MUSI 112: Listening to Music

Lecture 15

 - Gregorian Chant and Music in the Sistine Chapel


This lecture begins the third part of the course, which looks at music from a historical perspective. Here Professor Wright focuses on the medieval period. He discusses chant, and its role in the lives of monks and nuns in medieval monasteries, convents, and cathedrals. He then moves on to briefly discuss polyphony. The lecture is supplemented by visuals of cathedrals, monasteries, and medieval illuminations, as well as recordings of monophonic chant by the eleventh-century polymath Hildegard of Bingen, anonymous polyphony, polyphony by the Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina, and a recording of the last papal castrato, Alessandro Moreschi.

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MUSI 112 - Lecture 15 - Gregorian Chant and Music in the Sistine Chapel

Chapter 1. Gregorian Chants in the Medieval Period [00:00:00]

Professor Craig Wright: Today we begin a slightly different portion of our course. We’ll be talking about the periods in the history of music beginning with the Middle Ages, and I’ve pit — put — the names of those periods that we will be covering in our course up here on the board. Obviously: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, Modernism. We could even add to that Post-Modernist now and probably throw into that Popular Music in a general way.

We’re going to begin here with Gregorian chant, talking about the traditional music of the Roman Catholic Church. We will not be promoting in here the values of the Roman Catholic Church any more than we promoted the values of the Jewish religion when we listened to klezmer music or the Islamic religion when we listened to the Adhan or we will be promoting — we will not, in fact, be promoting the Lutheran tradition when we deal with Bach next time. This ain’t religion in this course; this is art.

So with that understood, let’s begin with an introduction to medieval music starting with Gregorian chant. What is Gregorian chant? Gregorian chant is the monophonic, one-line music — monophonic, one-line music of the Roman Catholic Church as it existed from the time of the earliest church fathers up until the time of the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent, as you may know from your history courses, was a conclave held in the northern Italian town of Trento, Italy, from 1545 to 1563 at which time they tried to combat the effects of the Protestant Reformation, instituting reforms within the church, purifying the existing church of Rome — cleaning up the Catholic Church in effect. Among the things that got purified were the art and the music. No more nudity was allowed in art and any nudity that was already there in religious art was painted over. Any sort of secular tombs were taken out of the church. Snappy rhythms in church music were proscribed. What music was sung henceforth would be dictated by Rome. No more new chant was composed.

So the composition of chant, then, began all the way back slightly — shortly after the death of Christ and continued into the sixteenth century. What we call Gregorian chant really went on for a period of fifteen-hundred years. From this, it is obvious then, that although it takes its name from Pope Gregory the First — and you have his dates on the board over there, Gregory the Great — Gregorian chant had almost nothing to do with Gregory. Gregory was a church administrator, a writer of sermons, and an important theologian, but it’s only an historical accident that he is associated with this vast repertoire of chant. Gregory had an influential biographer, John the Deacon, who ascribed, perhaps, more to Gregory than he actually accomplished. And, generally speaking, in the Middle Ages there was this tendency to ascribe to a single or a couple of male authority figures a lot more than they actually did. The point here is that Gregorian chant was being composed five hundred years before Gregory set foot on this earth and nearly a thousand years after that.

What’s the purpose of Gregorian chant? What did it do? Well, it did two things. One, it communicated the message of the church. It allowed for the transmission of the word of God as they, the faithful, understood the word and understood God. And it transmitted the theology, the message, of the church. Chant, then, was a medium for the broadcast — literally — the broadcast of the word. In a resonant acoustical environment such as a stone or stucco church, one can project, one can impel a text better if you sing it rather than just simply declaim it as usual. I could say for example, “Now let us read the Epistle of the Blessed Apostle Paul to the Romans,” but the text projects better if I sing it [sings] in that fashion. It goes out better and it can reverberate better. Chant used for direct reading, directly communicating a text, was generally syllabic chant. In syllabic chant each syllable has just one note, and in syllabic chant the musical range tends to be rather narrow.

