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Thursday, February 12, 2004
  Conductus: Ave virgo virginum
13th century
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 1 Track 45

I suspect the lack of triads, particularly in final chords, and the wanton voice crossings in this work are enough to cause a modern listener to label this piece as primitive. This would be unfortunate as a good listening to this music can improve one's appreciation for so much of the 20th century repertoire. These two extremes share an interest in melodic line that is not obligated to meet harmonic formulas. And even the best Bach choral accomplishes its harmonic beauty as a consequence of line.

Structurally this piece is reminiscent of Perotin's Sederunt in that there are three voices tangled in a lilting rhythm. This work has a very different mood because of a few significant differences. Without the ominous fourth voice the sound is less continuous and less oppressive. The phrase endings are more consistent here and the voices work together to present the text with clear diction. And so, instead of the severity of Perotin's quartet, this trio offers a gentle adoration of Mary.

What I like about this piece is more a feature of the poetry than the music. I like the brevity of the seventh line. Each strophe develops an almost hypnotic rhythm over six lines, then breaks it, then returns for two more lines. This piece is effective because it does nothing to upstage this elegant rhythm. 

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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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