Monday, August 06, 2007

Colloquium follow-up

1. I have updated this post in response to a concerned e-mailer who thought I was being a bit unjust in my critique. I hope this is a satisfactory conclusion to the discussion. If one of the CMAA folks would like to go a little more in-depth concerning the Chamber Choir situation in the combox, that may be worthwhile.

2. I'm pumped that the Colloquium is moving to Chicago next year! The drive time is cut considerably for me, assuming I can come next year. Great move CMAA!

3. I forgot to mention the best part of the Colloquium in my previous post. During one of the Schola rehearsals, I had to excuse myself to use the restroom. On my way back, I stopped outside in the hallway and heard the most wonderful sound. I heard the melodious singing of the Men's Schola but that was combined with the equally-as-melodious singing of the Women's Schola who was located in the next classroom over. They were singing different chants, in a different mode, in a similar tempo, but it was incredible! The pitch levels were combatible and the mix of consonance and dissonance interweaving throughout those long lines was absolutely breathtaking. I would have given anything to have a recording of it . . .

The moral of the story: That is how liturgical polypony should be. That "piece" was a true outgrowth of our beloved Gregorian chant. No doubt that the polyphony of the Renaissance (which I adore, mind you) grew from the model of chant, but much of that music either uses the chant as a cantus firmus (in unrecognizably long notes), or ignores the chant altogether, using the text and the "spirit" of the chant as a vehicle for their compositional prowess. (I guess I'm speaking more of later renaissance compositions)

So composers, how about some polyphonic writing in this style with chant as the basis. Men singing the chant line, women singing a counter-melody which is thematically related or vice-versa; 4-part writing with voices switching off with the chant melody phrase-by-phrase with voices coming in and out of the texture.

Is anyone writing like this? If not, why not? Any takers?


At Wednesday, August 15, 2007 6:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm....interesting notion PT. I didn't encounter that sonic phenomena this year.
Dovetailing from another portion of your CMAA review, how would you perceive the text of such a composition to be couched? (Presuming you use your first model of a male schola textured against a treble schola?)
Intelligibility of text was certainly under scrutiny during the council of Trent, and if any aspect of the Palestrina myth rings true, it might be how perfectly he set texts both poly and homophonically, which was also amplified by Victoria, Hassler et al.
I am somewhat baffled as to the "how and why" living RC composers should first adhere to the principles and techniques of Roman polyphony in new settings of service music. How does one improve upon a classic art form already perfected by masters four centuries ago? Why? I really enjoyed Horst's Asperges and Dr. Poterak's piece at the composers' read-thru, but they only edify an already jam-packed High Renaissance/early Baroque repertoire.
I think the examples you propose in the last paragraph have already been explored. That they haven't been saluted once up the flagpole says something.
Unfortunately, composers who do emulate and expand upon the traditions of polyphony in this era, generally create pieces that are meant for the concert stage, not the choir/sanctuary.


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