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Thursday, February 26, 2004
  Hymn: Conditor alme siderum
Guillaume Du Fay (ca. 1397-1474)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 2 Tracks 17-18

Guillaume shows his affection with a soft touch. In his presentation of this tune he has remained clearly out of the way. His subtle adornments of the tune never develop a new idea. Rather, they bring the listener's attention to details in the tune that make it worthwhile to hear the same melody carry six verses. For example, the rhythm of the tune (long - short, long - short) is gently offset by the rhythm found in the tenor line (short - long, short - long). When we then hear the hymn repeated without accompaniment, we, perhaps subliminally, are guided in appreciation of the rhythm by Guillaume.

Furthermore, because the harmony that results from fauxbourdon writing keeps the voices close together, the lowest voice is destined to only hint at strong bass lines. As a result, in this style we hear a tune with accompaniment but no strong foundation. The supporting voices become more a part of the tune than a contrast or background for the tune.

What I like about Du Fay's effort here is the tenor line that he has written. When the other two voices move quickly, this voice moves slowly and yet it never departs from its devotion to the hymn. 

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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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