Tuesday, July 01, 2008

US Release of Chant CD

~from TNLM about today's US release of the CD of Cistercian monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz
Today Chant: Music for the Soul by Stift Heiligenkreuz is released in the U.S.; Amazon starting shipping last week. We can hope that it does as well in US charts as in UK charts, for that would mean several hundred thousand people, or perhaps millions, will be introduced to the holy sound of this great music, perhaps for the first time. Listeners will also be impressed at the sheer quality of the singing and the style. I think I can confidently say that I've never heard chant this well done, ever. It really sets a new standard in my own mind.

Now, I've raised this topic one or twice here and not really seen it addressed, and I'll put this more in the form of a question because I really am not sure that I know the answer. By way of background, the monastery was founded in 1133. Recall that this is not the Roman Graduale they are singing but the Cisterian Graduale which is just slightly different, so there are charming surprises along the way for anyone who knows the Liber Usualis, for example.

What is striking to me is that the style is not exotic or artsy or experimental or edgy or randomized, or eschewing the musical line to place sole focus on the textual line, according to some far-flung rhythmic theory, as sometimes people imagine the chant might have been sung in the 10th century, such as you hear on some early-music CDs. Rather, what we have hear is peace and stability, a regular pulse behind the music that the monks stretch this way and that to better shape both the musical and textual phrase. To my ear this conforms precisely to what I read in Mocquereau's rhythmic treatise.
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