The second purpose of chant: Chant also allowed for a period of reflection upon the subject of the preceding reading. A sermon, or a passage, of scripture would be followed by a reflective chant, time for contemplation. This music for reflection upon a preceding religious theme was generally melismatic. Now a melismatic chant is one in which there are many notes for just one syllable of text, and in melismatic chant, the range tends to be a lot broader. It’s more virtuosic. So simple chanting for readings, that’s syllabic chant. More complex chant for moments of personal feeling and reflection, that’s melismatic chant.

Let’s take an example here. I have my venerable Liber Usualis up here, and I’m going to sing the Alleluia for Easter Sunday — at least I’m going to try to sing it. And it’s an example of a melismatic chant and you’ll notice one syllable here, “ah” is conveyed by probably thirty notes. [sings] So that’s a melismatic chant, a moment of joyful celebration associated with the resurrection of Christ. So that’s what chant did, and that’s what it does today. It is firstly a medium for the projection of sacred text and secondly a vehicle for spiritual contemplation.

Chapter 2. Religious Influence on Early Music: The Roles of Monks and Nuns [00:07:15]

Where was chant sung? Well, early on chant was sung not so much in what we would call public churches but more in sequestered — usually rural — monasteries, religious communities segregated by gender — what, specifically, we would call monasteries for men and convents or nunneries for women. Remember Hamlet enjoining Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery.” The dominant monastic order for both male and female in the Middle Ages was the Benedictine Order founded by Benedict of Nursia near Rome about five thirty Common Era, the dates and names spelled out on the board. From Benedict, the church received a code of conduct prescribing how monks and nuns should live the ideal spiritual life while on this earth.

Here is that book. I once purchased this at the Monastery of Saint John in Collegeville, Minnesota, about sixty miles west of Minneapolis. So this is the Rule of Saint Benedict. It told the clergy how to spend the day. It applied equally to male and female communities. The day was divided into periods of work and periods of worship — praying, singing, chanting, reading scripture. They worked so as to feed themselves and they prayed so as to save their souls. They were not so much interested in good works for the community. They’d sort of withdrawn from the community, but in personal salvation, saving their own souls, perhaps the souls of others as well.

The periods during which they worshipped were called the canonical hours. The word “canon” in Latin literally means “rule.” A canon is a musical composition that follows a strict rule. One voice has got to follow another exactly in terms of rhythm and pitch from beginning to end, but here we have something a little bit different, canonical hours following the rule, the canon, of Saint Benedict. The hours usually involved praying and reading scripture and in singing. And they started early in the morning about four o’clock in most houses at a canonical hour called Matins. Next they would go on to celebrate Lauds about daybreak, and so on around the hours, ending with Vespers and Compline.

And I might ask you here — we actually have this service in the Yale community, broadly speaking. It’s not particularly religiously oriented at all. Have any of you gone to the Compline service at Christ Church across from the Yale Bookstore? As I say, it’s not particularly denominational in any way. It’s mostly in the dark. It’s very reflective. Yes, Michael has. I see some other people have as well. You might check that out Sunday at ten o’clock in the evening. It’s just a lovely time for peace and quiet and reflection, and you can think about any god that you wish in there and think about — and perhaps work through any personal issues that you might want to engage.

As to the mass of the day — we usually think of this as the principal service. That, strictly speaking, was not a canonical hour. It was a special service that happened, usually, at around nine o’clock, celebrated at the high altar of the church. So that’s what the clergy did in the Middle Ages by way of worship: gathering at these prescribed times to pray and to sing. And that’s what the clergy still does in Benedictine houses around the world.

The most authentic of these Benedictine houses is the one that you see on the screen here at Solesmes, about one hundred fifteen miles south of Paris. Some years back I had the pleasure of living there for ten days to study Gregorian chant. When you arrive, the abbot comes out to greet you. He’s attended on either side by two acolytes, and you go through a ceremony of — in which he washes your hands. This washing of the hands was a traditional — still is a traditional gesture by the Benedictines of hospitality, and to some extent of humility. You, the visitor, are assigned to a cell.

