Author Topic: Chant  (Read 5700 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #40 on: October 14, 2018, 06:24:24 AM »


The review in Gramophone says something quite interesting about this challenging and stimulating and at times gorgeous recording. It has to do with the resonant ambience of The Vatican, something which the recording captures very evocatively. Of course it means that in polyphonic music things get a bit mushed up. In fact, it’s so echoey that even monophonic chant is fuzzy, presumably in context the singing appears to come from all over, from out of alcoves and from behind pillars. A fog of words, like T S Eliot’s cat in Prufrock.

The Gramophone review says that this might be a deliberate theologically inspired plan, something to make The Word slightly ineffable, to counter  the idea that understanding The Word is something that is graspable if you attend hard enough - like you might grasp the words of a schoolteacher.

Anyway I thought that was interesting as an idea, at least.

Mary Berry was clearly a bit of an inspiration to her singers, because the sheer variety and intensity of expression that she gets out of them is astonishing.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2018, 06:27:36 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #41 on: October 14, 2018, 06:51:31 AM »


The review in Gramophone says something quite interesting about this challenging and stimulating and at times gorgeous recording. It has to do with the resonant ambience of The Vatican, something which the recording captures very evocatively. Of course it means that in polyphonic music things get a bit mushed up. In fact, it’s so echoey that even monophonic chant is fuzzy, presumably in context the singing appears to come from all over, from out of alcoves and from behind pillars. A fog of words, like T S Eliot’s cat in Prufrock.

The Gramophone review says that this might be a deliberate theologically inspired plan, something to make The Word slightly ineffable, to counter  the idea that understanding The Word is something that is graspable if you attend hard enough - like you might grasp the words of a schoolteacher.

Anyway I thought that was interesting as an idea, at least.

Mary Berry was clearly a bit of an inspiration to her singers, because the sheer variety and intensity of expression that she gets out of them is astonishing.

Sounds like the sort of tweddle you would find in Gramophone. The Vatican and all the other magnificent cathedrals were built to impress, not to mention intimidate. Acoustics were secondary and good or bad by accident. The Word of God was handed down by the Church via a priest not the choir. Even in a good acoustic the words of what is being sung is near unintelligible and pre Vatican II in a language few of the congregation understood.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #42 on: October 14, 2018, 07:03:28 AM »
The Word of God was handed down by the Church via a priest not the choir.

You may be right. What was the point of chant if not to express The Word?

Does anyone have the CD (I don’t) It would be interesting to know if they talk about The Vatican acoustics in the booklet essays,
« Last Edit: October 14, 2018, 07:07:59 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #43 on: October 14, 2018, 07:33:11 AM »
You may be right. What was the point of chant if not to express The Word?

Does anyone have the CD (I don’t) It would be interesting to know if they talk about The Vatican acoustics in the booklet essays,

The chant was part of the act of worship, to glorify God not enlighten the congregation. This idea of imparting the Word of God is a very Protestant idea. In large cathedrals the chant or polyphony would have been almost inaudible or unintelligible to most of the congregation. Only those near to the choir ie. the clergy and the aristocracy would have heard very much. A small choir can fill a large building with sound but it not necessarily intelligible sound.

The singing was another part of the decoration of these great buildings and not always there for the glorification of God. When Cardinal Wolsey was Archbishop of York the minster had a choir of just 12 men and boys, not very impressive for such a large building. Wolsey lavished all his attention on his Cardinal College in Oxford. The college had a sizeable choir of men and boys as well as 30 'singing priests'. This was for the glorification of Thomas Wolsey, not God, certainly not for imparting the Word.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #44 on: October 14, 2018, 08:08:43 AM »
Interesting, thanks for such a clear response. Someone once said to me that they thought that the reason people sang monophonic or heterophonic chant in the middle ages was so that the words could be really clearly understood, but as far as I remember it was just an assertion.
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #45 on: October 14, 2018, 08:19:26 AM »
Interesting, thanks for such a clear response. Someone once said to me that they thought that the reason people sang monophonic or heterophonic chant in the middle ages was so that the words could be really clearly understood, but as far as I remember it was just an assertion.

I really can't comment on that either way but it seems unlikely to me. The problem is that custom varied from place to place and over time and it is probably possible to find examples to fit any theory. Certainly in a large cathedral intelligibility would be restricted to a very small number. In a monastic situation quite often the monks would be singing entirely for themselves.

After the Reformation, in most Protestant countries, chant was abolished along with the choirs that sang it. Elaborate polyphony was also abolished and great stress was placed on intelligibility. This was certainly the case in England in the reign of Edward VI and composers had to adopt a whole new style.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #46 on: October 14, 2018, 08:37:49 AM »
Thanks

Unfortunately I've become interested in something which you really need to be part of a university to understand, I don't even have access to a decent library, and I have no contact with anyone working in the field!
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #47 on: October 14, 2018, 08:52:48 AM »
Thanks

Unfortunately I've become interested in something which you really need to be part of a university to understand, I don't even have access to a decent library, and I have no contact with anyone working in the field!

I can sympathize. I have always been interested in history and music history has been a growing part of that. I am only an amateur and specialist books on medieval and renaissance music, even where available, are usually beyond my competence.

It is frustrating in a discussion like this when something I have read in the past has some relevance but it is only half-remembered. Quite often the internet is useless - articles come and go and are quite often incorrect. Some learned journals are available online but you usually have to subscribe to them and are probably too specialised.


Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #49 on: November 11, 2018, 11:33:39 AM »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #50 on: November 13, 2018, 09:41:27 PM »


This was Pérès’ first recording with Ensemble Organum. What interests me most is the restraint of the expression, the accuracy of the execution, the way the edition they use makes the polyphonic and heterophonic music sound harmonically non-tonal, and the sense of inferiority and rapt prayer. C12 polyphony in Aquitaine is something I’m interested in. I know of four recordings dedicated to it - this, two from Sequentia (Shining Light and Aquitania),  and one from an American ensemble called Heliotrope (The Fire and the Rose) which I have just ordered. If anyone knows any others please let me know.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2018, 10:06:04 PM by Mandryka »
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