Author Topic: Ensemble Organum  (Read 2431 times)

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Offline PereJoseph

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Ensemble Organum
« on: September 22, 2011, 08:24:04 PM »
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  • I am very much a fan of Marcel Peres's musicological interpretation of the ancient chants, as found in his group Ensemble Organum.  Given what I know of mediaeval history -- an age of saga, beards, open spits, pilgrimages on foot across Europe and to the Holy Land, and, of course, the Crusade ! -- this seems to be more consistent with what I believe I have understood of the mediaeval general spirit and mentality.  In contrast, it seems to me that the high-pitched airiness of Solesmes is a bit too buttoned-up and soft; I am not sure it would fit in in the Middle Ages.  I am sure we are all familiar with Solesmes, but here are two samples :





    It kind of sounds like a choir of young men, no ?  In itself, I cannot object, since it certainly makes me think of the Mass and lifts my mind to prayer.

    And then there are the common chants one experiences at most Traditional liturgies these days.  This one, composed in the 1740s and sung here according to Solesmes chant, would be foreign to the robust lords and peasants of the Age of Faith with their calloused hands and feet (or so it seems to me) :




    But we must also consider these chants in their historical context and determine whether or not they are in any way a departure from the ancient spirit of chant maintained during the healthiest times in the history of the Church.  Thus, here is Ensemble Organum in all of its raw power :







    I invite you to compare and contrast the chants and share your thoughts on their relative merits and demerits.

    I will start :  Frankly, I think Ensemble Organum is great.  They are somewhat controversial, and it seems that most ecclesiastics have very little time for them.  Perhaps this is just inertia.  The monks at Solesmes started studying the ancient chants and their performance under Dom Gueranger.  Unfortunately, this was during one of the absolute worst times conceivable for such a project -- the late XIXth century, when the studies of the Middles Ages were very shoddy (at best) if not absolutely ridiculous, and the manners were very emphatic about "civilisation" and metropolitan urbanity, not to mention misplaced severity that often manifested itself as prudishness.  In the Anglo world, this was the height of the Victorian era.  Therefore, I cannot help but think of the product put out by Solesmes, at least in comparison to the interpretation of Ensemble Organum, as being very much of its time -- not Gothic but neo-Gothic, not mediaeval but a sanitised, almost Platonic version of the concept of mediaevalness as understood in the late-XIXth century.

    Ensemble Organum, on the other hand, relies on Corsican singers that were specifically recruited by Marcel Peres from the towns on that island due to their folk singing, which is still intact from the Middle Ages.  It was conceived in the late 1970s, during the modern revival of Mediaeval Studies which began shortly before then and still maintain today, as seen, for instance, in the books of Regine Pernoud and other historians, such as Jean Richard.  (Indeed, that has been one of the incidentally good effects of post-modernism -- in History, it has distanced people from neo-Marxism and blatant Freudianism, as well as from any attempt to mythologise or ideologise history rather than just investigate and give summaries of it.)  Anyway, it is my opinion that Marcel Peres's interpretation is more accurate than the Solesmes method; it seems to give sense to the whole ethos of the famous ages of St Bernard, St Francis, and St Louis.  Perhaps I am relying too much on intuition, being no musicologist (I can't even read music !), so I would like to hear from anybody else if they think there are flaws in my analysis.

    By the way, this doesn't quite fit into either "school," being German, but this is quite good too, I think :

    (I play that last one all the time; it's amazing.)

    P.S.  To broaden the discussion, it is my hope that the method of Ensemble Organum (perhaps with some modifications if it is found appropriate) spreads to more Traditional congregations than the current number of zero.  I know that the local priest and me are already working on it.

    Offline PereJoseph

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    « Reply #1 on: September 22, 2011, 08:44:11 PM »
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  • By the way, make sure to play it loud !  Fill the whole room you're sitting in with sound !  Then, close your eyes and imagine yourself in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or revering the True Cross when it was found in Antioch on the First Crusade, or perhaps in Rome in the time of Saint Gregory the Great.

