Notes on Graduals in Mode 1 & 7 

Tracks 1—14: mode 1
Tracks 1526: mode 7


The melodies of Graduals can be found in the “Vatican Graduale,” Graduale sacrosanctae romanae ecclesiae de tempore et de sanctis SS. D. N. Pii X. pontificis maximi jussu restitutum et editum (Romae: Typis vaticanis 1908); and in the Graduale triplex, seu Graduale romanum Pauli PP.VI cura recognitum & rhythmicis signis a Solesmensibus monachis ornatum neumis Laudunensibus (cod. 239) et Sangallensibus (codicum San Gallensis 359 et Einsidelensis 121) nunc auctum (Solesmes 1979).

The “signs of nuance” can be studied in the facsimiles of the chant books “Laon 239” (“L”), published in Paléographie musicale X (1909); “St. Gall 359” (“C”) in Paléographie musicale IIe serie, II (1924); and most conveniently in the Graduale triplex, where the notation from L and C (and also “E,” Einsiedeln Cod. 121) has been entered by hand by Marie-Claire Billecocq and Rupert Fischer. Here, references are given to the Graduale triplex (“GT”).

Liturgical assignments are as in René-Jean Hesbert, Antiphonale missarum sextuplex (Brussels 1935); reference is to the number of the Mass formulary, preceded by “M.”

The standard work on the Gregorian chant repertory, including bibliography, is by David Hiley, Western Plainchant, A Handbook (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1993). The Graduals are discussed on p. 81.

See also The Early Middle Ages to 1300, in The New Oxford History of Music, Vol. II (new edition, Oxford 1990), ed. R. Crocker and D. Hiley, p. 203.

The nuance notation is discussed in Eugene Cardine, Gregorian Semiology (Solesmes 1982), trans. by R. Fowels from “Sémiologie grégorienne,” Etudes grégoriennes 11 (1970) pp. 1–158.

Modal finals and terminal descents are discussed by Jean Claire in “Les Répertoires liturgiques latins avant l’octoechos. L’Office ferial Romano-Franc,” Etudes grégoriennes 15 (1975), pp. 5–192.

The first-mode Graduals are discussed, by Willi Apel in Gregorian Chant (Indiana University Press, 1958),  pp. 350–2; those in seventh mode on pp. 356–7.

In James McKinnon, The Advent Project. The later seventh-century creation of the Roman Mass Proper (University of California Press 2000), the graduals are discussed on pp. 226–48.

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Graduals in First Mode

Of all the Gregorian Graduals, those in first mode (final D) are most often solemn, formal and positive in tone, yet not so often radiant. As in all Graduals, the verse is sung by a soloist, but the verses in first mode do not show the brilliance of those in fifth or seventh modes, nor the darker passion of those in third mode. None the less, the first-mode Graduals show best, perhaps, the rich eloquence of melismatic Gregorian chant.

Throughout the Notes, I use the medieval chant scale of pitch letters:
            A B C D E F G a b c [“middle C”] d e f g
Hence, the four finals of the modes are
            D (modes 1, 2), E (3, 4), F (5, 6) G (7, 8).

Pitch Set of Graduals in First Mode

The pitch set used for first-mode Graduals extends from A a fourth below the final D up to e a ninth above the final, and on one occasion to the f above that. The pitch set includes b-flat as well as b-natural. The melodic practice of this pitch set may well have been one of the principal occasions for the need for two kinds of b. In first-mode Graduals, these are notated in staff sources with a good degree of consistency, and can be understood to respond with equal consistency to their contexts. That is to say, the use of b-flat springs from, rather than determining, the tonal space in which it occurs.

The use of tonal space and reference pitches in Graduals of the first mode is complex. There is a strong reference pitch on F. This can be the upper boundary of a tonal space C D ­E F, which provides the usual framework for a cadence on the final D. The F can also be the lower boundary of a space F G a, or F G c. Whether, in any given case, the F is part of a tonal space that extends up to the fifth c may be a matter of analytic interpretation: there is an ambiguity here, one of several that greatly enriches the tonal resources of this modal class.

