I would like to ask for help with proper understanding of the following paragraph (included to give some context):

As I thus mused there fell upon my ears the sounds of sonorous chanting that swelled symphonically from somewhere far below. Its measured cadence rose and fell solemnly as if it were borne from a distance incredible to human ears.

I find it very hard to infer the correct meaning here, mainly because "cadence" has various meanings and being a non-native speaker, this is particularly difficult for me. My best guess is that the chanting was somehow organized and the tune (intonation?) was going up and down (high and low), maintaining somehow a solemn nature?

  • Well, of course the chanting would be 'organized'! Gregorian chant follows a slow, steady rhythm and gentle changes of pitch (try looking for 'Gregorian chant' on You Tube). Aug 20, 2020 at 8:37
  • @KateBunting Thanks Kate, I have a problem with understanding how the cadence can rise and fall, I guess it is not the "pitch". So does it mean that the rhythm gets faster and slower, the pace?
    – John V
    Aug 20, 2020 at 8:57
  • Since the first hit on Google (from Lexico) contains << a modulation or inflection of the voice. "... the measured cadences that he employed in the Senate ..." >> I feel I have to close-vote on 'lacking [evidence of] reasonable research' grounds. Aug 20, 2020 at 10:16
  • @EdwinAshworth That does not answer the question...I asked about the meaning "measured", among other things, the sentence you provide does not explain anything, it just uses the same phrase...
    – John V
    Aug 20, 2020 at 10:20
  • Just a point about the word intonation: in musical contexts intonation usually refers to how "in tune" the notes are, or may refer to a tuning system (as in "just intonation").
    – nnnnnn
    Aug 20, 2020 at 10:28

1 Answer 1


Cadence is a "rhythymic and melodic flow", usually with regards to speech, where variations in pitch and timing attempt to better capture the listener's attention.

Imagine a boring college professor talking in a constant droning monotone - that lacks cadence. Now imagine a good public speaker who pauses when they want to get people's attention, varies pitch, etc. They have better cadence.

Cadence applies to the religious type of chanting described here, which is part-way between talking and singing. They're probably describing something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBwh1OXw6uI

Measured in this sense means "carefully controlled."

That passage could be rendered more prosaically as

While I was thinking, I heard the chanting of deep, echoing voices, growing louder and coming from somewhere far below. The pitch of the chanting grew higher, in a slow, controlled way, sounding like it was coming from a very long way away.

  • Thank you, could be so kind so as to rephrase the sentence for me, using more ordinary words? :) I am not sure about the rising and falling..is it the tone that goes from higher to lower?
    – John V
    Aug 20, 2020 at 8:37
  • @JohnV done in an edit Aug 20, 2020 at 9:36
  • Thank you, just one thing - in your version it seems it only grows louder, but the original reads "rose and fell", or did I misunderstand it?
    – John V
    Aug 20, 2020 at 9:39
  • Yes - good point. Anyway, i think you can understand it now :) Aug 20, 2020 at 10:07
  • Yes, thanks! I posted another question, from the same paragraph, should you be interested :) english.stackexchange.com/questions/544205/…
    – John V
    Aug 20, 2020 at 10:10

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