Instituta Patrum de modo psallendi is a High Medieval document, allegedly based on circulated precepts of Bernard of Clairveaux, and perhaps other church figures as well. It enjoins church communities to sing psalm tones in a certain way.

The first half of a psalm verse is to be sung in one breath, followed by a pause to catch breath. Then the second half of the verse is to be "deponendus" to the psalm tone's musical cadence, where "deponere" here means lowering the music in pitch from its psalm tone 'tenor' to its final pitch by a 5- or 6-note cadence:

Facta pausa, quod de versu restat, morosiori modulatione deponatur salvo tono.

The pause having been made, let what remains in the verse be laid down to/by the safe(?) tone with slower mensuration.

Salvo tono? What does that mean? How is one to read this sentence, assuming there is no typo or missing word?

1 Answer 1


Ablative phrases with salvus are commonly used to mean "preserving, maintaining, without violating" (see L&S I.B):

  • salvā fidē, cōnscientiā ("staying true to one's honour, conscience")
  • salvō ōrdine, sēnsū ("in the same order, without changing the meaning")

There's a whole battery of different definitions for tonus, but the meaning intended here appears to be "pitch" (it's hardly "melody"). The instruction would then be to continue after the pause on the same note, "preserving the pitch".

  • 1
    Formal logic also has the common fixed phrase salva veritate for describing the ability to always substitute identical terms in direct reference contexts within a proposition, "the truth (value) being preserved." (So, for example, if Paris=Alexander then Alexander is the Trojan prince who slew Achilles has the same truth value as Paris is the Trojan prince who slew Achillles, etc. ) Jan 29, 2022 at 1:56
  • The meaning of tonus in this document is certainly the melody of the psalm tone and not a singular note pitch. Documents on music from the Carolingian era onward often mean this signification when they are talking about psalmody, some when talking about the church modes in general.
    – Coemgenus
    Feb 2, 2022 at 15:26
  • @Coemgenus I think it's somewhat more complicated than that. From the wikipedia article: "before returning to the reciting tone until the mediant. After the mediant, the second part of the psalm verse is sung on the reciting tone until the last few words, which are sung to a cadential formula called the termination." I think this is precisely what this sentence says - the mediant is the pausa, and the instruction is to continue the psalm "on the same reciting tone = pitch". Feb 9, 2022 at 13:22
  • Admittedly it could be referring not to the entire second part but only to the "termination". Do you know if a second pause is made in psalmody between the second part and the termination? This sounds unlikely; and if so, I don't see how it makes sense to instruct the singers to "preserve the melody" while already singing the termination of that melody. So I think that "psalm tone" here is the same as "singular note pitch" because psalm tones are built around a singular note pitch. Feb 9, 2022 at 13:36
  • @Unbrutal_Russian If your answer is correct, then the document is saying "After the pause" (the breath or beat rest after the mediant cadence) "let the remainder of the verse be 'deposed' (dropped in pitch, mensurated downward, cadenced), with the tone preserved". Hmm ... what he means by "with the tone preserved" is still vague. He could mean keeping the cadence in the Psalm's Antiphon mode, but, given the rest of the paragraph, he more likely means keeping the cantors in rhythmical unison and not deviating. However ...
    – Coemgenus
    Feb 18, 2022 at 2:56

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