School of Notre Dame Sequentia Essay

Submitted By florencio2ds
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Pages: 5

Notre-Dame-Schule = School of Notre-Dame / Phillipe le Chancelier. Sequentia, dir. Benjamin Bagby (Harmonia Mundi D-7800 Freiburg)
Florencio Martinez Jr. Thirteenth century Europe left behind hundreds of works from many composers of the infamous Notre-Dame School who remain unknown to this day. Only two well-known composers from this period are widely known: Leonin and Perotin. What we know of Perotin’s music reveals the name of someone who contributed the text to many of his works: Philip the Chancellor of Notre Dame (Philippe Le Chancelier) - poet, theologian, and alleged composer. Philip is a mysterious and controversial figure of music history which may have been what allured Sequentia to record some of his works. Though he was known for his poetry among composers of the Notre Dame School, there were far few others who knew Philip the Chancellor composed his own music. Such a fact was not suggested until fellow French poet Henri d’Andeli wrote “The lai of Chancellor Philip” in 1236 after his friend’s death. Although, today, we know only of anywhere between 80 to 90 songs which can be attributed (with high probability) to this man, it is unknown as to which songs he wrote his own melodies to. As one can imagine, this must have proved quite a difficult challenge when the group, Sequentia, ultimately decided to undertake the process of recording songs allegedly written by Philip the Chancellor. This begged the question as to how they were going to select songs that could have both been the likely work of this man and best represented the kind of composer whom he was. Luckily, Philip was not a quiet individual and left a substantial impression to his contemporaries of a man who fought for justice against corruption in the State and even in the Church. As vocal as he must have been in person, he must have written his music with the same amount of fervor and zealous passion. In the end, the repertory recorded to the album was probably chosen for two reasons. The ideal songs had to be well-rounded selections of music likely written by such an outspoken poet and historical figure. More importantly, the collective works needed to paint a three-dimensional picture of Philip de Chancellor’s personality. The album’s repertory consists of several compositional styles used throughout France and Europe from the tenth to the thirteenth century: the conductus, lai, sequence, and rondellus. The lai and the sequence play very strongly to Philip’s skill as a poet to utilize rhythm and meter. For example, we can see the use of the lai in Clavus pungens acumine where the text is written in octosyllabic couplets with each and every eight-line stanza not having the same form as the last one (first stanza: ABABAAAB; second stanza: CDDCDCCD; last stanza: CECECECE). True to the style, the text of the song reads as a narrative bringing the mind the bloody image of Christ’s passion, speaking of the nails as the keys to spiritual salvation and how it has been forgotten by the leaders of the Church:
“It is to you, pastors, I speak, you who hold the keys, you who, through luxury of life, reject the keys of Christ!” According to Grove Music Online Dictionary, a sequence is defined as “text consisted mostly of a series of couplets each having two isosyllabic lines sung to the same melody; each couplet was different from the preceding couplet in melody and usually in length.” This definition leads me to believe that the eighth track, Veritas, equitas, is a strong example of a sequence in both text and performance. The first three stanzas start off with six-syllable lines and later the stanzas are lengthened to eight and even ten-syllable lines followed by short sections which alternately slow and speed up the tempo! Barbara Thornton’s voice is featured as the solo voice in fourteen-minute song. Amazingly - staying true to the Grove definition - she does not seem to repeat the same melody in each succeeding couplet. The…