Listening Journal 1
The CD that I chose is, Sumer is Icumen in: Medieval English Songs, by the Hilliard Ensemble. There are 21 pieces of music on the CD and they are moastly centered in the 13th and 14th centuries, but even dips in to the 12th century. Nearly all of the songs on the CD are shorter than 3minutes 30 seconds.
The first song on the CD and its namesake is the first song that I would like to highlight. Summer is icumen in is 2 minutes in length and it is all men’s voices. There are six parts! There is a round for 4 voices, and a 2 voice ostonoto/ drone. I feel that it is really up tempo. It is a rather impressive 6 part piece of music from such an early period.(1240)
This piece of music is an anomaly of the time. It is a secular piece, which we do not have many of from the time period, as well as the fact that the piece has specific performance notes. It is the only known 6part music before the 15th century.
The next group of song that I want to highlight are the three songs by St. Godric. The first one is Sainte Marie Viergene and it is 1:39 minutes long, the second one is Crist and Sainte Marie and it is 2:14 minutes long, and finally Sainte Nicolas and it is only :43 seconds long.
The first piece in the trio uses no instruments to muddle up the word of God. It is Plain Chant with one tenor voice. The performer put some slight dynamic differences into the piece that I think would have not been quite as pointed in the time period. The second piece, like the first, uses no instruments. This piece is more chant with1 tenor voice. The tenor used to sing this song must be an expert in falsetto. Over half of the song is sung in male falsetto. Using men in falsetto, rather than female voice fits in historically, no women were allowed in the church employ. The falsetto parts indicate the parts that the angels sang to St. Godric. The third piece uses the same chant as the first two. This piece, like the firs one uses no falsetto. Unlike the first two songs in this trio, this piece is super short.
All of these songs were given to St. Godric in visions. Sainte Marie Viergen was given by virgin Mary and St. Mary Magdalene. The second piece, Crist and Sainte Marie, was given to St. Godric by his (dead) sister and two angels. The third piece was thought to be given to St. Godric by St. Nicholas.
I think that it is interesting that he got these pieces of music from visions. He attributes the visions to God. Other cultures have had similar visions that just came out of dreams which is a persons own subconscious or from drugs, which has been said to weaken the wall between the conscious and subconscious. I have my doubts as to whether he actually saw his dead sister or any other apparitions. My oponion is that St. Godric fell asleep while praying and out of his subconscious floated this music that he felt was so beautiful that it MUST have been transcribed to him from something supernatural. He also could have been a little crazy. He spent 60 years of his life alone for awhile, then with his sister until she died. That is enough to make anyone a little crazy. Whether crazy, dreaming, or actually seeing saints, angels, and ghosts, St. Godric wrote some pretty awesome music.
Listening Journal 2
I read Lindsay Lozito’s paper on Guillaume De Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame and she opened her journal by writing, “Guillaume de Machaut, one of the leading composers of his time.” I agree with her statement, but I don't think it goes far enough. I would say that Machaut is AWESOME! One of the things that is great about him, is that we KNOW about him. The is one of the earliest composers that we have a lot of information about!The fourteenth century does not have an enormous number of famous composers, especially the late-medieval French composers. Guillaume de Machaut wrote this music in the town of Rheims in France where the ‘civilized’ world was looking to for music at the time.
Lindsay wrote that the mass was, “one of the first polyphonic masses written as a single unit.” The CD notes that came with the CD in the library stated that, “There is no proof that Machaut wrote the entire mass at one particular time, or that he always intended the movements to go together.” Whether he intended it at the time or not, however, the different movements did get put into a whole, and because of his composition style, they work well together. I liked that Lindsay pointed out how they were linked by tonal focus, a similar style, and other features.
One of the styles in the piece is the florid organum, and I agree with Lindsay that you can definitely hear the style, particularly in the "Agnus Dei," (quotations for Mass movements) although it is present in other movements as well. The Kyrie is very melismatic, but it begins like a monophonic chant. I was not a fan. Only as you progress further into the Kyrie does the organum blossom and the melismas become almost staccato in order to hear the parts properly. I liked that much better! The Gloria is mostly syllabic, and the words are clear which I appreciated. I found the Credo to be a nice mix of melismatic and syllabic, but it had extremely long phrases that always seemed to be stretching and I found myself losing interest.The Sanctus is melismatic, with the Hosanna being staccato melismas, thus giving the impression of speed. This was my favorite movement of the work. I already spoke about the Agnus Dei, and the Ite missa est was very melismatic with an extremely florid top.
Lindsay’s opinion of florid organum is, “Normally I tend to lose interest with the florid organum style because the meaning of the word is lost and sometimes the direction of the piece,” and I tend to agree, especially in the melismas of the Kyrie. I found myself easily distracted and not able to focus on the words. The Sanctus had the opposite effect on me, however. It made me excited to listen and intrigued to hear what would happen next.
I enjoyed this piece more than I thought I would. The only things that I think Lindsay could add to her assessment of the piece are some pictures. She could get them of the Rheims cathedral or of Guillaume de Machaut himself (as I have added here). Otherwise, wonderful work of art, and a really nice review of it.
2 years ago