If the c a fifth above the F is heard as the upper boundary of a tonal space, then that space is divided by a; the configuration is dominated by the sound of the major third F a, and the F can have the solid feeling of a pitch at the lower end of a fifth. If, on the other hand, the c is heard only with the a (and b-natural), the effect can be that of a small tonal space consisting of a minor third; or, the space can include the d and e above, if they are present in the phrase, and the effect can be that of a fifth (a e) dominated by a minor third.

In functioning as a strong pitch of reference, the c seems to be used just as in third and fifth modes, where it can be the principal reference pitch and the upper boundary of the central tonal space. In first mode, however, this c seems to have little or no relationship to the D final. Usually the D and the c are maintained in their separate tonal spaces; or else, if the two spaces follow closely one after the other, the D and the c are used carefully as decoration, each referred to its own space. Sometimes, however, it seems that a quick shift from one space to the other must be imagined. And sometimes the juxtaposition of D and c (never immediate, rather always with at least two or three mediating pitches) is simply bold, providing much of the stern rigor of melodies in this mode.

Compared to this c a seventh above the final D, the d an octave above the final seems never to function as a reference pitch, nor as any kind of melodic goal. It is used as decoration in various ways, and occasionally it is forceful or expressive; but in these Graduals—as throughout the Gregorian repertory—it never works together with the a and the D below to make a fifth-octave frame such as gives great stability to much medieval chant composed after the completion of the Gregorian.

The D final has ambiguities of its own. In antiphons of the Office, as Dom Claire showed, the D final is the end (but not the goal) of a “terminal descent” from the F G a space occupied by the bulk of the antiphon. This function is occasionally apparent in Graduals; more frequently, however, the D is put forward as the foundation of the set of pitches D E F G a in such a way that the D seems the foundation of that set and indeed of the whole piece. Within the pitch set D E F G a the minor third D F dominates the tonal color, and in that respect the tonal space D a contrasts with the space F c. Since the space F c (or F a) is at least as prominent as D a in these Graduals, there is a persistent variety of tonal color as one tonal space follows another.

The D final of first-mode Graduals is not nearly as unstable as the E final of third-mode Graduals, in which the final can appear to be the least likely point of repose in the whole pitch set. In fact, it requires a certain imaginative perception of possibilities to hear how the D final of a Gradual may on occasion have the “throw-away” effect of an E final.

On the other hand, the D final is used as a stable ending with much less consistency than in the F final in Graduals of the fifth mode, where the configuration of F c f (the octave being itself a melodic goal) together with the descent through b-flat, gives the F a sense of confirming the pitch set throughout the whole piece.

Below the D final the pitch set provides a C, which regularly goes together with the F a fourth above, in an intervallic relationship very different from the relationship of C to the D final, to which it is simply a dissonant, different neighbor.

Below the C, the scale is usually “gapped.” That is, instead of a continuous tonal space descending through D C B A, there is only the C, then the A; and these pitches are used with infrequent but striking effect, one that can lend a sense of fantasy not otherwise apparent in these Graduals.

While three distinct tonal spaces (F a, F a c, D F a) can be thus identified in the pitch set of first mode, the melodies of these Graduals move through the spaces with such fluidity that occasionally they produce a different effect—that of a pitch set occupying the whole octave C c. In these Graduals the melodic practice divides this octave clearly at F (not G); still, the octave can be one tonal space, not two or three. The division of this space by an arithmetic mean (C F c), is what distinguishes Gregorian melodies with D final from medieval melodies that use the octave D d divided by a harmonic mean a.


The Graduals in first mode show a richness of melody that may be unmatched by the other modal classes, and that may be responsible for the way first-mode melodies seem to represent the essence of Gregorian chant. This may be due, however, more to the way the pitch set is used than to the actual idioms, which tend to be less distinctive than those in other modes; that is, the effect of minor color of the tonal space D-a combined with the firm interval of the fifth seems to establish a stern, somber quality that can evoke solemnity. Yet the possibility of a different expression specially tailored to a particular set of words or to a liturgical occasion—or simply a melodic idiosyncrasy—should not be overlooked in individual cases.


All the first-mode Graduals, in their verses as well as their responds, use Psalter stichs. These have been carefully selected and laid out. The reasons for the selection, however, need to be studied individually in each case; while the reasons sometimes have to do with the calendric assignment, other times they seem to involve only the effective expression of a single idea or image appropriate to worship.

The normal form of the Gradual, consisting of respond and verse, is of course regularly maintained. There is, in principle, a division of respond as well as of verse into two roughly equal parts. This division is maintained more clearly and consistently in the verse than in the respond, and in the melodies more than in the words, which often (because selected for their vividly expressive diction) assume syntactical forms that are ill-suited to bipartite division. Some selections are too short, consisting of only a single clause. Others may have a division into two clauses (a bihemistich) but with one hemistich much shorter than the other. Such irregularities seem, in general, to be the result of the rendering of the Hebrew original—which was in verse—into Latin prose in ways that preserve the meaning while sacrificing the versification. The results of translation, however, are greatly modified by the adaptation of chants to be sung at Mass, which can only be accounted for by attempting to discover the expressive purposes that formed each text.

Since the melodies provide frequent cadences, or at least possible articulations, they facilitate the phrasing of the prose verbal constructions. At the same time the melodies bring extreme intrasyllabic extension, which requires phrasing the verbal syntax more frequently than the syntax itself would require. Relatively short groups of words—two or three only—serve for full melodic phrases. Thus at the same time that the melodic extension requires phrasing, it provides an abundance of cadential idioms as the means of making it. The manifold ways in which phrases are combined to form sentences that are syntactically complete and at the same time fill out the plan of the melodic bihemistich, or some more complex plan—that art is to be studied case by case, and admired.

Calendric assignment

Of the fourteen Graduals in first mode, half are assigned to the Temporale and half to saints' days, making this the largest collection of saints' Graduals after those in fifth mode, and a larger proportion (7 out of 14) compared to that in fifth mode (17 out of 43). There are only five Graduals for saints in second mode, two in seventh mode, and two in third mode.

Of the seven assigned to the Temporale, none is for one of the five feasts (Nativity, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost). Two are for Sundays: Universi for First Sunday of Advent, Sciant gentes for Sexagesima (also used for Sunday 11 after Pentecost). The other five are assigned to Lenten ferias.

Ash Wednesday: Miserere mei
Thursday of the First Week of Lent: Custodi me
Ember Friday, the First Week of Lent: Salvum fac servum
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent: Si ambulem
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent: Beata gens

Two of these (Custodi, Beata) are used also for Sundays after Pentecost.

Most of the seven Graduals for the Sanctorale are used each for several saints' days, often for pairs of saints. These sentences are carefully selected from the Psalter to celebrate some aspect of Christian sainthood; some are of sufficiently broad application as to be used in the eventual Common of Saints. They all seem to share equally with the Temporale Graduals in the use of the family of idioms.

Graduals in Seventh Mode

Graduals in seventh mode are a homogeneous group with only one or two anomalies in melodic idiom, and none in pitch set. Their character is bright, tending toward brilliant in the upper register. The melodies can be very mobile throughout the pitch set.

Pitch set and final

The pitch set includes, in some pieces, D a fourth below the final G, in other pieces only F below the final. The set extends upwards to g an octave above the final, on two or three occasions to the a above the g.

Within this range the G final has an importance and stability matched only by the F final in Graduals of the fifth mode. The G final appears frequently as the goal of internal cadences. Being reinforced regularly by the d a fifth above, the G final always appears as a foundation of the pitch set. This makes the F a tone below the G final have the feeling of a side-step into a neighboring tonal realm, especially when the F is reinforced by its own fifth in the figure F ­a c. And while the d a fifth above the G final is a strong pitch of reference and the upper boundary of the central pitch set G a b c d, it does not seem to have the predominance of the c that is similarly situated in the fifth mode. The lesser prominence of d in the seventh mode is partly due to an occasional use of c a tone below as another reference pitch, temporarily displacing the d; and partly due to the tendency of the d to be involved in either a fluid descent to G or beyond, or else to an even more fluid ascent above d, in what amounts to a tonal space d f.

It is a mark of the mobility of these seventh-mode melodies that they can traverse the combined spaces G-d and d f seemingly with a single bound. And this quality of leaping seems more associated with the idea of pitch set than with that of idiom.

The major third G b that dominates the central tonal space defines the tonal quality of the whole group of seventh-mode Graduals. This tonal color is not at all diluted by the tonal space d f at the top of the range. This is apparently because the minor third d f, like the minor third d b beneath it, is so clearly absorbed into a tonal construction based on the G final. This construction, G b d f, is frequently implicit in the melodic progression; at least once it is stated baldly, at the start of the verse of Clamaverunt.

The prominence of that construction may make it easier to understand the role of the g octave above the final G. This g is not used as a cadential goal, either as an echo of the G final or in its own right. It is decorative, an upper neighbor; sometimes it may appear as an ecstatic accent, but even then as a superabundant overflow, cresting over the phrase as a whole. As an ornament, it seems to be the most thrilling one in the Gregorian repertory. It is quite unlike the octave in fifth mode, which does echo its F final through the mediation of c a fourth below the f and a fifth above the final F. The seventh-mode g octave is, rather, like the d octave in first mode or the e octave in third mode.


The seventh-mode Graduals give the impression of sharing a well-defined, homogeneous system of idioms. There are, indeed, a number of shared idioms, some shorter and non­descript, some longer and distinctive. Both kinds are often placed within the respond or the verse in such a way as to suggest a model melody; but that remains only a suggestion, and the usage cannot be charted systematically.

There are several striking melodic formations apparently made for the sake of particular verbal contexts. There are also some borrowings of melismatic idioms characteristic of other modal groups. And there is one clear anomaly, also with verbal associations: the respond of Benedictus Dominus is largely equivalent to an eighth-mode Tract (the verse returns to seventh-mode idioms by using much of the verse of Clamaverunt).


The selection and use of Psalter stichs for seventh-mode Graduals follows the principles already described in Graduals of the first mode.

Calendric assignment

The distinctive melodic character of the seventh-mode Graduals—joyfully exuberant—is used for positive texts in a variety of liturgical situations. No assignment is made to any of the five feasts (Nativity, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost). Three Graduals are assigned to Sundays, as listed here:

Third Sunday in Advent: Qui sedes
First Sunday after Epiphany: Benedictus Dominus
Fourth Sunday in Lent: Laetatus sum

In each of these three, seventh-mode idioms have been combined with other melodic materials (including an obvious borrowing from another mode) in order to be appropriate to the calendric occasion.

Five other Graduals are assigned to Lenten ferias, according to the following interesting schedule.

Tuesday after the First Sunday in Lent: Dirigatur
Tuesday after the Second Sunday in Lent: lacta cogitatum
Wednesday after the Second Sunday in Lent: Salvum fac populum
Wednesday after the Third Sunday in Lent: Miserere mihi
Thursday after the Third Sunday in Lent: Oculi omnium

Iacta cogitatum was used also on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, and the other four were used also during Ember Week (the first week in Lent), for which time the assignment of Graduals, especially for Ember Saturday, was at the option of the cantor. And two of those listed (Dirigatur, Oculi omnium) were also used for Sundays toward the end of the season after Pentecost, along with Laetatus and two others that had not been used in Lent, Benedicam Dominum and Liberasti.

The fact of such multiple use tends to weaken connections that might be presumed between a particular Gradual and any other element, such as the Gospel, of a formulary to which the Gradual was assigned. What needs to be noticed, on the other hand, is the very distinctive content and tone of each of these sentences, and the way an equally distinctive use has been made of seventh-mode idioms along with other materials that in some cases seem to be idiosyncratic.

The two remaining seventh-mode Graduals are assigned to saints.

Clamaverunt: St. Nere (12 May), Sts. Marcellinus & Peter (2 June), Sts. Cosma & Damian (27 September).
Audi filia: St. Caecilia (22 November)

It is very difficult to assess the relative importance, either for the city or for the world, of seventh-century saints' days. Whatever the importance of those listed, the Gradual Clamaverunt is one of the longest, and perhaps the most brilliant, of all Graduals, rivaling the fifth-mode Adiuvabit for St. Agatha. Making as much use of seventh-mode idioms as any of the others of its group, Clamaverunt adds in its verse some extraordinary melismatic singing, shared only with Benedictus Dominus.

Audi filia is one of a number of Gregorian chants, including four Graduals, that adapt words from verses of Psalm 44 freely, and for whatever purposes the adaptor had in mind. In this case the image of glory in honor of the saint elicited the most successful use of an idiom involving the high g.