Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Monteverdi = Greenmountain

Claudio Monteverdi is seen as the last of the Renaissance composers, and the first of the Baroque composers. Plus, he's got a sweet name.
In his most famous work, Vespro della Beata Vergine, you can hear both the influence of the monophonic plainchant of the Gregorians, and the markedly different instrumental intricacies of the new styles.
The first movement opens with a male voice chanting, in the old style, the phrase "O God make speed to save me." Hearing only the single voice, I thought I was still lost in the familiar mystic realm of the ancients, out in the shadowed wilds. But then, like a ceiling full of chandeliers suddenly lit (I actually shook in my chair), comes the full orchestral and choral response, "O Lord make haste to help me." This ain't early music anymore. He combines masterfully the old and the new.
I wish it was easier. I find myself thinking of this constantly: how do you proceed through life so that the lessons you learn stick with you, and show up in the new situations - so that what you learn is added to, is gained upon. Monteverdi's music represents the giant snowball of Western music that had been slowly growing, collecting new techniques and instruments, having begun as a simple chanted melody during the time of the Byzantine empire. His Vespro is a huge ball of lutes, harpsichords, violas, counterpoint technique, new harmony, and choir voices.
Hot damn, I want that. Every word should brim with the knowledge of the learned - of time experienced. I think this is called wisdom.
My poems are my memory, and my teachers. They walk behind me in a motley gang, making strange noises - birds, creatures, plants, robed figures - heads bobbing. I want to feel them there, reteaching me what they taught me, so painfully and beautifully, once before.

No comments: