church mode

church mode
a mode belonging to a codified system of modes in use in Gregorian chant and in other music to c1600. Also called Gregorian mode.

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In music, any one of eight scalar modes employed for medieval liturgical melodies.

The modal system was conceived for the purpose of codifying plainchant (see Gregorian chant); the names of the modes were borrowed from the system used by the ancient Greeks, though the Greek system was inadequately understood and the connection between the two is illusory. The modes are distinguished according to the note used as the final (last note) and the emphasis placed on another note, called the dominant. The Dorian mode's final is D, the Phrygian mode's is E, the Lydian mode's is F, and the Mixolydian's is G. Each of these four original modes had a parallel mode (Hypodorian, Hypophrygian, Hypolydian, and Hypomixolydian) with a lower range. Though they principally employ the tones A-B-C-D-E-F-G, some replace B with B-flat. In the 16th century, further modes were identified
the Aeolian, on A, and the Ionian, on C (corresponding to modern minor and major). The mode on B was ignored because of B's problematic tonal relationship within the scale.

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also called  Ecclesiastical Mode,  

      in music, any one of eight scalar arrangements of whole and half tones, derived by medieval theorists, most likely from early Christian vocal convention.

      The Eastern church was doubtless influenced by ancient Hebrew modal music. Its basic chant formulas were codified as early as the 8th century into a system known as oktōēchos, first suggested by St. John of Damascus (d. 749), according to the Byzantine (Byzantine chant) treatise Hagiopolites (“From the Holy City”). The Byzantine arrangement of four authentic and four plagal ēchoi (ēchos) was probably inspired by an even earlier Syrian oktōēchos; whether the latter was, as some assert, a direct outgrowth of the ancient Greek modes remains uncertain, although the concept of mode itself had certainly been handed down from antiquity.

      The Western church, too, retained certain Greek musical concepts for its own purposes. Unable to make use of the ancient octave species with its descending tetrachords (tetrachord), that church nevertheless integrated the tetrachordal principle into the doctrine of ascending church modes, based on the constituent pitches of the tetrachord d–e–f–g, which furnishes the first step, or finalis, for each of the four modal pairs, authentic and plagal. Whereas authentic modes begin and end with the finalis, their plagal partners range from the fourth below to the fifth above the finalis. Each mode, however, is characterized not only by its finalis but also by a unique recitation tone, tenor or confinalis—the upper fifth for authentic modes and the third for plagal (except where other considerations, such as the avoidance of intonation problems, prevail). Originally, the church modes were known by their respective numbers. The application, or rather misapplication, of the Greek names dates from a 9th-century treatise attributed to the monk Hucbald.

      Schematically, the mature modal system may be represented as follows (with the finals underlined and the confinals or tenors in lowercase letters):

      Though responsive primarily to melodic rather than harmonic needs, modality, for reasons of an essentially philosophical nature (modality purity), retained its hold upon composers well beyond the era of monophonic chant proper. By the same token, Renaissance polyphony turned to various subterfuges in order to preserve the integrity of traditional modality, while acknowledging the harmonically generated mandate to provide for the necessary leading tones (cadential halftone steps). Musica falsa and musica ficta were contrived as means of circumventing the modal image offered by the musical text through the addition of accidentals, according to certain generally accepted rules. In the later 16th century the Swiss humanist Glareanus (Glareanus, Henricus), yielding to the musical realities of his day, proposed two new pairs of modes, Aeolian (corresponding to natural minor) and Ionian (identical with the major scale), for a total of 12 modes (hence the title of his book, Dodekachordon).

      After more than two centuries of primarily didactic significance, modality attracted renewed attention in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, not only because it served the purposes of composers of neo-medieval or neo-Renaissance persuasion but also because it allowed purely melodic forces to reassert themselves at a time when functional harmony in the West appeared to have reached its zenith and when, moreover, previously unexploited folk traditions had begun to influence academic music. Precisely because, unlike the diatonic major and minor scales, the church modes are fundamentally impervious to the dictates of Western harmony, they have continued to dominate any number of folk-music strains, including that of the Anglo-American ballad.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • church mode — church′ mode n. mad any of eight modal scales used in Gregorian chant and other liturgical music • Etymology: 1860–65 …   From formal English to slang

  • church mode — noun any of a system of modes used in Gregorian chants up until 1600; derived historically from the Greek mode • Syn: ↑ecclesiastical mode, ↑Gregorian mode, ↑medieval mode • Hypernyms: ↑mode, ↑musical mode * * * noun …   Useful english dictionary

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