The quote below is from the Instituta Patrum de modo psallendi, an anonymous Carolingian or more likely High Medieval document on singing psalms in Gregorian chant. (I've seen one commenter on this document date it to the 12th century, because of identical wording found in documents of Bernard of Clairvaux.)

In the fourth paragraph beginning "Ammonemus", the author admonishes cantors to stay in synch with each other. He enumerates a list of 'sins', the last two of which trouble me:

Nullus ante alios aut post, incipere in Versu vel cantu, verba cantata reiterare, vel nimis discorditer festinare, praesumptiori vel altiori, remissiori an graviori, id est, sursum vel iusum, tardiori vel velociori voce, aut post alios diutius protrahere, vel punctum tenere praesumat.

I can't tell if the phrases "post alius" and "diutius" apply to both verbs "protrahere" and "tenere", or to only the first one. If they both apply to "protrahere" only:

No one may presume ... to protract (the notes) longer after the others, or to hold the cadence.

then the second 'sin' doesn't make sense to me, because "holding the cadence" ("punctum tenere") isn't bad in itself ... at least how I am reading it. So then am I misunderstanding the meaning of "tenere" in this musical context?

But, if they both apply to "protrahere" and "punctum tenere":

No one may presume ... to protract (the notes) or hold the cadence longer after the others.

then the translation makes sense to me, and the comma between the two Latin phrases is a mistake on the part of the editor. And so my questions are:

  1. Do both "post alios" and "diutius" apply to both verbs or to only the first?
  2. In general, how to tell whether an adverb phrase applies to one or both disjoined verbs?

EDIT: I noticed a few sentences later, the author says

Si morose cantamus, longior pausa fiat; si propere, brevior: semper in Psalmodia punctus et pausa teneantur.

So it could also be that "tenere punctum" is a musical figure of speech I'm not yet acquainted with.

  • Can you give a link to a source? Someone might want to take a look at the broader context of the passage.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 15 '17 at 17:30
  • If you saw an author date it to the 12th century, you must be very old. Perhaps you meant "editor"?
    – C Monsour
    Jun 18 '19 at 1:50
  • @CMonsour "Commenter". I've reworded it. It was dated to circa 12th century by S. A. van Dijk, "Saint Bernard and the Instituta Patrum of Saint Gall," Musica disciplina 4 (1950): 99-109, 109.; by virtue of parts of the text being found in another document from St. Bernard. I've seen websites like the Dutch Wikipedia date it to the 9th or 10th century, but without citation.
    – Coemgenus
    Jul 4 '19 at 13:14

I am not sure if this is the right reading, but at least it seems to be an option you have overlooked. Without context, it's also possible I'm misinterpreting the overall syntactical structure of the passage. Something has been left out (in the middle and before the quote), and that makes a difference.

What if it's the adverb tenerē instead of the infinitive tenēre? That would lead to something like this:

Nullus [potest?] post alios diutius protrahere, vel punctum tenere praesumat.
= No one can prolong longer than others (= longer after others), or he should softly take the cadence in advance.
≈ If you sing longer than others, you should start softly a little earlier.

The part starting at vel is a comment on the last sin, not part of the list itself. One reason I suspect this is that the list contains infinitives and vel part does not (in this reading!). It seems unlikely that praesumat would govern all the infinitives on the list, but that is hard to judge without seeing more of the text. I guessed the verb potest to my reading to make it sensible, and a verb like it may also be carried over from the previous sentence(s).

To answer your numbered questions in this reading:

  1. Tenere is not a verb at all, and the phrase post alios diutius ("longer than others") goes as a single entity.
  2. There is no general way. Context is your only hope.

If my reading is wrong, the first answer can be wrong, but the second one stands.

  • Thanks! Your first reading might be a good clue if only there was another verb here, but there isn't. The sentence before isn't connect at all. Plus this author is not shy to run-ons, as is clear from the document's first two sentences. I added a link to the full text, in case you want to add to your answer.
    – Coemgenus
    Nov 15 '17 at 22:37

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