Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Medieval Music to My Ears

Now, my wife did not like this form of chant which finds its origin in the Middle Ages.  Of course, our opinions are different in a number of areas. Among my friends, they would trust her musical tastes way over mine. My only saving grace is that this is sacred music. Thanks again to the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog for posting this.

The style being used here is called Organum which is a plainchant technique developed in the Middle Ages to enhance harmony. This was the style was a marked forerunner of polyphony and eventually our modern choral ensembles. Wikipedia defines it as:

Organum (pronounced /ˈɔrɡənəm/, though the stress is sometimes placed on the second syllable, from Ancient Greek ὄργανον – organon “organ, instrument, tool” [1]) in general is a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony, developed in the Middle Ages. Depending on the mode and form of the chant, a supporting bourdon may be sung on the same text, or the melody is followed in parallel motion (parallel organum) or a combination thereof. As no real independent second voice exists this is a form of heterophony. In its earliest stages, organum involved two musical voices: a Gregorian chant melody, and the same melody transposed by a consonant interval, usually a perfect fifth or fourth. In these cases often the composition began and ended on a unison, the added voice keeping to the initial tone until the first part has reached a fifth or fourth, from where both voices proceed in parallel harmony, with the reverse process at the end. Organum was originally improvised; while one singer performed a notated melody (the vox principalis), another singer—singing “by ear”—provided the unnotated second melody (the vox organalis). Over time, composers began to write added parts that were not just simple transpositions, thus creating true polyphony.

7 Responses to Medieval Music to My Ears

  1. Joe says:

    Wow…such an amazing guttural resonance. Very much sounds like an asian/buddhist influence.

  2. Chris says:

    I liken it to Tuvan throat singing. I’m with Christine *(surprise, surprise!)

  3. Bob says:

    I thought it sounded amazing. Really very cool sounding.

    Oh, and Chris, I think Tuvan throat singing is really cool too.

  4. Julie says:

    What Chris doesn’t tell you is that if he had heard it on a movie soundtrack somewhere, he would have downloaded it in a heartbeat. Since it’s Church music that’s ancient and doesn’t involve electric guitars and drumsets, however, he “doesn’t like it”. :-) I thought it was great! (surprise, surprise!)

  5. Chris says:

    Okay, I think Tuvan throat singing is cool too. And I probably would think it was cool in a movie soundtrack. But if I heard this while praying in church, I’d be distracted. Very distracted. “How is he getting that cool throaty chord/harmonic going?”

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