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Saturday, January 24, 2004
  Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Sanctus
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Track 11

Form, as I hear it, is the way a piece of music lets the lister know how far they have progressed in a musical narrative. Without knowing how much of the piece has passed and how much more there is to hear, the lister is simply surrounded by sounds, possibly without enough information to be sensitive to many nuances and developments. However, form becomes less necessary when the text is able to guide the lister through. In even the most repetitive Gregorian Chant, such as the Credo of this mass, there is endless variation because the music is so closely married to a text memorized by the intended listener.

The text for the Sanctus of this mass is short and beautiful in form. The music, consequently, develops logically and expressively. It opens with the most free and ornate material to then moves toward the more predictable. Notice how the phrases Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua and Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini are musically similar. The second of these phrases is bracket by identical expressions of Hosanna in excelsis.

What I like about this Sanctus is how it starts with its most ornate material. The spirit of this opening carries through to the more organized section of the piece. And in this latter part there is a happiness brought into the form. If the piece were reversed, if the improvisational sound came after a clear form, the meaning would be different. The listener would be departing from the text rather than delving into the Sanctus

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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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