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From my iPod – Gregorian Chant

January 29, 2007

Michael and I spent all weekend studying at the St. Thomas’ library and my great companions during this time (other than Michael himself) were medieval and classical composers of sacred music as well as my iPod, which gave me the idea of sharing my taste in music with you.

In my attempts to go against the grain as I do with everything else when it comes down to 21st century technology (which is why I own a cell phone that is only a phone and nothing else) and not get an iPod because everybody else had one, I ended up getting it anyway–the cheapest one though!

I have benefitted very much from other bloggers who have shared their taste in music and have introduced me to new compilations of Gregorian Chant, early music, and later classical music. I have a pretty lengthy collection of classical music and chant, so I will be posting these series “From my iPod” every once in a while to share with our readers some of the good albums available out there. The good thing of liking classical music is that you can get it for cheap!

An Introduction to Early Music
This is one of my favorite albums that I happened to find in Half Price Books for $5. They still have them available at all their locations. This album contains medieval chant (by Hildegard of Bingen) and secular music (by Josquin), Renassaince chant (by Palestrina), and later music from the Baroque era. Considering that Hildegard and Palestrina are my favorite chant composers and music from the Baroque is my favorite as well, you can see my bias towards this kind of album. However, I would like to point out the significance of this kind of compilation, because it shows us the origins of music that gave way to the sacred and secular classical music we are familiar with today. It was around the medieval period, in the time of Hildegard of Bingen when music started to be written down formally in the notation we know today. If you’re interested in learning how music has evolved over time, this is a great introductory album for you.

Tallis Scholars Sing Palestrina (2 CDs)
Palestrina wrote music for the Church during the Renaissance from who we inherited hundreds of complete masses, hymns, and offertories. One of his masterpieces that made him famous as a composer of Sacred Music was the Missa Papae Marcelli, which is included in this album. I love the idea behind Palestrina’s composition of the Missa Papae Marcelli (according to legend), because at the time the Council of Trent wanted to ban polyphony of the text in sacred music. This originated because before Palestrina’s time, composers of liturgical music had anywhere from two to four different melodic voices (polyphony) with the same–or different–sacred text that were not sung at the same time. What resulted was a beautiful blend of voices, but because of the intertwined lyrics, the musical text did not come through from this melodic blend and the faithful could not understand the words of the music during liturgical celebrations. Palestrina’s genius came forth and in his works he still uses polyphony, which preserved the beauty of this type of musical texture, but one or all voices sing the same text at the same time, which makes the text understandable to the congregation. This is the beauty of Palestrina’s music and I definitely recommend it. I bought this album at the National Shrine in D.C. for $20.00, because it has 2 CDs. Amazon has it for $21.98. I didn’t look for it on iTunes, but they should have at least the Missa Papae Marcelli available. Everyone should listen to Palestrina and appreciate his genius and his influence on sacred music throughout the Church’s history.

Gregorian Chant for Meditation
Interestingly enough, I found this album on iTunes while searching for Gregorian chant and I have to say this is one of my favorite compilations yet of early Gregorian Chant. I’m usually not impressed with iTunes’ variety in classical music, but they have definitely changed my mind lately. Because I bought this album on iTunes and they do not have detailed information about the composers and neither does Amazon, it may very well be that these pieces do not have a known composer. However, we can deduce from the prominence of melismatic chants–several notes sung per syllable– in this album, that these are chants from the early medieval period. This album is available for $9.99 in iTunes and for $8.99 in Amazon. If you’re just beginning to like Gregorian Chant or are curious about it, there is an advantage of buying songs individually from iTunes for $0.99 before buying the whole album, but you would definitely not regret it if you do!

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