Sunday, March 18, 2007

The pulse of chant

I found myself intrigued by this version of "Crux fidelis," which is so beautiful provided you are not looking for an inner pulse to the chant. If you do expect that gentle undulation of beat that pulls and pushes according to the musical phrase, the approach of these singers comes across as linear and almost random. Indeed, it pains me to think what the choir has to go through to sing this in a unified manner, but such is characteristic of the semiological approach to chant. It is completely forbidding to non-experts and, for this reason, could never be the method of a parish-based schola.

Let me offer an unfair comparison from our recent workshop. None of these singers are professionals. Most had never sung chant in their lives. The director had only a few hours to get them singing before liturgy. You can see in the rehearsals the relentless emphasis on the inner pulse of chant, and you can see how it goes from the rehearsal straight to liturgy, and, how the chant pulse blends stylistically with the polyphony that ends the video. Given the time limitations, it sounds pretty good. Keep in mind all these caveats:

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