I’ve discovered the perfect time to listen to mystic chants of the middle ages – at 4 a.m. with headphones – on those mornings when insomnia strikes. Having a choir of men or women sing in monophonic Latin while it’s pitch dark and my consciousness drifts between dreamland and here is a serene musical experience. I can understand why monks like to get up early to chant.
I’ve been on a classical music kick lately, ever since I bought sixty classical records from the Friends of the Library bookstore. What got me to jump back in time over a thousand years though, is buying How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd Edition from The Great Courses, taught by Professor Robert Greenberg. Now I didn’t pay the $349.95 at The Great Courses site, but $9.56 to Audible.com. Many of The Great Courses are now available at Audible.com for just one credit each. Credits run $9.56-$15.95 depending on how many you buy at once, but at those prices it’s worth joining Audible.com just to buy these audio lectures. This one from Dr. Greenberg runs 48 lectures, and he has many more focusing on specific eras of classical music and composers.
I’ve never really liked classical music, except for a few rare pieces, but always assume I could get into classical music through study. We’ll see. My general impression was the older the music, the less likely I would like it, but strangely enough I’m really digging the music of the Middle Ages. Who knew. Dr. Greenberg starts with what little we know about music from classical Greece and works forward in time, explaining how music evolved. I’m finding his lectures totally fascinating.
Because I subscribe to Rdio ($4.99/mo. for computer streaming, $9.99/mo. mobile devices) I have access to an almost unlimited supply of classical music. And I’ve discovered that Rdio has Naxos recordings which has a huge section devoted to Medieval music. Naxos also has a nice Introduction and History of classical music, including a service that lets subscribers stream music from over 5,000 CDs for $19.95 a year. A free subscription lets you play 25% song samples. I prefer Rdio because I can build playlists.
Exploring music covered by Dr. Greenberg with Rdio, is very exciting and stimulating. It’s very hard to put into words how this music makes me feel, but I shall write an essay about that soon.
I’m quite surprised by the music of the middle ages, especially with learning about the various developments in polyphony. The plainchants I present here are monophonic, where the singers sing just one note a time. As Dr. Greenberg illustrates, every century produced radical changes in music. It rapidly gets complicated and sophisticated. Right now I’m digging the simple stuff like you hear here. It going to take me a long time to work my way through the next thousand years.
JWH – 9/12/13