Thursday, July 20, 2006

Burning Embers

I'm sorry that I can't find an MP3 of this Sunday's communion antiphon, because I would be curious if you agree that this piece, which is a Mode IV chant, the "most irregular of all the modes" (Singing the Liturgy, Sister Marietta), is as emotionally affecting as we found it to be. It feels like a Mode I chant but the final note does not come to rest where the ear thinks it should. It seems to continue forward in time and space without an clear ending.

It is deeply mysterious, a chant that beautifully reflects the text: "You will accept a sacrifice of righteousness, oblations and burnt offerings placed on your altar, O Lord." Beginning rather dramatically, it settles into a rising and falling pattern, with long phrases, to create an image that the singers in our schola describe as glowing embers. And while that impression can be dismissed as product of a creative imagination, the third line of notes on the word "Altare" clearly reflects the subject matter. It begins on the lowest note of the piece, and moves through the liquescent to the longest note, all of which suggests a low, flat, and smooth surface: the very altar of our Lord.

Striking indeed!

Coda: In fact, there is an MP3 available (but it is accompanied, which causes mystery loss).

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