Square Note app

In order to sing Gregorian chant, unless we have already memorised the Church’s entire treasury of sacred music, we need to look at something that contains both text and notation. Happily, for us, chant books (not in the same scale as the large cantorals of old) are available. Supply-versus-demand, however, does not quite allow everyone to access these books physically. And so these have been digitised. We now take this opportunity first to draw attention to the Gregorian chant resources we have consolidated in our Resources page.

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Technology, however, opens more frontiers where we think there is nothing more beyond. And so a thoughtfully devised app, the handiwork of Fr. Matthew Spencer, O. S. J. and Bro. Stephen Spencer, O. S. J., has now entered the market for techy church musicians: it is called Square Note. It intends to “[put] a huge library of Gregorian Chant scores—over 600 unique chants and counting—right at your fingertips”, and “[bring] the ancient music of the Church to your mobile devices, ready for you to [utilise] in your schola, your choir, or your home”. Let us stop here now and direct ourselves to reviews and impressions on the app here (CCW) and here (NLM, check the combox).

Square Note

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this tool? Purchasing the app is cheaper by two orders of magnitude than buying an old copy of the Graduale Romanum or a reprinted edition of the Liber usualis. Cantors who feel comfortable around electronic gadgets and are savvy about matters digital can now avoid lugging around the enormous volume of a typical Liber usualis (the 1962 edition is easily the thickest of all its incarnations). The playback will certainly be useful to beginners who are still in the process of digesting the principles of chanting; but this should be used sparingly to avoid cultivating dependency to it in terms of chant rhythm (which is why seasoned cantors will probably avoid this feature for very obvious reasons.)

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Breakthroughs in chant scholarship has brought forth a Graduale Triplex and spawned a Graduale Novum in the semiological direction. Perhaps, this one will sire a Graduale Digitale in the ictualist or episematic school of interpretation.

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