Let’s have the next slide, Jacob, please. There we go. Okay, and I’ll just signal those. All right. So there we are with the next slide. You are assigned a room. All right. Let’s go back to this. You’re assigned a room, and this building has been worked over, but that’s where, actually, I stayed — in that building. In that room you have a light bulb, you have a desk, you have a bed, some fruit. You have no radio. You have no clock, no television, and certainly no cell phone! How then do you get up to attend the canonical hours because in order to be in this monastery you are required to attend all of these canonical hours? What is it that wakes you up then, would you imagine? Hm?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Bells. Nice and loud, please.

Student: Bells.

Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Thank you, Michael. Bells. Okay, the ringing of the bells. They begin to regulate your existence, for each of these [they] signal each of these canonical hours. Indeed we get our word “clock” from the medieval French word “cloche,” “bell,” and our word — the very word “hour” comes from the Latin “ora,” “to pray,” “orazio,” or “prayer.” So we have the sense of praying at regular times, regular intervals around the day. At Solesmes the bells call you to the church to hear these canonical hours. They call you to the refectory to consume your meals. And I submit that you really haven’t dined in this world until you sit down and break dark brown bread with eighty hooded Benedictines speaking in Latin.[Who] if, when they are not speaking, they are tapping particular signals on the table. And suddenly everybody will rise, suddenly everybody will bow, and the visitor is sort of left perplexed as to what is transpiring but that’s what goes on.

As I have said, this rule of Saint Benedict formulated in the sixth century prescribed this cycle of canonical hours. As the Middle Ages proceeded, the cycle of hours was adopted at cathedral churches even though the strict rule for communal living was not. The daily timetable of worship was kept, but the idea of eating and sleeping together was abandoned.

Cathedrals were much more urban in their location. They were not withdrawn. They were in cities. The clergy administered to the spiritual and social needs of the community. The clergy was celibate, de jure if not de facto. They lived in private homes, not in a communal dormitory, in houses that were situated all around the cathedral.

Let’s take a look at a typical medieval cathedral, and for this I’m going to choose Chartres. Now, it’s not [only] typical. It’s the most beautiful. If you have one cathedral to go to, I strongly — and I think I’ve been to all — I know that I’ve been to all the big ones in France — [urge you to go to Chartres for several reasons. First of all, it has the most pristinely preserved town around the back of the church. As you can see, the medieval city from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is pretty much still there. It has the widest nave of any of these gothic cathedrals. If you look carefully on the floor, you see a medieval labyrinth there, so it has the best-preserved of any of these cathedral floors. It has the best-preserved stained glass, which is famous worldwide. And it has the original crypt in this building, which extends all the way back into the eighth century. Indeed, it was part of a preceding church that was built in the course of the eighth through the eleventh centuries, and we’re going to see now what the cathedral, the Romanesque cathedral at Chartres, looked like before it was built into the one that we know and see today. This is [the] Romanesque [one]. What we saw before was gothic.

So here we see a group of clerics centering around Bishop Fulbertus there to the right. This illumination dates from right around the year 1020. We’ll return to Fulbertus and hear one of his chants at the end of our hour, but for the moment, let’s pass on to the women on the left there. Notice that they are out to the side. They’ve been segregated. Indeed they are physically marginalized. Women were to be silent in the church according to the scriptural dictum of Saint Paul: “Mulier taceat in ecclesia.” But, as we have seen, there was ample opportunity for spiritual contemplation and creativity for women specifically in the convents.

Chapter 3. Chant Analysis of Hildegard of Bingen’s “O Greenest Branch” [00:16:56]

One spiritual leader within the community of Benedictine convents was Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard lived in the twelfth century. She came from the area of Bingen on the West Bank of the Rhine River in Germany. She grew up in a Benedictine convent. Here are the ruins of that Benedictine convent. And then she went on ultimately to found her own convent, and this is the — these are the ruins — or a seventeenth-century drawing of that convent which is now also in ruins. Hildegard was a polymath. She could do many things. She wrote on church administration, on botany, on pharmacology, on medicine and on music. Indeed because of this diversity we can I think fairly say that the first “Renaissance Man” in actuality was a medieval woman, Hildegard of Bingen. Popes and bishops sought her advice — in part, because she was a visionary. She had visions associated with the Christian story. Hildegard also wrote Gregorian chants.

