Saturday, January 14, 7854

Switzerland - Notker (c. 854 - 920) - Tropes

Alleluia Dominus (c. 884)

Notker the Stammerer (Latin: Notker Balbulus), also called Notker the Poet or Notker of Saint Gall (c. 840/854 – 6 April 912), was a musician, author, poet, and Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Saint Gall in modern Switzerland. He is commonly accepted to be the Monk of Saint Gall (Monachus Sangallensis), the author of De Carolo Magno, a book of anecdotes about the Emperor Charlemagne.


Switzerland (German: Schweiz, French: Suisse, Italian: Svizzera, Romansh: Svizra) is a landlocked alpine country of roughly 7.5 million people in Western Europe with an area of 41,285 km². Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 states. These states are called cantons. Berne is the seat of the federation and de facto capital, while the country's economic centres are its two global cities, Geneva and especially Zürich.

It is bordered by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein and has a long history of neutrality. Switzerland is multilingual and has four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The country's Latin formal name, Confoederatio Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, an ancient Celtic people in the Alpine region. It is rendered in German as Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, in French as Confédération suisse, in Italian as Confederazione Svizzera and in Romansh as Confederaziun svizra. The establishment of Switzerland is traditionally dated to August 1, 1291; the first of August is the national holiday.


Notker was born circa 840/854, to a distinguished family. He would seem to have been born at Jonschwyl on the River Thur, south of Wil, in the modern canton of Saint Gall in Switzerland; some sources claim Elgg to be his place of birth. He studied with Tuotilo at Saint Gall's monastic school, taught by Iso, and Moengall. He became a monk there and is mentioned as librarian in 890 and as master of guests in 892–4. He was chiefly active as a teacher, and displayed refinement of taste as poet and author. Ekkehard IV, the biographer of the monks of Saint Gall, lauds him as "delicate of body but not of mind, stuttering of tongue but not of intellect, pushing boldly forward in things Divine, a vessel of the Holy Spirit without equal in his time". He died in 912. He was beatified in 1512.

He completed Erchanbert's chronicle, arranged a martyrology, composed a metrical biography of Saint Gall, and authored other works. The number of works ascribed to him is constantly increasing.

His Liber hymnorum, created between 881 and 887, is an early collection of Sequences, which he called "hymns", mnemonic poems for remembering the series of pitches sung during a melisma in plainchant, especially in the Alleluia. It is unknown how many or which of the works contained in the collection are his. The hymn Media Vita, was erroneously attributed to him late in the Middle Ages.

Ekkehard IV wrote of fifty sequences composed by Notker. He was formerly considered to have been the inventor of the sequence, a new species of religious lyric, but this is now considered doubtful, though he did introduce the genre into Germany. It had been the custom to prolong the Alleluia in the Mass before the Gospel, modulating through a skillfully harmonized series of tones. Notker learned how to fit the separate syllables of a Latin text to the tones of this jubilation; this poem was called the sequence (q.v.), formerly called the "jubilation". (The reason for this name is uncertain.) From 881–7 Notker dedicated a collection of such verses to Bishop Liutward of Vercelli, but it is not known which or how many are his.

The "Monk of Saint Gall" (Latin: Monachus Sangallensis; the name is not contemporary, being given by modern scholars), the ninth-century writer of a volume of anecdotes regarding the Emperor Charlemagne, is now commonly believed to be Notker the Stammerer. This Monk is known from his work to have been a native German-speaker, deriving from the Thurgau, only a few miles from the Abbey of Saint Gall; the region is also close to where Notker is believed to have derived from. The Monk himself relates that he was raised by Adalbert, a former soldier who had fought against the Saxons, the Avars and the Slavs under the command of Kerold, brother of Hildegard, Charlemagne's second wife; he was also a friend of Adalbert's son, Werinbert, another monk at Saint Gall. His teacher was Grimald of Reichenau, the Abbot of Saint Gall from 841 to 872, who was, the Monk claims, himself a pupil of Alcuin.

