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Tuesday, January 20, 2004
  Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Alleluia
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Track 8

Gregorian chant, as beautiful as it is, makes me feel guilty when I listen carefully. I relate it to more recent music and, in so doing I fear that I am turning away from the meaning of the piece and deliberately misunderstanding the music. For instance, this Alleluia, which is in the second mode, starts a pitch bellow the final. Does this have any significance? To me, this Alleluia, which is in Dorian, starts on the flat seventh. The word Alleluia rises from this unstable beginning to fluctuate between the third and first scale degrees and finally settle on tonic. You see, I am hesitant to interpret the melodic symbolism until I hear it with modern ears. Perhaps this fear is unnecessary: these pieces are what they are because they far transcend any theory, medieval or otherwise.

Speaking of the exposition, the melodic fragment which ends that melisma reappears as an effective final cadence of the Alleluia. With these strong bookends the piece is short enough to be quite free in form. There is one melodic fragment that is used three times in the piece. This provides the listener with a sense of progress. It first appears in the word nobis, then in the word magna, and finally right before the last three notes. This motive, a downward motion to the flat seventh turning up a step to end on tonic, to me (and you will have to forgive me for saying this) is evocative of symphonic band music.

What I like about this chant is the music for the word venite. The music here obstinately fixes on 'D' and 'C' to then break away and ascend to 'F.' 

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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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