What is Plainchant?

Question: What is Plainchant?

You may have encountered the term "Gregorian Chant" while reading on early music forms or may have heard it in church or over the airwaves.

Answer: Plainchant, also called plainsong, is a form of medieval church music that involves chanting; it emerged around 100 A.D. Plainchant doesn't use any instrumental accompaniment, instead, it uses words that are sung. It was the only type of music allowed in Christian churches early on.

In Christian tradition, it was believed that music should make a listener receptive to spiritual thoughts and reflections. This was why the melody was kept pure and unaccompanied.

There was no notation for earlier forms of plainchant. A symbol called "neumes" were used to indicate pitch and syllable phrasing. It was around the year 600 when Pope Gregory the Great (also known as Pope Gregory 1) wanted to compile all the different types of chants into one collection. This compilation will later be known as Gregorian Chant.

Today Gregorian chants are still being sung in Roman Catholic churches. It is set to Latin text and sung, either solo or by a choir.


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The Gregorian Chant Home Page