May. 8th, 2012

crysania4: (Default)
I'm reaching WAY back here for one to showcase for you today. I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea but perhaps you'll give it a chance.

Most people know this, but if you don't, I have an absolute love for Medieval and Renaissance era music. It was why, when I had a chance to go to a Renaissance Faire back in high school I was SO EXCITED. I mean, I was going to hear people sing motets! And play recorder consort music! And hear CRUMHORNS!!! And, as anyone who goes to a Renaissance Faire knows, I got none of that. Even though I've gone since and even played at the Faire one summer, I still feel oddly disappointed at the lack of real Renaissance music.

Anyway...moving on...

I was introduced to Philippe de Vitry's music in a music theory class in which we analyzed music of all eras. This Ars Nova ("New Art") music of the 14th century acquired much more polyphonic (many-voiced) sophistication than earlier music, thanks in part to advances in notation. Composers could move beyond simple rhythmic modes that had followed the monophony of plainchant. Now, composers during this time got a little carried away with this new-found freedom, sometimes so completely obliterating the text that folks who listened probably had no idea what the songs were about. Some had each singer singing a different, related text. And some even had them singing in different languages! Craziness, I tell you!

Ok in all seriousness, as soon as I learned about them, I fell totally in love with the whole concept of the isorhythmic motet.

What the hell is that? you ask. Sure no problem. Let me try to explain this!

The heart of isorhythm lies in the tenor, that slow-moving voice you'll hear in the midst of the piece I'll link you to shortly. Isorhythm is made up of two parts:

(1) A repeating pattern of rhythms (called the talae)
(2) A repeating pattern of pitches (called the color)

Often the rhythm would be one amount of notes and the pitches would be a different amount of notes, thus causing them to overlap until finally coming back together. In general, the work would take longer to cycle through the pitches than to cycle through the rhythms (for instance, the color might be 28 notes long while the talae only 4 notes; that means it would take 7 repetitions of the talae before the color is completed!).

Fun, right?

Ok maybe only for theory nerds.

At any rate, above the tenor were often 2 (sometimes more) voices that moved in free-form against them, creating that polyphony I was talking about earlier. These voices are called the motetus and triplum. Because we have to name EVERYTHING in music theory.

The tenor voice, by the way, is sometimes played on instruments and sometimes sung. People nowadays are unclear as to which is historically accurate (both may have been).

Here's a recording of this work. The full name, which is "Garrit Gallus flendo dolorose / In nova fert animus" is drawn from opening lines in the two top voices. Here is the translation of the text.

Back here )

You can listen to the work on youtube here.

December 2012

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