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Mithril
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« Topic Start: October 07, 2007, 05:53:33 pm »

Maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you chant something? Do you randomly make up a stepwise, flowing melody, or do you sing mostly in a monotone?
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« Reply #1: October 07, 2007, 05:56:48 pm »

Maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you chant something? Do you randomly make up a stepwise, flowing melody, or do you sing mostly in a monotone?

I don't like monotone myself; I usually sing my chants, or chant rhythmically (depending on the type of chant). My Moon Chants, for instance, are sung, but some others are chanted rhythmically (not really in monotone, but not singsong-y either)
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« Reply #2: October 07, 2007, 06:01:45 pm »

I don't like monotone myself; I usually sing my chants, or chant rhythmically (depending on the type of chant). My Moon Chants, for instance, are sung, but some others are chanted rhythmically (not really in monotone, but not singsong-y either)

ok, so they don't actually have a written *notes* to them, they're sung kind of like they're spoken? or you could have something like gregorian chant with a series of stepwise notes, right?
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« Reply #3: October 07, 2007, 06:07:14 pm »

ok, so they don't actually have a written *notes* to them, they're sung kind of like they're spoken? or you could have something like gregorian chant with a series of stepwise notes, right?

Do you mean the band Gregorian Chant? I love those guys.

I don't quite know what you mean by "stepwise notes". Damn I wish I had a mic, I'd record some of mine for you.
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« Reply #4: October 07, 2007, 06:20:31 pm »

Do you mean the band Gregorian Chant? I love those guys.

I don't quite know what you mean by "stepwise notes". Damn I wish I had a mic, I'd record some of mine for you.

no, no, not the band! it's medieval chanting. plainchant. i'm taking a music history course right now. stpewise. ok how to explain? all the notes are right next to eachother in the scale. no jumps between do and mi, for example.
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« Reply #5: October 07, 2007, 06:26:37 pm »

no, no, not the band! it's medieval chanting. plainchant. i'm taking a music history course right now. stpewise. ok how to explain? all the notes are right next to eachother in the scale. no jumps between do and mi, for example.

Ah, I see. Really, you can do it any way you want. There's no "rule". Do what appeals to you. Experiment and see what works. Smiley
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« Reply #6: October 07, 2007, 08:22:43 pm »

Maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you chant something? Do you randomly make up a stepwise, flowing melody, or do you sing mostly in a monotone?

Maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you chant something? Do you randomly make up a stepwise, flowing melody, or do you sing mostly in a monotone?

Depends.

Most of the chants I know, I learned the music (or at least *a* music) along with the words. Some of the ones I know from books work that way, too, because they mention tunes that work, sometimes. (For example, there's a number of Pagan chants that roughly follow the tune for the traditional British round "Hey, ho, nobody home")

If I'm writing them - well, I'm a musician. I often get the music before I get the words, or at least at the same time. I sometimes get words first, but usually the music catches up.

As far as Gregorian chant style - depends. A number of Pagan chants are modal, but various pressures tend to influence the ones that catch on into particular patterns. (One of these is the sometimes derided 'Pagan dirge' epithet. Personally, I *like* the minor-sounding modes, and don't think they're a problem when sung with appropriate energy, but...)

If you're singing for yourself, how you do it doesn't matter. (Just, if you find a set of chant words somewhere, be aware that some people may know music for it, and look at you a little oddly if you sing a totally different tune with those words. No big deal, but if you're, say, planning a ritual, and people suggest a chant, get them to sing it so you can learn the melody they have in mind.)

If you do intend to do stuff that other people might want to use - I've got a whole ramble on that, which I'll spare you unless you're interested. There are definite patterns in what people will pick up, learn quickly, and have an easy time singing. Some of these are pretty obvious if you know much music theory at all - some of it's less obvious.

In chants that have been around for a while, most common are small, common steps. (One three five, for example, starting from the tonic of the scale), and other small (often thirds, sometimes fourths) leaps, with some stepwise motion. When it happens, though, it's not usually in the same *type* of patterns as Gregorian chant or various offshoots: you're closer if you take another few hundred years, and start looking at some of the patterns from Baroque (much simplified) and some types of Classical era. However, it depends a whole lot on the origin and the person coming up with the chant.

As far as chants: my all time favorite book of them (partly because it gives recording information for a number of them) is Jess Middleton's Songs for Earthlings (http://www.emeraldearth.net/ has info. If you're intending to do regular ritual work with chants, I highly recommend the loose-leaf bound version: it's much easier to work with.)

Another option - and online - is Ivo Dominguez's chant archive at http://www.seeliecourt.net/panpipe/oldchan.html - you need something that can play MP3 and Real Audio files to listen to them, but you can listen to them sung.
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« Reply #7: October 07, 2007, 08:28:15 pm »


I agree with what you say about making chants for others to use. My Moon Chants contain some serious vocal acrobatics LOL.
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« Reply #8: October 07, 2007, 08:28:59 pm »

Depends.

Most of the chants I know, I learned the music (or at least *a* music) along with the words. Some of the ones I know from books work that way, too, because they mention tunes that work, sometimes. (For example, there's a number of Pagan chants that roughly follow the tune for the traditional British round "Hey, ho, nobody home")

If I'm writing them - well, I'm a musician. I often get the music before I get the words, or at least at the same time. I sometimes get words first, but usually the music catches up.

As far as Gregorian chant style - depends. A number of Pagan chants are modal, but various pressures tend to influence the ones that catch on into particular patterns. (One of these is the sometimes derided 'Pagan dirge' epithet. Personally, I *like* the minor-sounding modes, and don't think they're a problem when sung with appropriate energy, but...)

If you're singing for yourself, how you do it doesn't matter. (Just, if you find a set of chant words somewhere, be aware that some people may know music for it, and look at you a little oddly if you sing a totally different tune with those words. No big deal, but if you're, say, planning a ritual, and people suggest a chant, get them to sing it so you can learn the melody they have in mind.)

If you do intend to do stuff that other people might want to use - I've got a whole ramble on that, which I'll spare you unless you're interested. There are definite patterns in what people will pick up, learn quickly, and have an easy time singing. Some of these are pretty obvious if you know much music theory at all - some of it's less obvious.

In chants that have been around for a while, most common are small, common steps. (One three five, for example, starting from the tonic of the scale), and other small (often thirds, sometimes fourths) leaps, with some stepwise motion. When it happens, though, it's not usually in the same *type* of patterns as Gregorian chant or various offshoots: you're closer if you take another few hundred years, and start looking at some of the patterns from Baroque (much simplified) and some types of Classical era. However, it depends a whole lot on the origin and the person coming up with the chant.

As far as chants: my all time favorite book of them (partly because it gives recording information for a number of them) is Jess Middleton's Songs for Earthlings (http://www.emeraldearth.net/ has info. If you're intending to do regular ritual work with chants, I highly recommend the loose-leaf bound version: it's much easier to work with.)

Another option - and online - is Ivo Dominguez's chant archive at http://www.seeliecourt.net/panpipe/oldchan.html - you need something that can play MP3 and Real Audio files to listen to them, but you can listen to them sung.

i love 'he ho nobody home' it's so creepy! i tend to like minor modes too, it's just more my style. i just want chants to do by myself, so i guess it doesn't really matter. i think I'll look into the online archive. that's much more practical for me since i'm in the broom closet. thanks for suggesting it!

what kind of a musician are you?
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« Reply #9: October 07, 2007, 08:29:13 pm »

Another option - and online - is Ivo Dominguez's chant archive at http://www.seeliecourt.net/panpipe/oldchan.html - you need something that can play MP3 and Real Audio files to listen to them, but you can listen to them sung.

I second that! That site has been in my bookmarks for a *very* long time.
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« Reply #10: October 07, 2007, 08:38:49 pm »

what kind of a musician are you?

The short version? Music major in college, focusing on theory and composition.

I started music lessons in the Orff Kodaly system when I was almost 5 (it's a system designed to help small children learn music.) I played flute primarily up through high school, bassoon in high school and college, sang both soprano 1 and 2 in various choirs, including a couple of audition ones, picked up folk harp at the very end of high school, and play enough piano to have been the Catholic choir's accompanist for 2 years in college. (The other two years, we had someone around who was better than I was: I'd rather sing, honestly.)

These days, it's the harp, and the singing, and the sometimes composition, and I'm working on ways to do more of it around other people more often.

(One of the things I miss most in the Catholic to Pagan transition is that it's harder to find groups to do good-quality amateur complex singing with. I love ritual music in a Pagan context, but we don't do parts singing, for example: the most complex is rounds or riffed harmonies: wonderful in their own way, but not quite the same thing.)
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« Reply #11: October 07, 2007, 08:42:50 pm »

The short version? Music major in college, focusing on theory and composition.

I started music lessons in the Orff Kodaly system when I was almost 5 (it's a system designed to help small children learn music.) I played flute primarily up through high school, bassoon in high school and college, sang both soprano 1 and 2 in various choirs, including a couple of audition ones, picked up folk harp at the very end of high school, and play enough piano to have been the Catholic choir's accompanist for 2 years in college. (The other two years, we had someone around who was better than I was: I'd rather sing, honestly.)

These days, it's the harp, and the singing, and the sometimes composition, and I'm working on ways to do more of it around other people more often.

(One of the things I miss most in the Catholic to Pagan transition is that it's harder to find groups to do good-quality amateur complex singing with. I love ritual music in a Pagan context, but we don't do parts singing, for example: the most complex is rounds or riffed harmonies: wonderful in their own way, but not quite the same thing.)

Oh, ok. Yeah, it is too bad about the lack of complex music. But somehow, church music is lacking something pagan music has, and i wouldn't give it up for the most fun soprano part ever written.

I was thinking about writing my own too. Any tips?
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« Reply #12: October 08, 2007, 08:10:30 am »

Oh, ok. Yeah, it is too bad about the lack of complex music. But somehow, church music is lacking something pagan music has, and i wouldn't give it up for the most fun soprano part ever written.

Me either - but I do sometimes wish for more options.