    This aspect of the Christian religion (by which I exclusively mean the Catholic Faith) seems to be somewhat lost due to circumstances and the general saecularisation of the governing powers within the past seven hundred years or so : The idea of the Faith as piligrimage to Jerusalem.  The word "Crusade" was coined centuries after the last one.  At the time when there were people actually taking the Cross and going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, that's all they called it : Going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, taking the Cross, going to the Holy Land, defending the Holy Places, etc.  If you think about it, the whole spiritual life is a pilgrimage to Jerusalem : literally, if we were to actually go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and walk where Our Lord walked, visiting the holy relics and churches there and giving the Blessed Trinity their due homage; liturgically and ecclesiologically, since every church is a symbol of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the chancel/rood screen (or ikonostasis or veil, in Byzantine and Armenian liturgies, respectively) being the separator of the city from the Temple (in this case, the choir), the Holy of Holies being the sanctuary and altar proper, the tabernacle being, obviously, the Ark of the Covenant, and thus also a symbol of Our Lady (likewise, the Elect of the Mystical Body of Christ progress through time unto ; morally, since through the struggles of this valley of tears, and in overcoming the obstacles of our faults, we (hopefully) progress through the extent of our lives on the thin and narrow path to Paradise with the Good Lord; and, finally, eschatologically, in the sense of the Heavenly Jerusalem, where the Great King of Heaven will sit enthroned for eternity.  Thus, mystically, the Knights Templar were acting as God's holy arms !  And the Knights Hospitaller and the charitable orders were acting, mystically, as His medicine, almost symbols of grace itself !

    As Christians, we are on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  This aspect of the Faith was believed so earnestly in the Age of Faith that it was palpable -- indeed, many went on pilgrimage (on foot or by sea) to Jerusalem.  When Christians were being attacked by Mohammedan thugs en route to that city and the same Mohammedans were invading the Byzantine Empire and desecrating the Holy Places, the Roman Pontiff decided to step in and inspire his children to end these outrages with the noblest and most generous of motives.  Unfortunately, the nobility and generosity of these motives were not universally kept or long-lasting, and the whole effort of the original pilgrimage was sidelined (...for now).


    Offline Catholic Samurai

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    « Reply #2 on: September 22, 2011, 10:09:27 PM »
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  • Quote from: PereJoseph

    But we must also consider these chants in their historical context and determine whether or not they are in any way a departure from the ancient spirit of chant maintained during the healthiest times in the history of the Church.  Thus, here is Ensemble Organum in all of its raw power :









    This is my kind of chant! I never get to hear chant being sung this way.  :incense:
    "Louvada Siesa O' Sanctisimo Sacramento!"~warcry of the Amakusa/Shimabara rebels

    "We must risk something for God!"~Hernan Cortes


    TEJANO AND PROUD!

    Offline Raoul76

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    « Reply #3 on: September 22, 2011, 10:13:26 PM »
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  • I have a couple of Marcel Perès CDs but haven't listened to them in a while.  Some of them I've never listened to.  I have the Gradual of Eleanor of Bretagne, the Mass of Tournai, Parisian Plain Chant, the Easter Day Vespers, a CD of Corsican chant...  

    They are extraordinarily evocative.  But somehow they seem more like an imagined version of medieval ecclesiastical music than the real thing.  There is also what I'd call a pronounced ecumenism in the sound -- some of this stuff has a decided Muslim character, with warbling that sounds like a muezzin in his tower.  Or it savors of Orthodox music.  The idea is that these medieval civilizations were a melting pot and perhaps they were but I doubt that Church music reflected it.  Just because knights fought in the Crusades doesn't mean that Catholic music became Middle Eastern-tinged. Something about it feels contrived.  Perhaps I'm wrong and this was what chant was really like; but I'm pretty sure it wasn't.
     
    If there is such a thing as tasteful imaginary ecumenism put into music then Peres has found the lodestone.  Perhaps it's Vatican II anti-Christ music for people with taste, in that it's not New Agey and has a classy feel to it yet seems to send a kind of "the Catholic Church is opening the windows to the world" subliminal message.  

    I have heard good things about their Hildegard von Bingen CD, that is was much more accurate than the overtly New Agey ones like A Feather on the Breath of God recorded on Hyperion ( at least I assume they're new agey, it's the impression I get ).  
    As I was a new convert when posting here, my posts are often full of error, even unwitting heresy and rash judgment, all of which I renounce, and all my writings are best avoided -- MDLS

    Offline Graham

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    « Reply #4 on: September 24, 2011, 06:09:25 PM »
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  • I like it. I'm not adverse to the idea that Gregorian Chant once sounded more Eastern than it does today. After all, Gregory the Great codified Western plainchant after he returned from an ambassadorship in Constantinople.