So let’s look at some slides of Hildegard. She was famous in her day. Here we have a manuscript put together in northern Italy about twenty years after her death with the representation of Hildegard up there on the top left.

The next slide takes us to a blowup of this and we see the representation of Hildegard having a celestial vision. That’s why the wavy lines going up from her head. She’s receiving the Holy Spirit. She is copying down what she perceives — not on a notebook computer, but on a wax tablet with a large stylus in her right hand. Her assistant — the one male allowed in this community for the sacraments — her assistant, Volmar, peeks in, astonished at what he is seeing.

Another illustration of this same sort, the phantasmagorical Trinity here with God the Father, Christ the Warrior slaying the devil that is now trampled under his feet down below — Hildegard is seeing all this as we see from this illumination here. And a blowup of that again shows us the wavy lines, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the writing on the wax tablet. This time her assistant, her favored assistant, Ricarda, looks in again on this particular scene.

Hildegard’s music is distinctive, and the texts that she created for this music are even more remarkable, more than any religious poet that I know — and I have studied this to some degree — religious poet of the Middle Ages that I know. Her texts are the most startling, her imagery the most vivid, the most graphic, indeed the most beautiful. She talks of a saint in terms of the “sweat of his goodness shining like a balm on his forehead,” of the odor of the sanctity of the Virgin Mary being “as sweet as the scent of honeysuckle and lilac.” Hildegard sees the blood of Christ “streaming in the heavens.” In her own musical creation, with regard to them, she styles herself simply a breath — a “feather on the breath of God.” What an interesting metaphor but very appropriate for this very modest individual. She was but a “feather on the breath of God” with regard to her own personal creations, carrying out — going wherever God would send her.

And you have on your CDs for our course — it’s actually CD one, track two — Hildegard’s “O Greenest Branch,” and when you listen to this — it’s actually the basis of a Listening Exercise that we will get to — when you listen to this, you might be interested to know that this was recorded right in the base of Harkness Tower over there. It was recorded in Branford Chapel. And, although when you read the liner notes, it will say the Hildegard Singers, the Hildegard Singers were simply some female graduate students, ladies that were here interested in singing early music that — for that particular recording became what I labeled them, the Hildegard Singers.

So that recording was done over at Branford Chapel, but let’s listen to another one from a group of four women from New York City. They’re called Anonymous Four. They put out wonderful recordings. And it’s a good example of melismatic chant, again by Hildegard of Bingen. Now you have the text up on the board here. I don’t know if we can read it but I’ll read it off to you, “O rubor sanguinis,” “O redness of blood,” “qui de excelso illo fluxisti,” “that flow down from heaven,” “quod divinitas tetegit,” “which divinity touched,” “Tu flos est,” “You are the flower,” “quod hyems de flatu serpentis,” which is “the wintry breath of the servant — serpent,” in other words the devil, “numquam lesit,” “will never wound.” So that’s the text.

Now let’s listen to the music of Hildegard of Bingen. [music playing] Lovely.

So what can we say about chant by way of conclusion? First of all, of course, it is monophonic. We hear only one line there, monophonic texture. Chant is monophonic. Chant is also unaccompanied, as you heard. Chant has no meter, no rhythm to it — no regular rhythm at least. It seems to flow as Hildegard says, “like a feather on the breath of God.”

Now chant is enjoying something of a rebirth at the moment, something of a resurgence of interest ever since the appearance in nineteen six — nineteen ninety-six of this CD simply called “Chant.” It went platinum in its first year, selling over a million copies, outselling the Beatles even for a time. And it was succeeded by other chant CDs, all produced, appropriately enough, by Angel Records. We had “Chant II,” “Chant III,” “Beyond Chant,” “Son of Chant.” There were Hildegard knockoffs. We had “Mad About Monks.” And if we had the original Chant CD issued by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo, Spain, so, of course, we have a knockoff now, by the Benzedrine Monks of Santa Monica, California. Okay.

Let’s go on to the next slide, which should be blank, and I don’t know what I did with it but just last month — here it is. I don’t have a good picture, but just last month I went on CNN online. You know, you can see the headlines there. There was a headline: “Move Over, Madonna.” I think this was the other Madonna. “Move over, Madonna. A CD of Gregorian chant by a group of Cistercian [monks] is a surprise cross-over bestseller reaching the pop charts.” And you can actually buy this, as I did, on Amazon or wherever you want to buy it.

Why all this interest in chant? Because it has much in common with so-called “New Age” music. Chant is non-confrontational, non-assertive. It is somewhat laid back, if you will, as the mind and the spirit are allowed to contemplate, to form a divine communion, perhaps. Chant is the very opposite of the music of Beethoven. Beethoven tries to convince you to feel a particular way about every moment, every measure, in his music. It is very much rhetorical music. Chant, on the other hand, you can take on your own terms. It is non-authoritarian. It is non-assertive, non-aggressive. It floats unfettered. And many of these same characteristics are found in “New Age” music — hence the newfound popularity of medieval chant.

Chapter 4. From Monophony to Polyphony: A Cappella of the Sistine Chapel [00:26:56]

Now let’s turn our attention away from chant, away form monophonic music to early polyphony, multi-voice music, music of the church of the Middle Ages, the polyphonic music. Early polyphonic music for the church was called organum. It was first created in the great urban gothic cathedrals of France, most particularly at Notre-Dame of Paris, so let’s visit here our well-known Notre-Dame with the west façade and then some of the famous laterally-added flying buttresses around to the south side there, the southeast side.

It is likely not coincidental that the high walls of this new gothic style were being created — these courses of stone laid one on top of the other — at precisely the same time, around twelve hundred, that verticality was being introduced to music. What I mean is that all cathedral organum was built upward above a pre-existing chant, above a pre-existing Gregorian chant. The composer took the chant and placed it in the bottom voice and then added other voices up on top of it to form a counterpoint against it. It was the job of the tenor to take the chant and to hold it out in long notes. That’s why the tenor is called what it is. Originally, it comes from the word Latin “teneo,” “I hold” or “tenir” in modern French, “to hold,” the infinitive there. So that we have this idea of one voice, the chant, holding on in the long notes underneath — was kind of the basis of the music, and then up above the composer would create new polyphony.

What you see on the screen is an example of this medieval organum. You can see we have four lines in each brace, in effect. The one with “Vi” has just one pitch. You can see the big illumination there, “V,” and then the pitch F out to the right of it, and it just sits there because it just holds out the [sings] “Vi” as the music goes on for many, many, many, many, many, many seconds and finally goes [sings] “de,” holds that out, and then finally down to the bottom, [sings] “runt,” as all of this other polyphony goes on up above.

Let’s listen to an example of some of this medieval sound. [music playing] All right. And we’ll stop it there. So it’s very different, but it’s very complex at the same time. Again, a good example of medieval organum, medieval polyphony.

But let’s turn our attention now away from the music of the Middle Ages in Paris to the Renaissance and Rome — and specifically to the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel was the most famous of all churches in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the core of the Renaissance. Why? Because it was the private chapel of the pope — not St. Peter’s, interestingly enough. This is a shot of modern-day St. Peter’s. Let’s go — there we go. But this was, during the Renaissance, only beginning to be constructed following the design of who — of whom? Which famous painter? Michelangelo. Yeah, Michelangelo was involved in the design of St. Peter’s, but this was not in existence at the time we’re under — discussing here, big as — and impressive as it may be. So where the pope was actually worshipping for the most part in this period was not in St. Peter’s, but next door, in effect, over in this building in the Sistine Chapel. And here, of course, because it was his own place of worship, he could command the very best — the best materials and the best artists, the best musicians.

