Monday, October 27, 2008

Journal Response 2b

Jaime Tyser

28 Oct 2008


Response to Lassus: Missa Pro Defuncti/Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Victoria Brown)

When one thinks of church and its music, often lively hymns of rejoicing come to mind. However, after listening to the recording of Orlando di Lasso’s Missa Pro Defuncti and Prophetiae Sibyllarum I am reminded that the music found in church today and church then is incredibly different. Today you can hear “rock bands” and many short uplifting hymns are sung. Centuries ago, the mass settings written for church and sacred music were so deep and nearly haunting. As the layers of music began to unfold to composers and listeners alike in the 1500’s they started to explore the intensity of chromatics.

After reading Victoria’s journal entry about this recording, I was very intrigued to listen to this recording. I thought her opening thoughts were very clever and they definitely caught my attention. The explanation of how Lassus spent his early years of life gave me a good insight to the background of this music and also made a few connections to our discussions we had about him in class. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lassus and the abduction he went through as well as the Greek influence found within the music, I felt that all of that was more introductory material than response. Her choice of words kept my attention throughout the whole response, I love her creativity with writing but at the end I felt a little bit cheated because I wanted to read so much more.

I was pleased to read about the fact that all of the songs on this recording are four voice parts and written for the mass. I would have liked to have read about the texts used in these songs. They are set for the mass and by reading the translations the material is easily recognized as strongly sacred which coincides with the melodic parts and the interaction of the voices. The use of chromatics in the music is engaging and draws me in as a listener. Upon reading the texts while listening to the music I can distinguish that there is some definite word painting throughout the songs. The rapid changes in tonality and the way individual lines intertwine with each other are extremely impressive. Another thing I took note of after reading the insert provided is that Lassus came up with these Latin verses for his music by taking and interest in specifically the paintings of Sibyls in the late fifteenth century. The prophecies accompanying the paintings played a large role in the texts Lassus used. Victoria could have taken a whole different angle to this response by researching the paintings of Sibyls more and seeing how much of an effect they had on Lassus and his music. The change in art during the Renaissance was incredible and impacted music in more ways than we probably realize.

One last thing I think would have been inviting to read about is a more in depth look at Lassus’ use of chromatics. Victoria does a good job of touching the basics that he indeed used a lot of chromatics in his music, but for what purpose? It leaves me wondering how the use of all these new colors affected other musicians and listeners. These Lassus songs are great examples of music leaving the boundaries of the mode. The transition of music out of the mode into dissonance and chromatics is a very deep subject, yet another direction that Victoria could have researched and talked a little more about.

Overall, I enjoyed Victoria’s response. Her way of writing is light, fun, and easy to read while providing a great overview of information. Since I like her style of writing so much, I would love to read a more in depth response written from her. It is difficult at times to harness the ideas that are bouncing around in the mind, I too struggle with this. However, I feel if she expanded on some more ideas this response would be a little more substantial in aiding to my understanding of how Lassus and his music contributed to the development of the Renaissance era.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Journal Response 2

Jaime Tyser
13 Oct 2008
Cons 351 WI

Journal Entry #2 Binchois: Chansons

Walking through the streets of French towns in the Renaissance era one would most likely hear the sweet sounds of the chanson songs. These songs told tales of love, desire, and hope. Today you can hear a compilation of these chansons by Gilles Binchois on the recording Mon Souverain Desir. Chansons grew out of the formes fixe often used by the Troubadours and Trouveres during the transition into the Renaissance era. The chanson song during the 15th century is set to French text, they were popular secular songs sung by nearly everyone. The chanson that Binchois produced was written mostly while he was spending time in the Burgundy Court. Due to this, he was unable to travel and incorporate different ideas from multiple locations into his music thus limiting the style he wrote with and making the structure of his chanson songs simple in melodic and harmonic structure. This particular recording of chansons was done by a group devoted to the performance of early music; Ensemble Gilles Binchois, but anyone could sing them.
There are seventeen tracks of music on this recording, but not all are sung. Some of the tracks are solely instrumental; these songs are usually very short and more upbeat in nature. The songs that are not instrumental are almost always in a continuous ABaBA chanson form. One can hear both men and women singing together or solo accompanied largely by string instruments that are either being plucked, bowed, or both. There are four blocks of text, the second combining new words and a refrain while the text is set syllabically. Each song is constructed through polyphony and is extraordinarily strophic making each song fairly predictable.
These chansons are French songs about love; the liner notes provided gave helpful translations. Reading the translations while listening at the same time gave a much better representation of what was being sung about and why the music sounded as it did. Some of the songs were slow and dark sounding, using a solo voice and a string instrument with the use of bow. These slow songs generally had texts about being miserably and hopelessly in love with someone. These sad love tales spoke about how the person is in some sort of purgatory because they cannot have the person they want; they are slaves of love. Happier more upbeat songs were generally about how wonderful the person of desire is and their undying love. The range found within all of these songs is fairly small and polyphonic voice lines come close to each other often.
I enjoyed listening to this recording due to the nature of the text. I love music that both tells a story and matches that story with the way the music sounds. I think songs about love bring out some of the most dramatic and strong feelings people have. While I followed the text translations I found myself relating to some of the words being sung. It is a strange feeling to listen to Renaissance music, sit back, and say – I can relate to this. I think sometimes I feel as if it is just going to be historical “blast from the past” kind of stuff, and I forget that human emotions are always ongoing. As for the overall entertainment value, I do not think I would ever listen to the recording the whole way through because I love it that much. It simply is not engaging enough with differences of tempo and timbre to want to listen to it for an hour on a regular basis. As with a lot of music, I liked certain songs, but the ideas and overall timbre of the music was similar throughout the whole thing making it less enjoyable for long amount of time; especially since the style of the music is unchanging a lot of the time. I would be very excited to listen to a few songs here or there though!