We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

The Reception of Plainchant

SALTER, FRANCIS,BERNARD (2024) The Reception of Plainchant
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis (describing an exercise in Qualitative Research) explores the reception of plainchant through the minds of 30 participants and other informants. The participants were sent three Tracks of recorded plainchant and asked to comment upon them in a structured way. The tracks are referred to in the thesis as Track A, Track B and Track C. The other informants, including published writers and other professional exponents gave their views on plainchant more generally, with reference to specific chants of their own choosing. A primary point is made: that the ‘ancestral home’ of plainchant is the Christian Church; it is therefore to be expected that the emphases are both musical and theological. The thesis is structured in such a way as to reveal the views of the participants and others in respect of (a) memory – the way in which this music takes them ‘back’ in time through their own memories and to a sense of the long history of the Church; (b) serenity (a word used by more than one participant) signifying the sense of ‘inner calm’ generated by the music; and (c) transcendence – the way in which this kind of music evokes in some people the awareness of a ‘higher reality’, and seems to take them ‘beyond the confines of daily life’. Reference is made to the ‘double hermeneutic’ which this type of research entails, as I (the researcher) seek to make sense of the way in which the participants and others make sense of the phenomenon of plainchant. Reference is also made to the notion of ‘invitational rhetoric’, as I (the writer) invite the reader to enter into the minds of the participants and others, and to see the phenomenon of plainchant as they see it – or, rather, to hear it as they hear it. An outline of the structure is as follows: -
The Introduction includes some comments about the possible origins of plainchant, although, as I point out, the history is decidedly obscure. A review of relevant literature indicates that much recent work on plainchant is concerned with areas which are very different from the specific focus of this thesis; but the review also includes reference to work on my main subject areas of Memory, Serenity and Transcendence. The Methodology chapter defines the research method as Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) with references to the ‘double hermeneutic’ and ‘invitational rhetoric’ as briefly described above. In the three ‘main’ chapters (4, 5 and 6, based on a, b and c above) there are numerous references to the philosophy of music, its links with theology, with emotions and even with cognitive science. The Conclusion focusses on the words of one informant about ‘the life of the Spirit’, and also takes up references (found at various earlier points) to one particular chant known as Tonus Peregrinus (the ‘wandering tone’): recent work has indicated a possible Hebrew origin for this tone; but the element of ‘peregrination’ is also present in the thesis itself, as I try to draw together the various strands of thought presented by my participants and informants, which lead us at some points well beyond the areas which might be expected, including mention of quantum physics and comments about ‘the nature of time’. Further work is clearly needed to develop these links in more detail. The reception of plainchant has proved to be a mine of unexpected treasures. My wording at times might seem florid; but music is an art with strong links to poetry and the visual arts; music also depends a good deal on repetition (as poetry sometimes does); and so ‘melismatic’ (rather than ‘minimalist’) language seems entirely appropriate in this context.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:07 May 2024 09:39

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter