The Mozarabic rite shares similarities with the Ambrosian rite and Gallican rite, and differs from the Roman rite. As the Christian reconquest of Hispania went on, the Roman rite supplanted the Mozarabic. With the papal appointment of a French abbot as the new archbishop of Toledo, which had been recaptured in 1085, Roman influence could be enforced throughout the Hispanic Church. Following its official suppression by Pope Gregory VII, the Mozarabic rite and its chant disappeared in all but six parishes in Toledo.
The Mozarabic rite was revived by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros, who published in 1500 and 1502 a Mozarabic Missal and Breviary, incorporating elements of the Roman rite, and dedicated a chapel to preserving the Mozarabic rite. However, the chant used for this restored Mozarabic rite shows significant influence from Gregorian chant, and does not appear to resemble the Mozarabic chant sung prior to the reconquest.
However, some things are known about the Mozarabic repertory. Like all plainchant, Mozarabic chant was monophonic and a cappella. In accordance with Roman Catholic tradition, it is primarily intended to be sung by males.
As in Gregorian chant, Mozarabic chant melodies can be broadly grouped into four categories: recitation, syllabic, neumatic, and melismatic. Recitations are the simplest, comprised primarily of a simple reciting tone. Syllabic chants have mostly one note per syllable. Neumatic chants have a small number of notes, often just two or three, notes per syllable. Melismatic chants feature long, florid runs of notes, called melismas, on individual syllables.
In both Mozarabic and Gregorian chant, there is a distinction between antiphonal and responsorial chants. Originally, responsorial chant alternated between a soloist singing a verse and a chorus singing a refrain called the respond, while antiphonal chant alternated between two semi-choruses singing a verse and an interpolated text called an antiphon. In the developed chant traditions, they took on more functional characteristics. In an antiphonal chant, the antiphon is generally longer and more melodic than the verse, which is usually sung to a simpler formula called a psalm tone. In a responsorial chant, the verse and refrain are often comparable in style and melodic content.
Mozarabic chants used a different system of psalm tones for psalm antiphons than Gregorian chant. Unlike the standardized Gregorian classification of chants into eight modes, Mozarabic chant used between four and seven, depending on the local tradition. Many Mozarabic chants are recorded with no musical notation at all, or just the incipit, suggesting that the psalm tones followed simple and frequently used formulas.
The musical forms encountered in Mozarabic chant present a number of analogies with those of the Roman rite. For example, a comparable distinction exists between antiphonal and responsorial singing. And Mozarabic chant may be seen to make use of three styles: syllabic, neumatic and melismatic, much as in Gregorian chant. In the following descriptions of the principal musical items in both the Mozarabic Office and Mass, some of these analogies will be discussed further. The items from the Mass are presented here in the appropriate liturgical order.
The Alleluiatici are also antiphonal chants, whose text usually involves an alleluia, similar in style to regular antiphons. Unlike the Gregorian repertory, these are sung at Matins and Vespers even on penitential days, when "alleluia" is omitted from the liturgy.
Matins features a musical form called the missa, which consists of an Alleluiaticus framed by two Antiphons and a Responsory. Later missae show common musical material thematically uniting the missa. The Responsories, which are primarily found at the end of a missa, are generally neumatic, consisting of melodic formulas that adjust to fit the lengths of different phrases, ending in a fixed cadence.
Other Office chants include the morning-themed Matutinaria, the Benedictiones using texts from the Book of Daniel, the melismatic Soni, and the alleluiatic Laudes. The Psallendi, unrelated to the Psallendae of Ambrosian chant, end with the Doxology.
The neumatic Vespertini, like the Lucernaria of Ambrosian chant, usually allude to the lighting of lamps or to nightfall. They show a high degree of centonization, construction from a vocabulary of stock musical phrases, and adaptation, application of a pre-existing melody to a new text.
Preces are short, lightly neumatic musical prayers in rhyme with a refrain. They exist in both the Mozarabic rite and the Gallican rite, but the concordance between the two rites appears to be liturgical and not musical. Finally, the Office chants include a number of Hymns, many of which are found throughout Catholic Europe, although we do not know if the same melodies were used.
Unlike the Gregorian Gloria, the Mozarabic Gloria in excelsis Deo only occurs in some local Mozarabic traditions.
The Trisagion, in which the Greek word "hagios" is sung three times, sometimes quite melismatically or translated into the Latin "sanctus," corresponds to the simple threefold "Kyrie eleison" sung at the end of the Laus missa of the Ambrosian rite. This is not the liturgical counterpart of the Gregorian Sanctus.
Following the Trisagion are the Benedictiones. Like the Benedictiones of the Office, these come from the Book of Daniel, but use more complex melodies, whose refrain structure derives directly from the biblical poetry.
The Psalmi are neumatic and melismatic responsorial chants which function similarly to the Gregorian Gradual. On a few holidays, the Psalmo leads directly into a Clamor. Clamores conclude with the refrain of the preceding Psalmo. During Lent, Threni substitute for Psalmi. Each Threnus has a non-repeating refrain followed by several verses, which are sung to the same melody. This function of replacing another chant on certain penitential days is similar to the way the Gregorian Tract replaces the Alleluia.
Just as the Gregorian Gradual is followed by the Alleluia, the Mozarabic Psalmo is followed by the Laus. Like the Gregorian Alleluias, the Laudes include two melismas on the word "alleluia" surrounding a simpler verse. During Lent, the Laudes use different texts.
The Sacrificium corresponds to the Gregorian Offertory. The Sacrificia appear to be closely related to the Soni chants of the Office.
A few Mozarabic Masses include the Ad pacem, a special Antiphon sung for the kiss of peace, or the Ad sanctus, similar to the Gregorian Sanctus.