Certain sorts of choral polyphony as reflections of the eternal God ?
  • As a newcomer to the Forum I'm excited by a conversation back in 2011 on 'why is singing polyphony enjoyable' ? Jeffrey Tucker wrote about experiencing a social ideal - 'no master, no slaves, every part independent, but no part has meaning without the whole ... the perfect society ...a foreshadowing of eternity'. Adam Wood offered a directly theological interpretation, seeing 'independent polyphonic lines as reflecting the Trinity ... particularly in fugal writing where the entirety of the melodic material is completely contained within the piece'.
    My personal experience of both singing & listening to vocal counterpoint, at least in its evolved, limpid late 16th century form, has been similar. Deep happiness at the combination of (1) the transparent melodic lines pursued by each voice part, (2) the equality between voice parts, and (3) the overall primacy of consonance. Given his record output in this genre, Palestrina has been my special love. Absolutely no disrespect for the key role of plainchant in the liturgy, but there's something special about the synthesis of diversity, equality and cordial mutuality in that species of choral polyphony.
    Doesn't it convey key attributes of the eternal God ?
    What do others think ? I'd love to exchange thoughts about this !
  • Jonathan,

    Indeed, polyphony is a reflection of the God whom its composer intends to worship. This is why polyphony has been welcomed by the Church (after some initial reluctance because it wasn't chant). You also highlight an excellent point that the structure of the music itself reflects the grandeur and majesty of the Most Holy Trinity.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    I agree on all of these points, but I would also add a radically purist argument for chant.

    During the time of chant, before flying buttresses made Gothic height ceilings possible, humanity sang with one voice. The church called out to God in a pure, clear, unified way. Chant is not social; it is not horizontal. In chant there's nothing to take our minds off God.

    Grumpy take: once polyphony begin, churches in the round were inevitable. Polyphony was the first step to the "closed circle."
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    Anything longer than two-and-a-half minutes.

    But in seriousness: I am particularly fond of Franko-Flemish and Tudor polyphony, particularly when sung by an ATTBB men's group. Ockeghem, Josquin, Mouton, Sheppard, White, et al., are on the top of my list.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Grumpy take: once polyphony begin, churches in the round were inevitable. Polyphony was the first step to the "closed circle."


    Kathy,

    You skipped a couple of steps in your argument, and I got left behind. Could you explain how polyphony leads inevitably to churches in the round?

    I'm thinking of a tiny church (no longer used as such, if I recall correctly) called St Benet's, in Cambridge, England. It is build "in the round", but dates from before polyphony was widely practiced -- the short, stumpy building has rounded arches, not pointed ones, for starters.
    One of our native Englishmen, still in England, can chime in on this.

    Salieri,
    Do these composers' works all take 1st place equally?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    Anything longer than two-and-a-half minutes.
    Good?? - or bad??
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,616
    For liturgy, taxing
    For anything else, involving

    We sang a Palestrina Missa Brevis this morning... hardly brevis... too much imho
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,778
    CGZ - it's actually Holy Sepulchure, Cambridge, and the name/dedication tells us the source of the inspiration. As do two other round churches in England, Temple Church in London, and another Holy Sepulchure. The only other surviving old one was built by the Hospitallers.
    Kathy may have to base her defense on Sweden and Denmark, or Aachen Cathedral. Or perhaps Liverpool Cathedral of Christ the King (1960/3/7), Abp. Heenan commissioned it and he was a staunch supporter of church choirs, and choir schools. Acoustically highly effective.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    You skipped a couple of steps in your argument, and I got left behind. Could you explain how polyphony leads inevitably to churches in the round?


    I skipped many steps!

    I think that polyphony introduces an element of mutual attention that expanded over time into other areas, like posture and seating. It's a matter of where our attention is directed. In the chant, we all "face" one direction (God) vocally. Sure, there are brief exchanges among us, based on liturgical roles. But polyphony is not brief. It's an extended dialogical exchange among ourselves towards God. Of course it is still "towards God;" it is not profane. But it begins a liturgical shift of sustained attention among ourselves.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    CGZ: Ockeghem and Josquin are tied for the number one position.

    CHG: Re: 2-1/2 minutes: Tongue-in-cheek: Long pieces of music reflecting the eternal of the eternal God: At least in some people's eyes. (This could also be said of some long sequences like Lauda Sion.)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,401
    For the curious, here are WP links to St Bene't's Church and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. "Quoin" is my new word for the day.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    And it wasn't even necessary to quoin a new word!!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    By the way, I developed my admittedly unusual opinions over the course of attending this lecture series, which I highly recommend watching.
    Thanked by 1Andrew_Malton
  • Yes, Chris J-Z, the late 16th c. Church, post Council of Trent, welcomed an evolved, refined form of sacred polyphony, that's what I have in mind (earlier forms had tended to be text-obscuring, cluttered, cantus fermus dominated). Let's thank the Lord for it ! My suggestion is that a SERIES of structural/stylistic features within this form intimate the eternal God (SEE LATER). With due caution & humility, in turn, a Trinitarian symbolisation does seem to emerge.
    Kathy, isn't the state of mind or piety of performers or composers typically UNKNOWN ? Surely, finding the music to be symbolic is more up to listeners or worshippers ? I think your characterisation of choral polyphony as anthropocentric is unfair. Yes, conscious teamwork & mutual empathy are essential, but what's wrong with that ? Again, symbolic interpretations reflect intrinsic features of the music, not subjective emotions. By the way, weren't churches in the Catholic Reform period & later more typically oval in shape ?

    Salieri, eternity symbolised by the sheer length of a piece, are you sure ?

    The intrinsic features I have in mind include (1) a full, balanced use of human voices, cantus/alto/tenor/bass, (2) these to be unalloyed, without instrumental accompaniment, (3) chordalism subordinate to counterpoint, (4) voice parts in the counterpoint not too many to obscure the roles of each one, (5) melody shared via imitation or variation, (6) broad equality between the parts, (7) minimal dissonance, (8) features of the rhythm. Most consistent & prolific on these, who but Palestrina ? What do Forum people think ?
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 223
    @jonathanboswell

    I share the same sentiment about what you have said, especially in your second paragraph, only I would discuss the matter about Palestrina's treatment of dissonances as being a by product of the counterpoint between the voices more so than an actual avoidance. Knud Jeppesen describes in detail about his musicological work about this in his book, "The Style of Palestrina and the Dissonance". It is maybe a matter for discussion somewhere else since to me there are a few different things they considered dissonances in their day, and even Palestrina's own contemporaries tended to be a little more bold when it came to things like the "tritone"; a good example is T.L. de Victoria, who seemed to enjoy such sounds rather than treat them in passing phrases, That's at least what I gather studying their two different methods of the same school of counterpoint, T.L. still treated such chords as a dissonance but was more deliberate in their use.

    That's my 2 cents for this discussion, but I'm really very much interested in the theories and treatment of such matters by the composers of that era.

    By the way, I'm more of a Palestrina fan myself, and I find it aggravating that more choirs find it easier to sing Victoria...If general choirs were more up to date on the theory of the music, and had a moderate understanding of how to read music, it wouldn't be such a chore to pickup any composer's music of that day and give it a few goes in order to competently sing such wonderful music.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    eternity symbolised by the sheer length of a piece, are you sure ?

    Only intended as a joke.
  • I would propose that the works most fitting for this topic would be those of the late mediaeval and early renaissance composers, such as Gombert, Fayrfax, Browne, Taverner, and others of a like-minded vein. One not only feels that they are expressions of eternity, but that they come from eternity and are icons in sound such as have never been equaled in any age. These works seem at once to emanate from eternity, be portals to eternity, and, since, to put it plainly, they last an eternity, to experience them is almost to be taken up into a near mystical vision of the Triune God who dwells in eternity and who inspired such visionary music. They are truly icons in sound of God With Us and of the world to come. They are without peer in their sacred apartness, other worldliness, and, though their structures and procedures are wondrously complex, their profound ease of expression.

