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Monday, January 19, 2004
  Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Gradual
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Tracks 6 & 7

When we listen to enough chant we can find that it is not so different than a great deal of modern music. The opening sound of this piece, which we would identify as an ascending F Major triad, is a place for the modern listener to find familiarity it Medieval thinking. Even though, for the authors of this piece, the sound of upward thirds did not carry the resonance it has for us, it would nevertheless be a grand sound, worthy of the words Viderunt omnes. Music listeners from any epoch since the debut of this Gradual might also find kinship in the use of an accidental. Of course, the accidental here is used to avoid the spicy tritone but, asking Euripides' patience, let us remember this Gradual to contain the first chromaticism in our survey.

While the text speaks about salvation bringing joy to the ends of the earth the music majestically climbs thirds and revels in undulating seconds. The appearance of polyphony in this work must have been quite striking.

What I like most about this work are the three big melismas that occur right in the middle of the piece. The third melisma, on the word Dominus is the breathtaking moment of the piece. However, the melisma on the word terra is particularly fun because of the almost jazzy rhythm. How often can you say that about a chant? 

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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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