Construction on the Sistine Chapel began in 1477 during the reign of Pope Sixtus IV, hence the name Sistine Chapel, Sixtus, Sistine. Obviously, you get the etymological connection there. It’s one hundred thirty-two feet long and forty-five feet wide. The ceiling, the famous ceiling of Michelangelo, is seventy feet off the floor. Michelangelo painted, as you know, scenes from the Bible, both the creation and the expulsion. He also painted scenes of the sibyl prophets as written about by Virgil in the Aeneid. The side walls are covered with frescoes of Botticelli, Perugino, and Raphael. Here is one by Raphael. At the east end where the high altar was situated there is the famous Last Judgment scene by Michelangelo himself, painted somewhat later in the 1530s.

Just as the pope hired the best painters, so he engaged the finest musicians — the incomparable Josquin des Prez, who will be the focus of your Listening Exercise sixteen, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. You’ve probably may heard the name Palestrina, a prototypical Renaissance composer. They composed and they sang both chant and polyphony. They were members of the Papal Chapel, so a chapel in this period, and even today, can mean two things: One, the physical building — let’s have another slide — the physical building, so that’s one kind of chapel. And two, the musical ensemble, the choir that performs in this building, and the actual Papal Chapel — as you can see here, there is a loggia that sticks out and this is where the singers such as Josquin des Prez and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina would stand when they sang before the pope.

Now because this Papal Chapel here sang without any accompaniment of instruments whatsoever, even the organ, that style of singing came to be called a cappella, literally a cappella Sistina, so unaccompanied singing means without instruments. If you are in an a capella singing group here at Yale, you are a descendant of this tradition of singing without instruments in the Sistine Chapel. That’s what a cappella means, “in the chapel,” but literally in Pope Sixtus’s chapel here, singing without instruments. In this case the Papal Chapel performed in the Papal Chapel standing in, as mentioned, the loggia that you see there on the lower right side of your screen.

Who were the members of the Papal Chapel? Well, they were all male clerics. We’ve said that chant was segregated by gender. There were also all-female ensembles in this period, but they were in convents. But in monasteries, cathedrals, and here in the Papal Chapel, then as today, the ensembles were all-male.

But if they were all male, who then sang the soprano when polyphony was performed? Well, at various times this was done in one of three ways. Males could sing in head voice, which is called falsetto. Any of the gentlemen in here ever tried to sing falsetto? [sings] It sounds pretty awful. Right? Okay, but if I practiced that it ain’t bad. I never practice it, but if I practiced that — and you can practice that just like you can any other voice, and it begins to sound better and better and it can function as a soprano line. So that was option one. Option two was to have choirboys sing this upper part and, as this illustration shows, this in many ways was a popular medium of performance, the old men and the young choirboys. But a third possibility that came to be used in the Sistine Chapel during the sixteenth century was to assign the soprano line to a castrato, a male who had shown a promising singing voice as a boy and had therefore been subjected to the process of castration to maintain this high voice.

Now, there was some economic advantage to the castrato because one castrato could make as much noise as three falsettists or four choirboys. The castrato had a high voice but a very big body. Now it has always seemed profoundly ironic to me that the one institution most fervently in favor of castration of boys to produce this high, powerful voice was the papacy, but that is an historical fact. Indeed the popes continued to engage and support castrati into the early twentieth century.

We, in fact, have a recording made in 1905 of the last castrato to sing in the Papal Chapel, Alessandro Moreschi. His name is on the board. I will now play a CD of this voice. It will sound very unpleasant for two reasons. One, the recording was made in 1905 so it’s very old, and it has all the surface noise that those old recordings have. And two, Moreschi himself was very old. He was about seventy when this recording was made, and who has a good voice, male or female — who has a good voice when they are seventy? So it doesn’t present the castrato at its best, but at least it will give you an idea of the sound of this lost voice so we’re going to listen to a bit of castrato, Alessandro Moreschi singing the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria.” [music playing] Okay.

