31 October 2005

josquin desprez - "kyrie" (performed by the tallis scholars, from the missa pange lingua; missa la sol fa re mi lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : like "our prayer" by the beach boys, only centuries older, and more complex harmonically and spiritually.

as october melts into november, the "pagan" rituals of halloween give way to one of the catholic church's holy days of obligation, all saints day, the apogee of a movement one sees played out every week, saturday night revelry making way for sunday morning observance. november, for some reason, strikes me as the most solemn of months; if it had the benefit of more snowfall, it might also be the most hushed of months.

the catholic encyclopedia describes josquin's music as showing "the storm and stress of a transition period." it's only right, then, that i'd soundtrack the transition between these two days, months, and states, w/ the kyrie from josquin's missa 'pange lingua.' josquin's works don't "breathe serenity and repose" as w/ palestrina. rather, as the piece begins, and the unearthly soprano enters, one is unsure whose camp they're in, God's or the devil's, despite the ascent of the vocals. it's solemn to be sure, but it could v. easily be a choral piece for a black mass.

as the piece continues, though, one is perhaps in less doubt as to the nature of the work. shafts of light appear, the clouds disperse, the closing harmonies of the kyrie return the piece softly to the earth. yet, the unease engendered by the opening stays w/ the listener, just as the previous night's activities stay w/ the churchgoer as he receives the eucharist at 10am mass. it complicates the reception of the work as whole, while enhancing one's appreciation for it.


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