Definition of plainsong in US English:



  • Unaccompanied church music sung in unison in medieval modes and in free rhythm corresponding to the accentuation of the words, which are taken from the liturgy.

    Compare with Gregorian chant
    • ‘It's one of the sections of the Ordinary of the Mass which the congregation needs to join in: often in the Catholic church they sing it to traditional plainsong.’
    • ‘Urban March is magical, formed from simple humming, and Woman at the Door has the qualities of plainsong.’
    • ‘The piece is based on the old Dies Irae medieval plainsong chant.’
    • ‘His music tends not to be based on plainsong chants, where many of his predecessors would probably have used the chant melodies as the basis of the polyphonic compositions.’
    • ‘This text was used, I believe, in all four twentieth-century coronations (certainly that of George V), restored to its medieval plainsong melody.’
    • ‘To them, the crack of the centurion's whip and the thud of the hammer on nails are distant, alien sounds - a disturbing echo of Holy Week long ago, of Gregorian plainsong, of ferias in Seville.’
    • ‘Monks in Tudor England subtly altered the words of Latin plainsong, transforming them into coded protest.’
    • ‘Significant plainsong hymns have a place, all treated with flowing simplicity.’
    • ‘The Pope's decision against the inclusion of women in church choirs is likely to cause the Austrian village church to return to the plainsong of the mediaeval monks.’
    • ‘If you have no stomach for plainsong and church polyphony, steer clear of this recording.’
    • ‘Such popularity as these records have clearly indicates the refreshing quality found in the ‘purity’ of plainsong, the clarity and sweetness of the voices, and the halo of reverberation that imparts warmth to the ensemble.’
    • ‘Thus was he able to perceive connections between such seemingly disparate aspects of music as plainsong, electronics, extended piano techniques and campanology.’
    • ‘The astonishing success of four women singing plainsong has created yet another mystery in the annals of record sales.’
    • ‘Her nuns, by their own admission, weren't very good at singing, with their plainsong and intoning more than a little out of tune!’
    • ‘The glorious unaccompanied lines of ancient plainsong found their soulmates eventually in melodic bass lines, and then in the creation of partnerships between two or more upper strands of melody, woven together like fine tapestry.’
    • ‘In other words, the daily execution of a grand motet on ordinary days would have given place to plainsong on feast days.’
    • ‘Not just Latin but plainsong as well, a posthumous defiance of all the changes and compromises which Anna Haycraft (to give her her real name) had deplored not just in the Catholic but all the Christian churches.’
    • ‘His knowledge of Greek enabled him to introduce much Eastern theology and liturgical practice into the West; Ambrosian plainsong is associated with his name, and the Athanasian Creed has been attributed to him.’
    • ‘He was helped by Peter, also from the school of music, and Father Peter, from the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, who travelled to Salzburg to research the sections of plainsong.’
    • ‘Melody, harmony, and rhythm became as important to music as plainsong and counterpoint, and the arts of ornamentation and virtuoso extemporization thrived among the virginalists, and among the lute and consort players.’


Late Middle English: translating Latin cantus planus.