The Monk's work, referred to by modern scholars as De Carolo Magno ("Charles the Great") or Gesta Caroli Magni ("The Deeds of Charles the Great"), consists of two books of anecdotes relating chiefly to the Emperor Charlemagne and his family. It was written for Charles the Fat, great-grandson of Charlemagne, who visited Saint Gall in 883. Traditionally, it has been scorned by traditional historians, who refer to the Monk as one who "took pleasure in amusing anecdotes and witty tales, but who was ill-informed about the true march of historical events", and describe the work itself as a "mass of legend, saga, invention and reckless blundering": historical figures are claimed as living when in fact dead; claims are attributed to false sources (in one instance, the Monk claims that "to this King Pepin [the Short] the learned Bede has devoted almost an entire book of his Ecclesiastical History"; no such book exists - unsurprisingly, given that Bede died in 735 during the reign of Charles Martel); and Saint Gall is frequently referenced as a location in anecdotes, regardless of historical veracity (Pepin the Hunchback, for example, is supposedly sent to Saint Gall as punishment for his rebellion, and – in a reference to Livy's tale of Tarquin and the poppies – earns a promotion to Prüm Abbey after advising Charlemagne to execute another group of rebels). The Monk also mocks and criticises Bishops, whilst lauding the wise and skilful government of the Emperor. Several of the Monk's tales, such as that of the nine rings of the Avar stronghold, have been used in modern biographies of Charlemagne.

The Monk is commonly believed to be Notker the Stammerer: the Monk claims to be old, toothless and stammerering; and both share similar interests in church music, write with similar idioms, and are fond of quoting Virgil.


Trope is from the Greek tropē, "a turn, a change" and that from trepō, "to turn, to direct, to alter, to change". The Latin form of the word is tropus.

From the 9th century onward, trope refers to additions of new music to pre-existing chants in use in the Western Christian Church.

Three types of addition are found in music manuscripts:

(1) new melismas without text (mostly unlabelled or called "trope" in manuscripts) (2) addition of a new text to a pre-existing melisma (more often called prosula, prosa, verba or versus')

(3) new verse or verses, consisting of both text and music (mostly called trope, but also laudes or versus in manuscripts). The new verses can appear preceding or following the original material, or in between phrases.

In the Medieval era, troping was an important compositional technique where local composers could add their own voice to the body of liturgical music. These added ideas are valuable tools to examine compositional trends in the Middle Ages, and help modern scholars determine the point of origin of the pieces, as they typically mention regional historical figures (St. Saturnin of Toulouse, for example would appear in tropes composed in Southern France). Musical collections of tropes are called tropers.

A sequence (Latin: sequentia) is a chant sung or recited during the Mass, before the proclamation of the Gospel.

Until 1970, the sequence was always sung before the Gospel.

Since the promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI (1970) it has been brought forward to before the Alleluia and its psalm verse.

The form of this chant inspired a genre of Latin poetry written in a non-classical metre, often on a sacred Christian subject, which is also called a sequence.

The Latin sequence has its beginnings, as an artistic form, in early Christian hymns such as the Vexilla Regis of Venantius Fortunatus. Venantius modified the classical metres based on syllable quantity to an accentual metre more easily suitable to be chanted to music in Christian worship. In the ninth century, Hrabanus Maurus also moved away from classical metres to produce Christian hymns such as Veni Creator Spiritus.

The name sequentia, on the other hand, came to be bestowed upon these hymns as a result of the works of Notker Balbulus, who during the tenth century popularized the genre by publishing a collection of sequentiae in his Liber hymnorum. Since early sequences were written in rhythmical prose, they were also called proses (Latin: prosae).

Notker's texts were meant to be sung. In the Latin Mass of the Middle Ages, it became customary to prolong the last syllable of the Alleluia, while the deacon was ascending from the altar to the ambo, to sing or chant the Gospel. This prolonged melisma was called the jubilus, jubilatio, or laudes, because of its jubilant tone. It was also called sequentia, "sequence," because it followed (Latin: sequere) the Alleluia. Notker set words to this melisma in rhythmic prose for chanting as a trope. The name sequence thus came to be applied to these texts; and by extension, to hymns containing rhyme and accentual metre. A collection of sequences was called the Sequentiale.

One well-known sequence, falsely attributed to Notker during the Middle Ages, is the prose text Media vita in morte sumus ("In the midst of life we are in death"), which was translated by Cranmer and became a part of the burial service in the funeral rites of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Other well-known sequences include Tommaso da Celano's Dies Irae, St. Thomas Aquinas' Pange lingua in praise of the Eucharist, the anonymous medieval hymn Ave maris stella ("Hail, star of the sea!"), and the Marian sequence Stabat Mater by Jacopone da Todi. During the Middle Ages, secular or semi-secular sequences, such as Peter of Blois' Olim sudor Herculis ("The labours of Hercules") were written; the Goliards, a group of Latin poets who wrote mostly satirical verse, used the form extensively. The Carmina Burana is a collection of these sequences.

[7865 Kyrie-Trope / 7854 Notker / 7820 Musica Enchiriadis]