Antiphons Use in Medieval Music

By: Charissa Rhine

In understanding how antiphons were used successfully in Medieval Music, we must first understand the concept of Psalm Tones. These tones created the mold for the use of the antiphon. The psalm tone was a formula used in the Mass that consisted of the initium or introduction and the terminatio, or final cadential resting point. This chanting of a psalm during the Office was usually followed by an antiphon. The antiphons also changed according to the church calender. The term antiphonal is a kind of singing where the verse alternates between a full choir and a half choir.

There are records found of a possible combination of two choirs and soloist that appears in a psalm tone outline:

Antiphon---psalm, 1st half-verse---psalm, 2nd half verse---Antiphon

This progression allowed for the cantor and choir to alternate as an antiphon in the beginning, and then the first verse would be sung by a soloist with an introduction. The second verse would also be sung by a soloist and would include the final cadence before the last antiphon between choir and half choir. Antiphons were used more than any other chant, and they utilized unique melodies intended for a group of singers. The existed full of simple rhythms.


Grout, Donald. "A History of Western Music." W.W. Norton & Company. New York; 1996.

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