“Kyrie Rex Virginum”

This clip tracks the manuscript as the music progresses, a helpful format for linking sound and early notation. The “Kyrie” performed here includes interpolated “tropes,” a fascinating technique (and musical philosophy) that I will be writing about a lot more this week. Also note the florid melisma (extended, textless melodic passage) on the last syllable.Continue reading ““Kyrie Rex Virginum””

Blogging Musically

For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that evoke the imperfection of thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the chastening passage of time. But as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that’s enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen orContinue reading “Blogging Musically”

Thank You

Zach and I started this blog with modest ambitions. It was simply an easy way to hold an ongoing discussion between us across distance, and work through our thoughts and reactions as we work through the text of the OHWM. We told some friends and colleagues about it, thinking that maybe—just maybe—a few of themContinue reading “Thank You”

Babylonian Song

We’ve been talking about early notated chant, but forms of musical notation existed long before the ancestor of our present system found its way onto parchment. This little phrase was decoded and transcribed from musical notation on a cuneiform tablet. Its origins are Babylonian, c. 1200 BCE. I made this little MIDI recording from theContinue reading “Babylonian Song”

Darwinian Music, or “The Triad Ate The Dyad”

In undergraduate music history surveys, it’s easy to develop a simple assumption: music evolves. The evidence is all around us, like trilobite fossils in an ancient sandbank. Over the evolution of Western music, things started out simply and progressed in ever and ever greater complexity, culminating in (what?) Beethoven, Schoenberg, or Elliott Carter. The musicContinue reading “Darwinian Music, or “The Triad Ate The Dyad””

“Justus ut palma”

This clip may or may not be the most accurate performance-practice wise (all female chorus), but it gives you a good sense of these early chants. It also has a lot of shots of the square-note notation itself – in a few pictures, you’ll see red squiggly lines over the music, like accents. These areContinue reading ““Justus ut palma””

Accidental Music

[Vol. I, pp. 1- 50] The fact that eighth-century Roman liturgical song – cantus in Latin, from which we get the word “chant” – was singled out for preservation in written form had nothing to do with musical primacy, or even with musical quality. The privilege came about, as already implied, for reasons having nothingContinue reading “Accidental Music”