Your will be done, Lord, not mine.
after Luke 22 v 42
The lyric of the present chant began life as an Active Prayer Sentence that I had been using for many years before I considered enhancing it with music. When I did, the seven monosyllabic words didn’t seem to offer much scope. Eventually the idea presented itself of a melody derived from the first seven notes you can play on a single guitar string without using the frets, the so-called harmonics. The ‘trouble’ with this row of notes is that some of them sound out of tune to many people, especially the last one, which is not a note that you will find on your piano.
Listen to the soprano part below which carries the main melody of the chant. Does the last note sound woefully flat to you? If so you’re quite normal but it does indicate how deep and all-pervasive cultural conditioning can be. The scale that arises naturally from the vibrating string is known as just intonation whereas music in the Western world for the last 300 years or so has used equal temperament. The latter is a purely cultural construct which is a compromise between the physics of vibrating bodies and the engineering of musical instruments, particularly keyboards. The only reason just intonation sounds odd is because you’re not used to it. In other times and other cultures it is the equal temperament that would sound ‘off’.
In singing this chant, then, it’s important to maintain just intonation to get the desired effect. The harmony builds from unison up into a harmonic seventh chord. If sung accurately this chord should sound relaxed with a sense of ‘home’. If there is any tension in it that urges you towards a ‘next’ chord you’re probably pitching the G-natural too high.
On the score I have given the differences in cents between just intonation and equal temperament for C-sharp, G-natural and B-natural. (The last of these is so small that few people can hear it.) This may be useful for pitching correctly if you have an electronic tuner calibrated in cents. As an alternative I have shown how the main melody can be played using guitar harmonics with a small adjustment to the tuning of the guitar.
Note that although I have written it out in A here the optimum way to perform this chant would be to find the resonant frequency of the space you are in and tune yourself to that.