    The so called 'sacred minimalism' of the works of Part, Hovhaness, et al., could be suggested very cautiously to be modern likenesses - even though there isn't the remotest commonality of near miraculous contrapuntal skill and craftsmanship, of near mystical artistry.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen sdtalley3
  • Hullo, Sd Tolley: Yes, I agree, 'consonance' isn't an absolute phenomenon. It may be thought mischievous, but despite admiring Jeppesen's intricate scholarship, my view is that his work has been an irritating diversion from wider features to appreciate in such as Palestrina. Victoria as more popular with singers ? Felt as more 'emotional', particularly in relation to lament, contrition, sorrow ? Anyway, I'd love to know why you're more of a Palestrina fan. So many reasons possible.
    Salieri: sorry, should have twigged to that !
    M Jackson Osborne: I guess your professional experience as organist & choirmaster gives you a wide perspective across the whole genre. My suggestions about symbolism relate only partly to eternity (in itself a concept shared with other religions or indeed with many secularists). More specifically to ways in which certain types of SP can be heard or interpreted as symbolising the intrinsic attributes of God according to Catholic Christian belief and experience. Notably as Merciful, Kind and, reverting to where this exchange began, Triune.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 223
    @jonathanboswell

    Simply this: I find more contrapuntal excellence in Palestrina's work in general, it is hard to describe why, but there's just something that "clicks" in my analysis whenever I'm looking over any of the scores of his works. Almost the same way that you can find a comparable musical excellence in the works of J.S. Bach. Yes I also agree that T.L. de Victoria's music is more emotional, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. Each composer has worked their craft to their own end. Now all this being said, every composer has their less favorable works, and G.P. da Palestrina is no exception to me, there's definitely stuff I've come across on CPDL that is kind of boring to me, but these are few in general.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    MJO wrote:
    ... the works most fitting for this topic would be those of the late mediaeval and early renaissance composers, such as Gombert, Fayrfax, Browne, Taverner, and others of a like-minded vein. One not only feels that they are expressions of eternity, but that they come from eternity and are icons in sound such as have never been equaled in any age. These works seem at once to emanate from eternity, be portals to eternity, and, since, to put it plainly, they last an eternity, to experience them is almost to be taken up into a near mystical vision of the Triune God who dwells in eternity and who inspired such visionary music. They are truly icons in sound of God With Us and of the world to come. They are without peer in their sacred apartness, other worldliness, and, though their structures and procedures are wondrously complex, their profound ease of expression.
    And I couldn't agree more.

    To give some sense of my own experience with these early composers, attached here is Nicolas Gombert's Lugebat David Absalon, from when I recorded it with the early music ensemble Zephyrus on their CD "Flemish Masters" and also sang it in concert. This is my all-time favourite work by Gombert.

    The PDF score of my edition of the work is also attached.

    In the next few days, I'll attach some other works the ilk of which MJO speaks.
  • It occurs to me that, indeed, when one is writing sacred music one should have God alone in mind, and that for it to be worthy of him and to express him and his Eternal Being and compassionate love, it must first and last be like no other music.- and avoid diligently any influence from, or nods to secular idioms. It should be totally other in praise of the Totally Other. This is the genius and glory of our patrimony of polyphony, both modern and aged - not to mention ritual chant, both Eastern and Western. To the degree ro which one appeals to the emotions and familiarities of the people one's music becomes exponentially less sacred and more entertaining. We know, of course that emotions are God-given aspects of our being, and they are not necessarily to be shunned, but, in sacred music they definitely take second place to the intellect and the mindfulness that this is for The Almighty, and that only insofar as it is oriented totally to the divine is it worthy of us. Church, worship, is not entertainment - or, to put it otherwise, entertainment is not worship. If there is nothing enlightening for the intellect and the spiritual eye in a music it is entertainment, not music.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen sdtalley3
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    From Wikipedia: "The Eton Choirbook (Eton College MS. 178) is a richly illuminated manuscript collection of English sacred music composed during the late 15th century. It was one of very few collections of Latin liturgical music to survive the Reformation... It is one of three large choirbook surviving from early-Tudor England (the others are the Lambeth Choirbook and the Caius Choirbook)."