    Offline Kephapaulos

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    « Reply #5 on: September 25, 2011, 08:13:57 PM »
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  • I like Ensemble Organum. I have some of their albums like the one with Guillaume de Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame, La Messe de Tournai, and the one with Johannes Ockeghem's Requiem Mass.
    "Non nobis, Domine, non nobis; sed nomini tuo da gloriam..." (Ps. 113:9)

    Offline Kephapaulos

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    « Reply #6 on: September 25, 2011, 08:21:03 PM »
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  • Here's the Gloria from the Mass of Tournai:

    It has probably one of the longest Amens ever sung.

    Just also imagine it being sung here at the cathedral in Tournai:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tournai_nave.jpg

    "Non nobis, Domine, non nobis; sed nomini tuo da gloriam..." (Ps. 113:9)

    Offline PereJoseph

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    « Reply #7 on: March 04, 2013, 12:57:58 PM »
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  • This is an apparently German musicological interpretation of the older method of chanting (as opposed to the Solesmes interpretation or the admittedly sometimes Greek-sounding interpretation of Marcel Perès).  I really like this interpretation, though I would also like to defend the interpretation of Marcel Perès's organum as being very much in accord with the folk singing of Corsica (presumably untainted by the Oecumenists).  Some could say that Corsica must have been influenced by the Arabs by way of the Caliphate in Spain and the subsequent control of Corsica by that monarchy, or else from North Africa, or even from the Greeks proper.  I tend to find that line of argument to be rather improbable, however, given the oeumenical (not in the sense of oecumenism but in reference to the Empire's control of the entire Mediterranean and its enjoyment of the union of the ancient patriarchal sees) nature of the Roman Empire at the time when these various Western rites and singing styles were developed upon Christianisation.

    While I think there is definitely a place for the Solesmes method, I think that a good liturgical reform and the restoration of Christian culture under the Kingship of the Sacred Heart should start with this manner of chanting.  If the liturgy is to be restored to its ancient simplicity and beauty in accord with the will and reforms of of St Pius X, this seems to be a very helpful template.  Another place to look would be, of course, the liturgical art of the Benedictines of Beuron.

    Thoughts ?


    Offline Graham

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    « Reply #8 on: February 14, 2014, 09:20:50 PM »
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    The quilisma, written as a jagged note, never appears alone but always within a neume, where it normally fills the interval of a third. According to the Solesmes monks, the preceding note is to-be "notably lengthened," and the quilisma itself "must always be rendered lightly." More probably, the original effect was some sort of tremolo or trill. Indeed, as far as one can judge from contemporary descriptions, many of the ornaments indicated by special neumes were suspiciously Oriental in character. We can be certain, at any rate, that plainchant in the centuries before A.D. 1000 sounded quite unlike the performances that are so highly prized today.


    Medieval Music by Richard Hoppin, pg 62

    Offline Memento

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    « Reply #9 on: February 15, 2014, 08:36:40 AM »
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  • There is also evidence of the eastern influence on much of Medieval art and architecture, especially through the southern portions of Europe, although the influence seems to have travelled far north as is exemplified in the interior of the Orvieto Cathedral,  located in central Italy:

    http://www.bluffton.edu/%5C~sullivanm/italy/orvieto/cathedral/duomo6.html

    Offline soulguard

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    « Reply #10 on: February 15, 2014, 09:17:33 PM »
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  • Quote from: PereJoseph
    Perhaps I am relying too much on intuition, being no musicologist (I can't even read music !), so I would like to hear from anybody else if they think there are flaws in my analysis.


    There is one flaw I can see, and I see it because I am on the outside looking in. I notice that you are more emotional and subjective ever since you got married, and I comment "did you ever stop to think whether it even matters what music you like to hear"?

    It is all Catholic tradition, and though I know that thou wilt think that legitimate pleasure is not a sin and that music is one of those, perhaps think more on the value of detachment from the world, for this will lead to a holier marriage. (If you presume to take advice from me).


     

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