Quote
I was thinking about writing my own too. Any tips?

Again, this depends some on if you ever want anyone else to feel comfortable singing it. (If you don't, write stuff you like.) I've learned a few things while doing chant writing work in a group setting - many of which I've discovered also help in personal work I've done.

1) People with musical training will be comfortable with a much wider range of melodic types (and larger melodic leaps, less common intervals, etc.) A lot of people I know without musical training under-estimate their ability to pick up tunes: they will insist a tune is too complex to learn (even when it's fairly simple), unless you walk them through it a few times.

2) Melodic writing in and of itself has some particular knacks. If you're taking theory or composition classes as well as music history ones, it's well worth paying attention to what they tell you about building melodies: there are a lot of patterns and forms that are built into our brains (some of them are internal responses to music - some of them are a result of having particular kinds of patterns in our environment through radio, piped-in music in public places, and whatever personal listening we do)

It's particularly useful to be aware of things like the question/answer pattern, and basic common harmonic progressions: progressions that read as 'very familiar' will be much easier to sing for most people. (I IV V I, to take one of the most common.)

3) If it is more than 4 lines, people will struggle with it for quite a while.

I've done a few longer chants: I wrote the deity chants we use for moons, and they're both about 6 lines. However, we use them *every* moon, so people have had plenty of time to get comfortable with them (and even when we have newcomers, there's a strong group of people familiar with them.) In general, though, people will struggle with longer stuff, especially if also doing something else (dancing, handing something around the circle, etc.)

I'm wary of longer stuff for personal use, too - I tend to find that I start worrying more about what the next set of words are than the energetic work I'm doing. Simpler tends to help keep the focus where I want it. (When I'm singing for sheer joy, or as a devotional act, or something, this is less of an issue than, say, if I'm using it for a circle cast or quarter calls.)

4) Scansion matters: stuff with a scansion that flows well with the meaning and the words will help a lot. (I think this is one of the reasons the "We all come from the Goddess, and to her we shall return" chant is used so often: it fits the tune very well.)

5) Look at the stuff that's really well known and do some analysis on what the really well-known stuff has in common.

I've been building a Pagan music recording library (which includes a number of chants) for years now: it's sometimes very handy to be able to pull out something we're planning on using, and play it for people. I also own three printed books of chants, totalling somewhere over 500 chants.

Figuring out what 'well-known' is takes a little work (and is going to depend where you spend your religious time: the stuff that's in common practice in Minnesota in the more-or-less Wiccan communities, is going to be different than in other parts of the country, or in other paths. I haven't seen much readily available from other (non-Wicca-influenced) parts of the Pagan community, though I've come across some scattered chants and other pieces. On the other hand, I haven't looked as hard in those other places.

6) If you're writing for other people, you need to use a relatively limited range.

Or, at least in my experience, people will throw fits. A safe range is usually (for women's voice, with appropriate transposition down for men) the A below middle C to the C or D above middle C. (Which gives you maybe an octave and a fourth, if you're really lucky.) Any higher or lower, and you'll lose people who can't sing that low or high, but feel uncomfortable harmonising or aren't sure it's okay.

(I hit problems when you get lower than that low A, incidentally: it's what I get for being a soprano, maybe, but I have a really hard time with accurate pitch below there, when I get notes out in the first place. I transpose up, or find a third-up harmony, or something, on the fly, but most people won't, and then they'll stop singing, and look confused and/or frustrated.

7) It's really important to know why you're using the music.

Is it to focus attention on a particular concept? To have everyone joined in doing the same thing? (Helps form group mind). For sheer pleasure and enjoyment? As a devotion or prayer? To drop people into a meditative space? Different uses may call for different forms.

One way to get more complex pieces than the entire group will keep in memory at once is to use either a call and response form, or to use a repeating line, with a few singers doing a longer pattern over it. (For example, there's a chant where the main group sings "I am here, right here before you" over and over, while a few people sing stuff relating to the four quarters.) Very effective, done right, but much easier for people who don't consider themselves strong singers to participate in.

At the same time, those forms don't work well if you're aiming at a single focus group mind. And they often don't work as well for medititive purposes (rounds work really well there, once people know them well enough.)

I've got to run to work, so must stop here, but feel free to ask more questions and such.
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« Reply #13: October 08, 2007, 09:38:16 am »

When I got  to chant , I just do it like when I when I talk... same thing..... after meditation, I do a different thing,  I do same thing  as my teacher does, but I don't have idea why....... I just assimilated what he used to do, I mean when  I chant sutras after zen meditation.
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« Reply #14: October 08, 2007, 10:42:29 am »

Maybe this is a stupid question, but how do you chant something? Do you randomly make up a stepwise, flowing melody, or do you sing mostly in a monotone?

I really think how you do your chants is a preference. I tend to edge more toward the singing end because I am a singer and when I open my mouth thatís what pops out. A good tool for me is to sing softly at the beginning of a meditation because the focus gets my mind into the right place. Itís takes a lot of concentration to not mess up a song you have memorized and it helps with the focus. I also find it to be a much happier and easier manner of raising energy, IMO.
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