Sequence for the Solemn Mass of Easter Day, Victimae paschali laudes
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 1 Track 17
It is easy to overlook the use of form in plainchant if only because the pieces never drastically change character. Plainchant never does anything drastically. Here, the first sequence of our survey, we encounter the importance of form in plainchant by an omission. As indicated by the good people of Norton & Company, this sixth strophe is omitted here, as it is traditionally, so that the piece conforms to standard practice. Musical form, much like people, seems to have evolved over time through mutation. It appears this is an example of the early development of the sequence.
Or, perhaps, the omission has less to do with musical narrative than it does with avoiding the anti-Semitism that appears in strophe six. If one takes the view of plainchant being the foundation of our music, than the repugnant ideas we encounter in this literature cannot be excused for their age. These are not primitive ideas by underdeveloped people. They are the ideas we are now contemplating.
What I like about this sequence is its frequent use of a minor third followed by a major second. To my ears, when this pattern is expressed in an upward direction, as it is here, it creates a feeling of strength. This melodic pattern is effective in this piece because it is used in the beginning of the strophes. This helps mark strophes which allows the form to be clearly heard. It also lends an appropriate militaristic edge to the piece.