Let’s turn from that very old recording to a modern recording now. It’s a recording of a piece by Palestrina written around 1590 for the Sistine Chapel here. It is a Sanctus from a mass. And for the parts of the mass — the Kyrie, the Gloria, etc. — see page eighty-three of your textbook. So it’s a Sanctus of the mass. And just as we have the Hebrew prophet Isaiah — and I think we can bring that up now with the next slide — on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo — so we have the voice of Isaiah in this mass and in this music for it is from Isaiah that the text, “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Domine Deus Sabaoth” comes, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.”

Now this piece by Palestrina, and I hope you — everybody got the sheet there? We’ve got the sheet of music. You can — there’s enough light, I think, generally to see what you have there. It is written in four-voice polyphony, but the aesthetic impact of this polyphony is pretty much the same as that of chant. Instead of one line of chant, now we have four independent lines, so we have polyphony. Palestrina has taken a piece of chant, slightly — indeed what it was an old hymn, a monophonic hymn — slightly animated the line through the addition of simple rhythmic values, and placed it in four voices so as to amplify the sense. Four voices could do more to amplify the sense of the chant.

Indeed this Sanctus has the same relaxed, non-aggressive, unassertive, yet very beautiful style of chant itself, even though there are now four individual parts instead of one. We’ve got polyphony instead of monophony. So you’ve got the music there. Palestrina is overlaying, sewing together here, four short chant-like phrases, and I’ve numbered them on the sheet one through four. Each of these phrases comes in, in turn in each voice, each voice imitating the preceding voice, so we’ve got imitative counterpoint. These passages of counterpoint are called points of imitation. This is what we get a lot of in Renaissance music. So we have four points of imitation. In point of fact, it’s — they sort of look like four very short expositions in a fugue. But in this Sanctus, in this imitative Sanctus of Palestrina, each exposition, each of these four little expositions, has its own subject, its own theme here rather than one dominating the whole fugue.

Okay. So here are the [sings]. This is number one, [sings], and then number — point number two begins [sings]. Number three across the page [sings] and then finally [sings] in that fashion. So as we listen to this recording now, I have a question for you here. Who is singing the soprano part? Are these women singing this? Are these choirboys singing this? Are these falsettists singing this? Are these castrati singing this? Let’s listen. [music playing]

So that imitative style, relaxed, in terms of its expressive content, is very much the essence of the a cappella style of Renaissance vocal music, and who was singing the soprano part there, of our four options? Any thoughts about that? Elizabeth, I can —

Student: Falsettos?

Professor Craig Wright: Falsettists, yeah. That was a male falsettist voice singing it — not women, not choirboys, and of course, castrati are no longer an option, so it was falsettists there. Yeah.

Chapter 5. Conclusion [00:46:22]

I’d like to end with one final thing and that is — enjoying myself today, indulging myself, dressing up, getting ready for Halloween — but the point of this, in a way, is to try to give you a sense of what this music, and it’s a very esoteric kind of music, is about — but really, to do it in a classroom we would have to take this whole class and have to go to the Cathedral of Chartres and we’d have to sit there and we have to be in front of a statue, look at the beauty of that statue. We’d have to look at the architecture all around us. We’d have to look at the beautiful copes on the back of the clergy. We would have to see the beautiful stained glass. We would have to smell the incense that is lighted. I thought about doing that but the fire marshal would probably shut this down.

And what we can try to do here — I think I have about a minute left — is go back to the Cathedral of Chartres, so let’s — we have a slide here and it’s a slide, once again, of Bishop Fulbertus. He is the composer of the music that you are about to hear, and again it’s sung by a female group, however. And as this music plays just sit back and relax, pretend you area having a transcendental experience yourself. Sit back, relax, and look at some of this glorious stained glass and architecture that has been in this cathedral since the late twelfth century. [music playing]

So that’s all for today. Ite — ite in pacem. Pax vobiscum. Congregatio missa est. I’ll turn on the lights so we don’t kill ourselves [walking out]. [music playing]

[end of transcript]

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