Monday, October 5, 2009

A Multitude of Mighty Fortresses: Definitions, Part II: rhythmic

The rhythmic tune probably predates the isorhythmic tune.  It does not fit very nicely into a 3/4 or 4/4 time signature, and even The Lutheran Hymnal (1941, aka TLH) didn't try.  You find a mix of half- and quarter notes, and even a dotted rhythm or two.  Also, as you sing it, you feel like you are going from duple to triple meter. 

For Lutheran Service Book (aka LSB) #656, you get an example right off the bat!

duple meter: A mighty
triple meter: fortress is
duple meter: our God

Another good example is Jesus, I Will Ponder Now.  Here it is in an organ arrangement (.mp3 format), just scroll down to the first track.  Here it is with a rock beat (.mid format), just scroll down to rk140.  Both versions cite TLH as their source.  Both are arranged by Rev. Richard Jordan.  I do not know him, but we thank him for these examples.

triple meter: Jesus, I will
duple meter: ponder now
triple meter: on Thy holy
duple meter: passion

Sloppy playing (or singing) does not capture the duple-triple nature of these rhythmic tunes, so again we thank Rev. Richard Jordan for posting his fine examples to the internet.  It is especially tricky going from one phrase to the other.  The temptation is to hold out the last note longer than necessary before beginning the next phrase.  This does make it easier to sing, because it interrupts the rhythmic nature of the tune.  For you church musicians out there, if you must hold onto that last note a little longer, make it a really short hold, catch a short breath, and move on to the next phrase.

For the modern-classic version of the Rhythmic Mighty Fortress, check this out. LSB is cited.  Lutheran Service Book restored the TLH accompaniment, and I believe the text is the same as well.

For the Hans Leo Hassler's classic-classic version of the Rhythmic Mighty Fortress, check this out.  The group does not use the TLH/LSB text. We are going to come back to this recording when we talk more in-depth about meter.

For Rev. Richard's Rockin' Rhythmic Mighty Fortress inspired by TLH, click here and scroll down to rk262.

There are far fewer recordings of the rhythmic, mostly because we Lutherans might be the only ones who have sought to preserve it, and most hymnals only feature the isorhythmic.

While you can recognize the isorhythmic text when you see the word "bulwark," look for "a trusty shield" in the first few lines of the rhythmic text.

FYI: Luther's German version works best with the rhythmic text.  You can find it over at hymntime.

A Multitude of Mighty Fortresses: Definitions, Part I: isorhythmic

Isorhythmic: This refers to the beat of the tune.  An isorhythmic tune is very consistent. The notes tend to fall on the beat, and the rhythm tends to fit nicely in to a 4/4 or a 3/4 time signature.  A straight-up isorhythmic tune might be Let Us Ever Walk With Jesus (LSB 685, for those of you who want to follow along).

You can find an organ-only version of the isorhythmic Fortress here, complete with a humorous beginning from Hi-Fi Hymn Book.  And to mix in a little irony, this one is played at St. Mary's Cathedral in Dayton, OH.

There are a multitude of vocal arrangements featuring the isorhythmic version
  • this one from Pacific Lutheran University
  • this one from Salem Academy (in Salem, Oregon?)
  • this one in a classic gospel style featuring Mahalia Jackson
  • this one in a modern gospel style, featuring Albert S. Hadley with New Orleans Gospel Soul Children.  Now THAT is an AMEN!!!

The isorhythmic text is found in most hymnals.  It is the first text over at hymntime and cyberhymnal. You can easily recognize it by the word "bulwark" in the first line or two.  We'll save that word for another post.  For those of you using LBW, LW or LSB,  you will find, "a sword and shield" in the first line or two.

A Multitude of Mighty Fortresses: Introduction

In Lutheran Service Book, there are two translations of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

One of those is in the public domain, and the other is not.  We will focus on the "rhythmic" version (LSB 656), as that is the one in public domain.

From there we will look at the "isorhythmic" version found in most other hymnals.

Lastly, there will be some German involved.  My German is a little rusty, and those of you who know the German well are free to make corrections in the comment section.  My mistakes will remain posted on the main page, so be sure to check the comment section for corrections.

As for the isorhythmic version in LSB, we will reference a line or two from each verse, but will not post the full text.

Up next: defining rhythmic and isorhythmic.