Sunday 27 January 2013

Without rhythm

Howard Goodall charts the development of the oldest music that has come down to us from the ancient world intact, the 'Gregorian' chant. It started with a handful of monks singing the same tune in unison, without rhythm, without harmony. Over several centuries, with developments coming at a snail's pace, medieval musicians painstakingly put together the basics of what we now call harmony and added rhythm. These are the building blocks of the music.

I'd quibble with the without rhythm bit. Even if every note sung was the same length, the piece is not without rhythm. Chant might be unmetred, that is not in bars in the modern sense, but it is not without rhythm. Music is an art form that exists in time. We divide the time up by having notes of particular durations. The durations may be in some relationship with each other. Usually in Western music these relationships are based on divisions into 2s or 3s. Or the music may ebb and flow more subtly, as in chant and maybe the pitches move more quickly on melismas etc.

Also, if you care to glance at Christopher Page's big tome on the first thousand years of Christian music, he points out that we don't have all that much documentary evidence for all that time. People were not doing nothing. (Or maybe they did just sit around for the odd hundred years here and there for the first millennium, doing nothing. Nah, can't be bothered to sing anything. New stuff? Whatever.) There is a pretty big repertoire of chant for us to get to grips with.

The monotonic thing. We don't sing monotonic chant because we haven't the wit to cope with more twiddly stuff. It's monotonic for a reason. We can do fancy stuff too. Gabrieli anyone? (That's both of them for the pedantic reader.)

If polyphony is tied up with Notre Dame and huge Gothic Cathedrals, then it's perhaps a response to architectural developments, rather than just people inventing the idea of two different pitches at the same time. I just don't believe no-one had ever sung a chord til then. I bet folks played chords with groups of Egyptian trumpets or Jewish shofars way back. Folks must have twanged more than one note on a harp in Biblical times. Surely?

So all in all, if you go for the, 'Thank God for the Reformation,' slant on music history and let's face it all examination boards do because apart from one reference to Gregorian Chant from the old OCR GCSE syllabus, nothing pre-1540 is ever mentioned, then yup, everything was really dreary before Lutheran chorales.

I wouldn't call medieval music basic in the harmony department either. I wonder which composers he means.

Did rhythm come in a little bottle they tipped in? I bought some cruets yesterday. Maybe I'll put some rhythm in one and sprinkle on next Sunday's lunch. It will save my brother putting ketchup on my delicious sausages in cider casserole as he did today. Yes, I did notice. Huh! Pearls before swine, etc.

'Handful of monks.' Is that the usual collective noun? Where was this handful and when?

I meanwhile teach a different slant. I say, you may not be able to hear every single word that easily in a polyphonic ordinary, BUT, you can't honestly say that people didn't know this was the Agnus Dei? I mean the same text at exactly the same point at every Mass and you still don't know? Does putting it into the vernacular actually make everything that bit clearer?

Back to monophony. If you have to match your voice to a group of other people, breathing with them and staying exactly together, whilst singing the entire psalter every week at all hours of the day and night, is this not going to have an effect on you? You can't go off and do your special tune, you have to fit into the whole.

So there we are. This description makes chant sound crude and a bit rubbish and written by unsophisticated thickies.

And we know that's just not true.

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Thursday 24 January 2013

How to guide to blogging and the social media


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Wednesday 23 January 2013

Candlemas in Oxford

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Saturday 19 January 2013

Evensong at OLR

Thanks to The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Bexley and Crayford District Organist's and Choirmasters' Association we had the first ever Catholic Evensong in Blackfen last night for the start of the Octave for Christian Unity.

The OLR Choir provided singers on all four parts and under Peter Mitchell got to grips with Anglican-style psalm-pointing and so on.

Then it was time for tea, cake and prosecco!

Belated Happy Second Birthday to The Ordinariate.

Sunday 13 January 2013

My peace I give you by Dawn Eden

It is kinda funny when an author speaks at Westminster ... and Blackfen.

Before Zephy has his big win and the minor basilica gets built, you should really come here, so you can say you saw the original 1936 building.

'Ah yes, the original Our Lady of the Rosary Church...'

Anyway, I heard the talk, then I read the book.

If you know the basic facts about various saints like St Maria Goretti, but didn't realise quite how awful things were and that's before she was murdered, for that alone, this book is worth reading. Ignorant me did not know that her father died of malaria, leaving her mother having to leave the house to seek paid work and that's why she found herself in such danger. With lots of saints and I suppose particularly martyrs, we know a great deal about the manner of their death, but of course, their heroism didn't just happen, there is always an important back story.

A very hopeful book, showing that nothing is definitively lost and no-one need believe themselves to be a write-off.

Something to ponder

Sunday 5th Nov 1995- Sunday 12th Oct 2008.

Each line four numbers, one Mass.

Playing the numbers

I was having a little tidy up around the organ the other day. Either side of the four octave, double manual instrument are (WERE!) some piles of ... stuff.

The stuff got rationalised down to an OF Missal, the red book for the EF, the order of service for marriage and funerals, three copies of The Stations of the Cross according to St Alphonsus Ligori, two rosaries, two prayer cards for Bishop Henderson RIP, the organ tuner's log book, three photocopies of 'O sacrament most holy, lots of pens and pencils, and a bottle of lavender water from Lourdes. Quite a modest haul.

Amongst the gems to be kept safe were three note books belonging to Brenda listing the hymns she played. The first one starts in January 1982, or year 37. In Jan '84, we switch from The Parish Hymn Book to ? another hymn book.

The asterisk indicates that she is still using the PHB numbers until her new one arrives. Each line of numbers is a Mass.

The last entry in the last book is 31st Jan 2010.

The first Sunday I played was 7th Feb 2010. How do I know? I have it written down in a notebook.

A few people in Paris today

Replying to the reply

My MP's cut and paste reply to my letter, just before Christmas, on proposed same-sex marriage legislation, did not answer the points that I made.

Now of course, we have plenty of material to send to our MPs, to ram the case home.

So I just have.

Yesterday's letter in the DT, being well worth a link, along with a quote from Dr Liam Fox MP.

Saturday 12 January 2013

This Sunday's pudding

New year, slightly new desserts. Delia's chocolate brownies meet dried cranberries soaked in, um, Calvados - the bottle has been lingering in the cupboard for a long while. My Dad would probably be very happy alternating between apple crumble and pie each week, but now and then it's OK to insert a different pud.

Meantime, it's time to restock the freezer with Leutgeb ready meals. I know that liver is a Marmite ishoo, but I love liver and bacon and add veg, so that's done too. Just add potato or rice or pasta and the meal is done.

It may snow this week. Last time that happened it took 2 hours a day to get home and proper dinners were needed. Trudging home in the dark is not enjoyable. Walking boots on stand-by.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Saturday 5 January 2013

Galette des Roi

Still time to make one, with this easy recipe.

Tuesday 1 January 2013