    The opening and one of the most important works in the Eton Choirbook is O Maria Salvatorois Mater by John Browne. This work typifies in every way the reflection of the Eternal, as described by MJO earlier in this thread. I was privileged to have performed this work with Zephyrus in a concert "in Praise of the Virgin Mary - 7 April 2002" in Charlotesville, Virginia, under the direction of Paul N. Walker (now on the faculty of Notre Dame).

    Here is that concert recording of Browne's O Maria Salvatorois Mater, together with a (landscape orientation) PDF of my edition of this monumental work. The italicized text in the score represents soli parts (as opposed to the full choir) in which I can be heard singing the Bass 1 part.

  • Many thanks for that, Chuck - and, for your singing.
    The Eton Choirbook is indeed a trove of some of the rarest and most priceless musical genius in the crafting of rtual music in the service of God.
    For anyone who might wish to acquire it, it comprises several volumes of Musica Britannica, published for the Royal Musical Association by Stainer & Bell.

    One notices the coincidence that John Browne's tentative birth year is the year in which Constantinople fell to the Muslim crusade.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    The Eton Choirbook is indeed published as voumes 10, 11, 12 of Musica Britannica, transcribed by Frank Llewellyn Harrison.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,401
    CPDL's Eton Choirbook page already has a few bluelinks as well as requested works.
  • In Britain where I live there are lots of lovers & singers of Sacred Polyphony who are agnostics & secularists (though for some of them it may point indirectly towards God). Tragically, though, Catholic Church music in the UK tends to have sunk even lower than in the US. We have no equivalent of your CMA's fine efforts for reform & renewal.

    I say Amen to what's said above about the indispensable role of SP within the Catholic liturgy, not least because it so finely differentiates from banal/everyday/merely entertaining genres. But surely we need to distinguish between successive phases or types of SP. How can we ignore the Church-mandated advances in clarity, due proportion & liturgical sensitivity which developed after the Council of Trent ? Surely a musical watershed as well as a fine achievement of the Catholic Reform ?

    My personal experience chimes with this. It was late 16th c. SP which helped to start me on the road to becoming a Catholic. It was singing Eton Choirbook, early Tudor, even Josquin etc which, great as they are, confirmed my preference for the late 16c. categories as less dense & cumbrous, dare I say it, less tricksy, more equal-voiced & translucent.

    To emphasise my comment regarding distinctions. Yes, SD Tolley, I agree, even within my own beloved Palestrina there are definite ups, downs & sheer longueurs once we take account of the structural & stylistic variables. In my book on the composer I suggest these may relate to certain parts of the liturgy attracting less of a pull for him.

    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    Salieri expressed a preference for Franco-Flemish and Tudor polyphony, especially when sung by a men's choir. Attached is the Tallis "If ye love me" sung by the men of Zephyrus, from a concert of Sacred Music of Tudor England - 24 Nov 2002

    And for Jonathan Boswell, attached is Surge illuminare by Palestrina, sung by Zephyrus on their CD Angelus.
  • Thanks, Chuck -
    I have always believed that such music and such singing was one of the 'proofs of the existence of God' that Aquinas overlooked. (As if proof other than his bounty and love were needed - but, then, such music is evidence of that bounty and love.)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Just discovered on the internet -
    A fascinating analysis and history of Spem lectured by Jakko Montyjarvi followed by a chorally diagrammed performance.
    Google - Spem in alium a mystery in forty parts youtube.

    That such music could exist and be sung on this earth is a Divine Miracle.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Charles Giffen, thanks for pointing me to the Zephyrus rendering of Surge illuminare, a favourite work. And to SD Talley, apologies for misspelling your name & thanks for your sharing a comment about Palestrina.

