried about by them on their missionary journeys. This volume was called the Brevarium Curiae, and was really a second edition of the Breviary. So from the first to the fifth century was the formation of the Breviary; from the fifth to the eleventh centuries came the process of development and expansion; during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Breviary, as we know it today gradually came into being. From then on might be termed the period of reform, and several changes were made. No essential changes have been made since the Pian Breviary. The Roman or Pian Breviary is used today throughout the Latin Church except in certain religious orders. It consists of the: Psalter, Proper of the Seasons, Proper of the Saints, the Common, and special offices. Even in the time of Clement of Alexandria, the Christians had set apart certain hours, the third, the sixth, and the ninth, which they used for prayer and praise to God. In the sixth century the recitation of Matins appeared among the clergy. This is now one of the night offices, and is often combined with Lauds the other night office. The office of Matins is the most important and remarkable of the offices because of its length and the richness of its elements. Lauds, too, can be traced back to Apostolic times, and is best known because of the canticles which are used in this office on Sundays. The offices of Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers comprise the Diurnal. They are short offices recited at different hours of the day, and were given these names by the Romans: prima towards 6 A.M.; tertia towards 9 A.M.; sexta towards noon; nona towards 3 P.M.; Vespers is the important office of the evening, and is divided into first and second Vespers. First Vespers introduces the feast, and Second Vespers concludes the feast. The place of honor in this hour is given to the "Magnificat," or the canticle of Mary. The Magnificat is followed by the singing of one of the Four Antiphons of Our Lady. These antiphons are supplanted by the Great O's every evening from December 17th to 23rd, inclusive, and may also be used on feast days. In reality we are indebted to the Greeks for the music of the Canonical Hours, for they discovered the system of intervals, and contributed a scheme of rhythmical modes or scales. However, the most important Greek musical discovery is undoubtedly the invention of musical notation. As the Christain Church developed, the practice of antiphonal singing was used, and new music resulted in the church because of this. It has several names: Gregorian chant; plain-song; plain-chant. In the Office we have formulae, also called tones, for some of the recitation. The Psalms are recited to a Psalm-tone, which is a recitative-like formula to which the verses of the psalm may be chanted. There are nine of these Psalm-tones. There are three Lesson-tones. Responsories were chants which grew out of an alteration of solo verse and choral refrain. The first hymns were sung when St. Ambrose fled from the Arians. Hymns, like the other chants, vary according to their place in the liturgy, from simple airs for week-days to extended melodies for Sundays and feast days. A certain number of canticles or psalms drawn from other portions of the Holy Writ than the Psalter, but put on the same footing as the Psalms. Antiphons are also included in the music of the Divine Office, the most famous being those of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the most part, the worship service of churches today contain the same elements which prevail in the Canonical Hours. Not only the literature, but the music as well, has come down to us from antiquity. It has been the purpose of this study to collect information on the subject, to bring about a deeper appreciation and understanding of the subject, and to arouse interest in the need for further research. It is hoped that this thesis has accomplished the first two purposes, and that it will stimulate others to do even greater research on the subject.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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