An expansion of a Latin chant, accomplished by adding wordless melismas to its melody; or, by adding text to original melismas of a chant to produce a syllabic texture; or, by adding both new words and new melody. Medieval sources often term the last two kinds of trope prosa or prosula. "Trope" can occasionally indicate a chant that replaces another in liturgy, while conveying similar meaning and function.
   The sources for the earliest tropes are Frankish, particularly St. Gall and St. Martial, and date from the 10th century and thus are as old as the earliest sources of Gregorian chant. Some scholars even doubt the traditional view that tropes expanded older, standard chants, and believe that troped and untroped repertories developed simultaneously.
   The liturgical purpose of tropes appears to be multifaceted. They solemnized particular feasts, as did the earliest polyphony, which itself could be considered a kind of melodic trope. Tropes of canonical texts often clarified the relation of a chant to its proper feast and explained its meaning. Particularly at the Introit, tropes act as introductions to the proper chant, an invitation to the choir intoned by the cantor. There is an extra-liturgical function too: tropes provided an occasion for liturgical composition after the Gregorian repertory had become more or less fixed.
   Chants for the mass were most commonly troped in the Middle Ages, with the exception of the Credo, the statement of faith. Of the propers, the Alleluia and its concluding wordless jubilus provided an exceptional opportunity for troping. Tropes for the divine office occur in responsories and in the concluding Benedicamus Domino.
   The liturgical reforms resulting from the Council of Trent (1545– 1563) eliminated virtually all tropes from the official Roman Catholic rite. However, some very recent popular style settings of the shorter ordinaries show troped texts.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.


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