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May 30, 2006

Musical musings

It is said that there is very little under the sun that is "new" and some while ago I stumbled across something written by Lynn S who used to write on Reflections in d minor. I would have to say that I am close to agreement with the sentiments she expressed there - now sadly untraceable by me! In a very short post entitled "Artsy Language" Lynn included a link to a site advertsing a band from Estonia which usually performs medieval music and which had experimented with the music of Black Sabbath on medieval instruments and tempos!

Now I would have to say that Black Sabbath is definitely not on my list of musical appreciation, but this was something else. The band was called Robellus and their latest offering was a CD entitled Sabbatum - which I recently ran across in a well known record emporuium. You got it, the music of Black Sabbath a la medieval. And in Latin. You have to hear this to believe it and excerpts could be downloaded at the website for the band. I did so at the time (2004!) but now can't find the track and the link has ceased to function! Sad, because it was both interesting and good!

Personally I liked what I heard and cannot help but reflect on the fact that a great deal of the medieval sound is now being revived with the aid of modern technology, albeit somewhat "creatively" as many of the tunes and manuscripts have not been that well preserved. That said, groups like the Medieval Babes have made quite an impact on the music scene and I am listening to one of their CD's as I write. I guess that though we may not understand the Latin, its a bit like the opera, we don't actually need to understand it, the sound of it conveys the meaning and the passion.

For the music fundi's who stumble across this blog, the sound produced in plainsong chant or this sort of rythmic cadence produced around a simple harmony of voices, is what brings the walls of a place like Tewkesbury Abbey alive. Speak and the voice is lost, chant it at just the right pitch and it carries right around the building. Sir David Wilcox once told a visitor that the "pitch" of the building of King's College Chapel was A Flat. I would suspect that the "pitch" at the Abbey is around "G" below middle "C" as I have noticed that it picks up my voice (and the others who are, like me, Basses) far more readily than those at a higher pitch.

It is in these conditions that you run into another little medieval trick - tempo! Too fast and you hit the echo returning, too slow and you lose the resonance, so you have to pace yourself and your singing to the "interval" of the building - as much as 8 seconds in some! Great fun, but when you get it right - what a sound!

Posted by The Gray Monk at May 30, 2006 11:41 PM

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