    The point I'm trying to make relates to the liturgy. Subject of course to the quality of a musical work, surely we need to ask if it's fully embedded within the most holy sacrament of the altar ? That's to say, set to the sacred words of the Mass Ordinary, conveying them clearly to worshippers, not 'taking over' the celebration, and of a length which fits in with the liturgical action. Doesn't its sacredness for us at least partly relate to all this ?

    Whatever the beauty of of the works discussed above, don't they tend to fall short of these criteria, sometimes even to defy them ? I think we should take account of the urges to reform church music around the Council of Trent & the improvements that followed by the 2nd half of the 16th century. Hence a special thanks for Byrd, Victoria, Palestrina, Guerrero ....

    It was hearing such - regularly within the old liturgy - that offered me, for one, a sense of reflection of the eternal God, and hence towards conversion.





  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,797
    Interesting for me that this thread came up, after an idea I had early this morning:

    Can music as we know it exist in Heaven?

    Music passes through time. It operates by certain events following others. Events set up expectations which are satisfied or thwarted. After the end of time, in eternity, does a piece exist all at once in the eternal present?
  • In response to Jeffrey - a thought or two -

    It is normal to sort of believe that our most sacred and inspiring music will be Heaven's song. It seems natural of us to equate certain ritual music of our patrimony with heaven. It isn't likely, though, that anything that we have created on the earth, no matter how inspired, would actually be the music of heaven. As it is said about God and heaven, 'anything we could imagine it was would not be it' - it is totally beyond us. So, even Tallis at his most sublime is, as St Paul saith, 'seeing through a glass darkly'. Then there is the famed observation of Aquinas after a vision that 'all I have written is as straw'. And so it is with all our works, even the rarest and most precious. At best it is as an holy icon in sound - pointing the way, giving us a very tiny peek or intuition of the reality beyond.

    On the other hand, did our Lord not say that 'their works will live after them'? So, Gabrieli in heaven might be nice - though, if it's there, we would experience it beyond our earthly imaginations - it, like we, would be transformed in unimaginable glory.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,401
    In my book on the composer

    Palestrina for All
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,740
    After the end of time, in eternity, does a piece exist all at once in the eternal present?

    It's not clear that created beings will end up in the same relation to time as the eternity is which God is. We may end up in aeviternity, which has a beginning but no end.
  • Chonak,

    If music is an act of truth and beauty made in sound by a human, is it possible that whatever music is in Heaven will be wholly comprehensible to us in that eternity rather than in time, as it is now?
  • Chonak has an interesting point about heaven likely having no relation to time as we experience it. Therefore, if he is correct, the time by which we gauge our misic, whether the beat in post chant music, or the flow of time as in chant, will be meaningless and would not exist. Therefore any heavenly music would be unbelievably different from our earthly music - even the most sublime and seemingly aetherial. - If Chonak is correct, - and it stands to reason that he is.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Jackson,

    [purple] Of COURSE it stands to reason that he is correct: he's the host of such a brilliant crew of commenters, in whose presence he couldn't help but be correct, as their brilliance would rub off on him. [off]

    On a more serious note, Lewis and Tolkien and probably many others seem to posit that God created the whole of creation with music. God caused music, which caused creation, I think is how it's fair to simplify the position of both men. If I've got that right, it would follow that music is entirely sensible to us in Heaven, even if it sensible in a different way from how it is now, since we are in time and God is not. Borrow the idea of the Platonic ideal, on the other hand, and what we get here could be understood as a pale reflection of the actual beauty of the music in Heaven--- imagine how beautiful Beati quorum via integra est, Stanford is in Heaven, or Bruckner's Locus Iste, where the limitations of boy trebles aren't limitations anymore.
  • Very good, Chris -

    Lewis and Tolkien were not the first to believe that music was God's mode of creation. Isidore of Seville said as much in the VIIth century and allowed as how he was quoting many others before him. It is interesting, is it not, that music is alone of all the arts that is not material or limited in space. It may, indeed, go on forever wherever its medium, sound waves, can travel. It has bee said that music alone of the arts has the capacity to transform time and space, to lift us out of ourselves. Nature in the wild is indeed a cacphony of bird song. Even plants are sensitive to sound.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,740
    CHG wrote:
    Chonak has an interesting point about heaven likely having no relation to time as we experience it.


    Well, I wouldn't go as far as to say 'no relation'. It is reasonable to think that the blessed do experience time in some ways that are like ours. There should be some sense of before and after, inasmuch as souls do not all enter into heavenly life at the same time. Also, there is likely to be some sense of the future, because the resurrection of the body has not taken place yet. But I know little about this subject, so I shouldn't pretend to any serious knowledge about it.
  • Oculos non vidit, by Michael J Drake, Jr.
    (See the 'Oculos non vidit' post.
  • It can't be denied, as M.JO says in reply to Geoffrey Quick, that what happens in heaven is utterly beyond our human comprehension, indeed a mystery, and that applies to music. But, as Chris G-Z suggests, we may speculate that God's Creation of the universe somehow took place through the medium or agency of music. Or that music as experienced in heaven may transcend in sheer beauty the forms we experience in this world - a wonderful idea.

    These exchanges began with the question, do certain categories of music have a special ability to serve as icons or distant pointers to the eternal God we believe in as Catholics ?
    A more specific question than the wider (sort of Platonic ?) ideas the conversation has recently turned to.

    I believe that the styles and internal, often contrapuntal structures of parts of our own patrimony of 'sacred music' do indeed intimate or symbolise the God of mercy, supreme kindness and Triune being. Other parts, often within the major/minor tonal system, may comment beautifully on the successive events of the Church Year or specific mysteries of the Faith. Yet others seem to fall short on both counts.
    Thanked by 1sdtalley3
  • Among my early adolescent experiences was an LP of Mozart's Requiem. When I first heard the Sanctus I was filled with awe such as I had never before experienced - it was as if heavien and all its angels had burst forth in the brilliance of an undreamed of light. Of all post-polyphonic masses, with the possible exception of B's B-minor there is no equal - and that's not to mention RVW.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    Robert Parsons Ave Maria for 5 voices, recording by Zephryus from a concert "In Praise of the Virgin Mary" - 7 April 2002.

    NB. The attached score is transposed up a minor 3rd, but the recording is in the original key.

    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Thanks for the recording of yet another gem from Zephyrus, Chuck. There are some other very good recordings on youtube - The Sixteen, St Paul's, K Street, St John's College, and others. This is one of the most haunting motets ever written. Too bad that Parsons died by drowning at less than 30 years of age. It is thought that he may have taught Byrd.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • I've found these exchanges most interesting. As a Brit, that is, in a contrasting church music situation with the one you seem to have in the U.S. Also as someone not used to quick fire brief exchanges & obviously not known to you 'in-group' folks.

    The conversation has taken a turn to comparing intensely personal experiences of particular works of widely different genres & periods. I'm finding this a shade puzzling.
    And it differs from the concerns I've tried to share, from the start. So I'm withdrawing just now. With best wishes to you all.

  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,797
    My great great grandfather Henry Quick left Britain in the 1850s so that I wouldn't have to start my name with a G.

    It's entirely possible that we'd perceive music as a 4-dimensional object, with time perceived all-at-once.

    But for time-bound beings to experience eternity in the same way God does would be cruelly disorienting.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,747
    Jonathan Boswell, I'm sorry to see you go, and I hope you'll change your mind, for you views and opinions are valuable. That said, I do think you had rather narrowly focused your attention (and preference for Palestrina) on music for the Mass, which is your prerogative, of course. To me, though, this ignores the vast repertory of sacred music for other purposes and liturgies - even if some of the older liturgies have, sadly, fallen into disuse.

    One of the great losses has been the role of the medieval and renaissance Votive Antiphon, especially in the English tradition, on the scale of that represented in the Eton and other two surviving choirbooks from the period. To some extent the grand scale Votive Antiphon was carried on by the likes of Tallis, as with his Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater, and others. These were often (usually?) sung in connexion with evening services, such as Compline or Vespers - and later choral Evensong (a service that still survives to this day and even thrives in some harbors).

