Music M401
History and Literature of Music I

Indiana University School of Music

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The chant of the Roman Catholic church can be divided into two types of services, the Mass and the Office services.


This table shows the basic layout of a typical Mass. For M401 we are most concerned with those parts of the Mass which are set to individual melodies, shown in the first two columns on the left. There are many other components that are intoned on reciting formulas or are simply spoken, and the most important of them are included below to give you a sense of the shape of the overall Mass.

The texts and music of the items in the columns labeled "Proper" change from service to service. These are called "Proper" because they are proper to a particular day of the church year.

The texts of the items in the columns labeled "Ordinary" are the same at every Mass (with some adjustments for certain special occasions or seasons of the year). However, there are many musical settings of each Ordinary text.

Click on an underlined chant type for more information about it, including its text setting, its form, and its performance.


Intoned* or Spoken





1. Introit
2. Kyrie
3. Gloria
4. Collect*, prayers
5. Epistle*
6. Gradual
7. Alleluia (Tract)
(8. Sequence)
9. Gospel*
10. Sermon
11. Credo
12. Offertory
13. Prayers/Psalm 25
14. Secret
15. Preface*
16. Sanctus
17. Canon
18. Pater noster*
19. Agnus Dei
20. Communion
21. Prayers
22. Postcommunion*
23. Ite, missa est (Benedicamus Domino)

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There are eight different office services:

NAWM 4 contains chants from Vespers for Christmas day in the evening, the second of two Vespers services associated with Christmas. (The first is celebrated the previous evening, on Christmas Eve.)

Psalm Singing

The most important type of chant in the Office is the singing of psalms. NAWM 4a (on pp. 26-27) is Psalm 109, Dixit Dominus, the first psalm in Vespers on Christmas Day, together with the antiphon that precedes and follows it, Tecum principium (described below).

Points to remember about singing psalms in the Office:

Most psalms are accompanied by antiphons. An antiphon has an independent melody; that is, it is not a simple reciting formula like a psalm tone. The antiphon is sung both before and after the psalm. The antiphon used with Psalm 109 on this occasion is Tecum principium (shown on p. 26), whose text is taken from the same psalm (the fourth verse).

So, the overall form of psalm singing in an office service is this (click on each to hear the recording):

Antiphon - Psalm Verses - Lesser Doxology - Antiphon

Short Responsory

Vespers also include short responsories. The fourth edition of NAWM included an example, Verbum caro factum est.

Here is the overall form:

Respond AB - Respond AB - Verse - Respond B - Doxology - Respond AB

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Several of the Office services include a hymn. A hymn is a simple strophic song of praise, not drawn from the Bible. Each verse has the same number of lines and syllables, and each verse is sung to the same music--just like hymns today.

The hymn sung at Vespers on Christmas Day is Christe Redemptor omnium, NAWM 4b (pp. 27-28).

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Finally, several of the Office services include canticles. The canticles are song texts from the Bible that are not from the Book of Psalms. The music for the canticles looks very much like the music used to sing psalms, although it is slightly more elaborate. Each canticle is linked with an antiphon, which is somewhat more elaborate than an antiphon for an Office Psalm. The fourth edition of NAWM had an example of one of the most famous canticles, the Canticle of Mary, known by its first Latin word, Magnificat.

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Last updated: 29 August 2017
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