The Rhythm of Gregorian Chant: An Analysis and an Empirical Investigation

Dirk van Kampen


The principal aim of this paper is to investigate the rhythm of Gregorian chant as it was performed prior to the eleventh century. Discussing the two main approaches, semiology and mensuralism, that have been followed since the beginning of the twentieth century to unravel the mysteries associated with the chant's rhythm, several hypotheses were formulated, which were further examined by conducting statistical research on the relationship between several note-length and text variables, which were measured in four randomly selected introit chants. The results proved to be partly in agreement with mensuralist theories and partly with semiology, thereby also corroborating the distinction between the ninth century concepts of rhythmus and metrum.


Gregorian chant, note values, rhythm, rhythmus, metrum, mensuralism, semiology

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