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Jasmine Riel Dr.

Eric Hung Music Historiography I 4 November 2012 Guillaume de Machauts Messe de Nostre Dame According to Anne Walters Robertsons The Mass of Guillaume de Machaut in the Cathedral of Reims, Machauts Messe de Nostre Dame, was written for the Cathedral of Reims Saturday mass. This mass is so historically significant because it is considered the earliest complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass. Various research efforts have produced various results that have affected all musicians and musicologists alike in their individual beliefs and personal preferences. Because there is no exact way of performing medieval music, I think this requires us to be more open-minded of the various ideas and concepts that may or may not influence our knowledge of how and why medieval music should be performed. The various recordings of Machauts Kyrie assigned to us have various differences in sound, rhythms, and overall performance quality. But they were still similar in ways that are difficult to explain because I think what made them comparable was the aesthetic sense they put me in. But after a few listens of each recording, I finally came to the conclusion that the recording that caught my ear the most was Dominique Vellards performance. When it comes to plain chant and Medieval music (while this also holds true for Renaissance music) I can be a real sucker for what is considered the English sound. This sound is predominantly noted for its use of straight-tone. It is also considered to be the pure sound, which I dont necessarily agree with, depending on how one defines pure. The English sound is not my preferable choice in

most cases, but due to my own experiences and personal preferences Ive found this sound to be so appealing for pre-classical music because it somehow manages to motivate my aesthetic sense to another time. I am also particularly moved by what would be considered the rhythmic accuracy of the performance. Although there was not a strict notation system for centuries, I still prefer stricter rhythmic bounds. I also believe that even by restricting oneself to certain confinements can still be very liberating in a spiritual sense. A monk becomes a monk because they feel freer when they are confined with God. Music is capable of this as well. For any performer, medieval or modern, it is the performance of the piece itself that creates the escape that otherworldly sensation we experience whenever we allow ourselves to be released into the music. And if this sort of ecstasy is performed and communicated honestly, then the audience will be able to interpret and even experience it. I find that working with voices that are extremely different and yet still connected is what makes Dominique Vellard's recording so wonderful. As a member of various choirs and ensembles, I think one of the great joys of singing is being able to sing with various musicians of different sounds and talents. I think much rehearsal time and acceptance of each other's voices is what makes singing with different voices so fulfilling. I found while watching the performers, which isn't as significant as listening to them, it was difficult at first to tell who was singing which part. I think what I particularly love about this was that there was an anonymity to the singers. While there were two singers who would sing the organum together and not with the quartet who sang the other parts, I still found this to work and still identified a significant beauty in it. If I were directing my own performance of Machauts Kyrie, because of my own beliefs and performing experiences, I would probably limit my ensemble to a smaller number. Which it

wouldnt be as small as a group of 4-6 singers, it still wouldnt be as large as 50 or 60 singers. I'd prefer a smaller group somewhere between 15-30 people. I think this stems from not only my experiences of working with larger groups, but from Marcel Peres' idea that people of the Medieval times "had a different quality of life" (40). Because notation does not give us guidelines to vocal production and we no longer have the same spatial dimensions of the past, we have "lost a quality of hearing and of voice production" (41). Therefore, we must adjust to even attempt to reproduce the sound from the past which we still can't be sure of. When it comes to creating an atmosphere, I completely agree with Marcel Peres' point of view. The creation of drama and reconstruction of a temporal dimension in a performance of a piece that is very rarely utilized in an actual liturgical setting is important. Peres also believed that researching different historical contexts of the same music and attempting to combine them in a way that brings the music as close to authenticity as humanly and historically possible. While we cannot connect to all of our audiences to their analytical and theoretical senses of history, we can still connect to their aesthetic sense of time. What I like about Susan Hellauer and the ensemble Anonymous 4, is that their programs are very thematic and structured. They try their best to sing music in its original context, they try to draw attention to the musical experience itself and not the performers, and they organize the music in a fashion so effectively that texturally contrasts the emotional impact of each piece. I think that this is an extremely compelling approach to reaching out to the audience. While I think Marcel Peres significance of setting the mood for the audience allows the performance to transcend the modern era, I think that Susan Hellauer is also correct that the performers' "individual emotional responses to the music and texts of chant contribute to the

ensemble's artistic interpretations" (49). A performer would never perform a piece they dont believe in. Without musical integrity the essential purpose of the music is lost entirely.


Sherman, Bernard D. Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.