Music of the Ages

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Date Submitted: 11/28/2012 12:27 PM

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Dies Ire, which translates into “Days of Wrath,” was composed by Thomas of Celano from 1200 to 1265. The composition was sung in Roman Catholic masses for the dead or at funerals, and it depicts what happens to the saved and unsaved once they die. The piece appears to be in G modal – the only accidental I hear is an F-sharp, but the song does not appear to be in major or minor, which was common for pieces in this time period. Thus, this modal key gives the piece a sense of identity in terms of the time period it was written in. The version I listened to was performed by a male a capella group. The texture of the piece is monophonic, with every performer singing the melody without an accompanying harmony. The performers are also singing in unison, singing the same pitches at the same time. The tempo of the piece appears to be largo – fairly slowly and broadly. The meter is duple, with stresses put on every other syllable, making the piece sound like a trochaic poem. The dynamics are interesting because on the odd numbered verses, there are only two or three performers singing mezzo-piano, and on the even numbered verses several more performers join in and the piece turns forte. The melody of the piece stays constant the entire time with almost no change, to reinforce the message of damnation and salvation to the people at the mass.

Ave Regina Caelorum, composed by Guillaume Dufay in 1464, was a piece written for worship. It was usually sung in the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official set of daily prayers recited by the clergy. It was also sung at some funerals, with pleas for mercy recited in between the verses. The performing forces are a group of four people, both male and female, singing a capella. The texture of this piece is mostly polyphonic, with a clear melodic voice accompanied by harmonies. There are also some sections where each of the four voices sings independently, one after the other, while repeating the same...