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Saturday, March 13, 2004
  Madrigal: Aspro core e selvaggio
Adrian Willaert (ca. 1490-ca. 1562)

Adrian knew the love of detail. This piece shows Mr. Willaert a master of six-voice counterpoint. We can learn from him that as the aggregate of a piece becomes more complex the smaller parts become simpler. That is to say, when one voice is singing alone its part is more complicated than when it is contributing to the effort of a group. Each voice here sings concise phrases allowing the other voices equal opportunity to shine. Thus the aggregate is a musical kaleidoscope.

In visual arts, the beginning of the Renaissance is particularly exciting because of the development of perspective. I think, in music, there is a similar development of foreground and background. The most salient example in this anthology must be Mr. Isaac's Lied about leaving Innsbruck. When the voices in an ensemble either have discrete jobs (as in Isaac's tune) or (as in Willaert's example) take turns, the listener is able to prioritize his or her attention. The singers in this tune move in and out of the foreground beautifully.

What I like about this piece is that in spite of the presence of so many voices, the climax of the work is subtle. The kaleidoscopic nature continues throughout and we feel the emotional shifts as we glide into various sonorities. The music carries us through the turn in the poem; the moment our poet starts to describe how he lives by hope alone knowing that even small drops of water can bring about significant transformation. 

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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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