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Thursday, January 15, 2004
  Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Introit
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Track 3

Gregorian Chant is generally a very distant musical language from mine. For example, it is only with effort that I do not hear the ending of this piece as a half cadence. However, there are two features of this Introit that, unintentionally, bring familiarity. The first is the opening. The opening leap of a fifth that starts this Introit is strikingly reminiscent of the Epitaph of Seikilos. And both tunes continue on to present very diatonic motions. But where the Epitaph reminds us that life is short with its elegant arches, this Gregorian Introit proclaims eternity with its, albeit ornamental, fixation on the pitches 'C' and 'D'. The second familiar feature is the form. The Introit suggests ABA form in that we hear the antiphon, the psalm verse, and then return to the antiphon. And before we return to the antiphon there is a gentle flourish.

Everything about the chant is gentle. In Euripides' chorus we heard monody expressed with instruments and then voices in various registers. In Gregorian Chant the simplicity goes farther and presents the tune without instruments and in only one register.

What I like about this piece is the notation. Plainchant notation is very effective in presenting unmeasured melodies. The music looks like it sounds and is artful in its own right. It is a meditation. I am drawn to this flowing, uncountable music because the manuscript is beautiful. 

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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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