    More than one person, including myself, has described Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater as 15-20 minutes of heaven - or as glimpse of eternity. Yes, the number of parts in some of these Votive Antiphons is more (6 to 8) than the usual 4-5 parts of Palestrina and many other renaissance works, thus entailing more complexity and florid textues in the polyphony (although most of these works alternate sections for soli with tutti utterances). To borrow from computerese, this may be a bug to some, but for others (including me) it is a feature, even if not everyone is comfortable with it.

    Browne, Fayrfax, Lambe, Pygott, Obrecht, Ockgehem, Dunstable, Taverner, Josquin, Tallis, Byrd, Parsons, and many others were giants in the evolution of sacred music that led us to Palestrina, Tye, Sheppard, Gibbons, and countless others who followed.

    Here, then, is the Zephyrus performance of Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater from a concert recording (the same concert at the Parsons posted earlier), one of two concert performances in 2002. The double gymels in the Sexta Pars (Soprano) part and simultaneously in the Superius (Alto) part - for a total of 4 voices - over the the Bassus part (which I sang in the recording) are particularly charming. And the tutti final verse and repeated utterances of "Amen" reduce me nearly to tears every time I hear or sing this work. This, from the same person who gave us "If ye love me keep my commandments".
    Rejoice, O glorious Mother of God, Virgin Mary truly worthy of honor,
    who, exalted by the Lord in glory above the heavens, hast gained a throne.

    Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, to whom the hosts of angels in heaven sweetly sing praises:
    for now thou doest enjoy the sight of the King whom all things serve.

    Rejoice, fellow citizen of the heavenly saints, thou who without blemish bore Christ in thy womb:
    wherefore thou art justly called the Mother of God.

    Rejoice, most beautiful flower of flowers, rod of justice, mould of virtues,
    succour of the weary, a firm foothold for those who fall, light of the world, and refuge of sinners.

    Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, who art worthy of the praise the Church celebrates,
    which, enlightened by the teachings of Christ, glorifies thee as Mother.

    Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, who in body and soul are borne to the highest palace:
    and to whom, as Strength and Advocate for us miserable sinners, we make our supplication.

    Rejoice, O Mary, celebrated as help of those who intercede and savior of the damned.

    Rejoice, holy Virgin Mary, by whose offspring all are saved
    from the perpetual torments of Hell and freed from the power of the devil.

    Rejoice, Virgin Mary, blessed Mother of Christ, channel of mercy and grace:
    to whom we pray that thou wouldst give ear to our devout cry
    so that in thy name we may deserve to enter the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

  • Don't go away, Boswell.
    I agree with Chuck - you have opened a Pandora's box of beauty expressive of Beauty, the All Merciful, Compassionate, and Loving Father of All. I can think of no works and their enlightening musical iconography( or should one say 'iconophony?) discussed here which fail to illustrate the topic you have laid before us..
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen sdtalley3
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 223
    I much rather enjoy discussions like this one as there is a wealth of knowledge on the subject to be shared.
  • Thanks for those kind words, Charles (Chuck) Giffen & M.J O. The more so in view of your diverse contributions in the field. I've looked these up. These exchanges have got me thinking again about many glorious late medieval/early Renaissance works, e.g. the R. Parsons Ave Maria and I'm really grateful for that. I recommend Fabrice Fitch's recent helpful book on Renaissance Polyphony for detailed analysis.

    As to the relative merits of different SM genres as pointers towards God, I hold firm to a focus on & fitness for the Mass above all; to late 16c polyphony as well as plainchant as central; and to certain structures within vocal counterpoint as intimating perfect amity & community & hence, by analogy, the Deity.

    I struggle with some of these issues in my small book on Palestrina. Please let me say this. Even the very finest & dearest of SM in the largest sense, e.g. Handel's Messiah, Bach's B minor Mass, some of Haydn's masses, can overpower, detract from sacramental worship, & sometimes symbolise an angry, vengeful OT God rather than the God of the NT and the Creeds.

    I have to bow out just now on account of corona & other pressures, but hope to return.