Please read the preface to the following musical examples. Then listen to the music and write about the characteristics that you hear for each, trying to answer the questions asked. Then, tell me which one you liked best and why.
Both pieces are based on a Catholic prayer, the Ave Maria (in Latin), meaning that both examples use the same text, but the treatment of the music is different.
*Do not listen with 21st century ears! Put yourself in these people’s shoes. I’ve given you some pictures to help you visualize the time and place of this music.
1. Ave Maria – Gregorian chant from the Middle Ages
Pretend you are a faithful, obedient peasant in the 12th Century (1100’s) in the outskirts of Paris, in France. It is a Sunday morning and you’ve finished a hard week working your lord’s land. After long days of hard work, you would usually retreat to your shack to have something to eat (probably not much) and be with your family, some of whom might be sick and malnourished. The sound of music would not have been a habitual thing, only a gift from God on the seventh day. Since it’s Sunday, you attend church in your best clothes to listen to the priest speak the word of God, yet you wouldn’t be able to understand much since the service is in Latin.
Still, you’re in this big, ornamented Gothic church, feeling little in the presence of the huge altar, scary gargoyles, stained glass windows, when the church starts singing this Gregorian chant, in one single voice to glorify God:
What would you feel? Would the music help you maintain your faith in the Catholic church as an institution and as a religion? Would you be fearful of what you hear in the music or is it calming and soothing to your soul? Would you be getting some sort of spiritual message although you might not know Latin? Do you think you might like coming each Sunday to listen to this music? Or would you rather stay home and dance to some estampies?
2. Ave Maria – Josquin des Prez – Renaissance
Flash forward 400 years. You are a middle class merchant in Rome, Italy in the 1500’s. Your work has taken you to nearby countries, you’ve met people from different places, you have learned how to read and write. Although you’re not an intellectual, you have read some books and have some understanding of geography, science and you’ve seen and heard the work of contemporary artists like the painters Michaelangelo, Boticelli and composers like Josquin. It’s Sunday again, and you attend mass at the newly built Sistine Chapel. You are able to appreciate the frescoed paintings in the ceiling by Michaelangelo, and other famous painters.
The service is in Latin, and although you don’t speak Latin, you know the common prayers and understand what they mean. Then, the choir starts singing Josquin’s Ave Maria. You’ve heard of Josquin, since he had worked in Rome and his music was very popular and had influenced many other composers of the time. The music is polyphonic, blurring the religious text, but heightening the spiritual impact:
What would you feel with this music? Would it help you keep your faith in the church? Does it inspire any fear on you, or is it peaceful and serene and actually soothes you? Would you look forward to Sundays and hearing this music in church? Would this music be something completely different to what you would hear in the streets or at a gathering?
*Finally, tell me which version you liked best and why.
These questions should be answered in at least one page, double spaced and 12 pt font.
(You should have 3 answers, one for each musical example and your thoughts on which one you liked best and why)