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Wednesday, January 28, 2004
  Office of Second Vespers, Short Responsory
Gregorian Chant
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 1 Track 16

The chants I have been listening to these last few days have made it hard for me to wear ancient ears. Too often I have heard a sequence of notes that easily resembles a major triad, a fifth scale degree that wants to resolve to the first scale degree, an ABA form, even a melodic pattern that could be called a sequence. Today's example is the closest, so far, of the Gregorian Chant in this collection that resembles the songs one might have sung in elementary music classes. It has a fifth scale degree that acts like a fifth scale degree and, seen for the first time in this survey, a leading tone. Yes, that handy seventh. In fact, I listened to this recording early this morning and was humming it for most of the day.

There are five phrases which share the same contour and pitch content. Text notwithstanding, three of the phrases are exact repetitions. There is a similar idea in the Credo on track 9 on this CD. However, in that example the music undergoes subtle yet very significant transformations as it encounters new words. The words in this piece seem almost less important than the tune. In fact, possibly because of the appearance of the leading tone, this plainchant is a catchy tune.

What I like about this chant is the appearance of the leading tone. The tune simply passes through it on its way to the low 'C' that will go back up to 'F.' It is a strong enough scale degree that with even such a light treatment it lingers in our ears and mixes with the 'C' making the return to 'F' inevitable. 

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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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