Sunday, January 25, 2009

Giovanni's room

This morning when I went to 9 a.m. Mass I finally got my act together and so I was able to listen to Palestrina in the car on the way there.

Let us all bow down. Because here is what I had to do to pull that off. No. 1 I had to see the Palestrina CD where it was lying on the table near the door, on top of a pile of neglected mail. No. 2 I had to pick it up and put it in my purse. No. 3 when I got into the car I had to remember it was there and put it into the CD player.

For months I have not been able to do that!

I have a story about Palestrina, whose portrait graces today's post, and how I came to love his music. It was about three years ago and I was on my way home from a June in Buffalo event. It wasn't quite a concert. What had happened was, the contemporary composer Steve Reich was there with his wife, Beryl Korot. (Well, of course he is a contemporary composer, duh, or else he would not have been there. That is something to think about.)

Steve Reich and his wife showed a movie called "Three Tales" they had made about the Hindenburg disaster, the Bikini Island nuclear test disaster, and I forgot what other disaster. There was another disaster but I am afraid it is lost to the mists of my memory, which is probably just as well because I have enough these days to stress me out! What I do remember was, oddly enough, I enjoyed the evening. I do not remember being impressed with it music-wise but I came away from it with all kinds of ideas it had given me, about how you could put a story together, new ways to organize things and think things out.

When it comes to organizing things I need all the help I can get!

Anyway, as I was pulling out of the UB parking lot I turned on my car radio. And this music came out of it. And I knew right away it had to be Palestrina. I had heard Palestrina only here and there but this music, this music was magic. It was so luminous. I am thinking I tend to overuse that word "luminous." I use it too often and then you run into music that actually sounds as if it is lit from within, and you don't know how to say it.

That was a wonderful evening to be hit with Palestrina because my mind was so open and so ready for it. "This is Palestrina," I thought. "This has to be Palestrina." If you love music you have probably had moments like that, when you are missing a link -- maybe something you have not gotten around to listening to -- and all of a sudden you find it and right away you know it, you recognize it.

So today, ladies and gents, I give you a motet by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, the man whose music I fell in love with that night on my way home from UB. I think this psalm epitomizes his music's timeless, luminous feeling. The artwork to this video is nice too!

And here is the transcendent Kyrie from the great Pope Marcellus Mass. What is that big "1" doing there? We talk about the mysteries of music. That is one (1).

C'mon, you have time for one more. Here is a Credo, sung by a choir of men and boys at what I gather to be Westminster Cathedral in London.

I like how the narrator describes the final "Amen" as "a beautiful cascade of sound."


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