Tag Archives: music

Sounds

Listening to a Corelli sonata after lunch it occurred to me that nothing else I listen to on a regular basis comes anywhere near that for beauty. The sound of the wrens singing at dawn is possibly second. Silence is right up there. There are some faint sounds of rain or surf drowned out by other noises during the day. At night they can be gently pleasant Most anything else is beautiful only by association (the sound of a friend’s voice, for instance), not in itself; the rest is simply unpleasant: the sounds of metal being cut, hammering, drilling, honking, wheels on cement, loud motors, the harsh voices and jangling music of advertisements, and so on.

Learning some music this morning was pretty.

But the sonatas aren’t even in the same category. What a treasure to be able to listen to something so beautiful. Here’s some example:

Holy Word

As I was working on the previous post I wrote about how the poetry and old language reminded me of ornament on clothing. In fact, I vaguely remembered some snippets of Scripture that refer to “variety”, with this meaning of elaborate ornament. When I went searching, I found this:

“The daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory. The queen stood on thy right hand, in gilded clothing; surrounded with┬ávariety.”
[Psalms 44:10]

In fact, I was swept into the beauty of the beginning of that Psalm, too, which is (was) chanted at various times in the ancient liturgy of the Church, such as at the clothing of religious sisters, or at the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and other Marian feasts, and at the feasts of some Holy Virgins, such as Saint Lucy. The chant is titled Eructavit cor meum, if you wish to search further on the subject, you can use this Chant database or other online resources. It goes:

[2] My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the king; My tongue is the pen of a scrivener that writeth swiftly. [Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum; dico ego opera mea regi. Lingua mea calamus scribae velociter scribentis.]

[3] Thou art beautiful above the sons of men: grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever. [Speciosus forma prae filiis hominum, diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis; propterea benedixit te Deus in aeternum.] (Source)

And then a bit later is the part about variety (the whole psalm is gloriously beautiful, I am struggling not to post it all!):

[9] Myrrh and stacte and cassia perfume thy garments, from the ivory houses: out of which [Myrrha, et gutta, et casia a vestimentis tuis, a domibus eburneis; ex quibus delectaverunt te]

[10] The daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory. The queen stood on thy right hand, in gilded clothing; surrounded with variety. [filiae regum in honore tuo. Astitit regina a dextris tuis in vestitu deaurato, circumdata varietate.] (And there’s the varietate that I was remembering.)

[11] Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: and forget thy people and thy father’s house.[Audi, filia, et vide, et inclina aurem tuam; et obliviscere populum tuum, et domum patris tui.] (You might recognize this as an antiphon chant often found in Marian liturgies and the Masses of Holy Virgins.)

[12] And the king shall greatly desire thy beauty; for he is the Lord thy God, and him they shall adore. [Et concupiscet rex decorem tuum, quoniam ipse est Dominus Deus tuus, et adorabunt eum.]

In any case, in the interest of comparison I was going to post a modern translation, too, but I was appalled to find that it is so changed that though for some scholarly purposes it may be ‘more accurate’ linguistically it destroys my relationship with the Holy Word. When centuries of chant, art, poetry, commentary, and prayer and based on a specific holy text, and millions of believers have lived and loved that text, to toss it out and replace it with something ‘more accessible’ or ‘more accurate’ completely misses the point.

In the interests of love of my Holy Mother Church, here are the two aforementioned antiphons in a variety of musical settings:

Vain Repetitions

I’m likely to just write about the same things over and over. I don’t think God minds. The birds praise their Creator with the same song each morning. It must be something to see from God’s eyes, as it were: the dawn rolling across the turning earth, pole to pole. Along that line of light arises a song of millions of birds, insects, animals, and the chants and calls of human prayer. And at dusk the same again, quieting into the gentle symphony of crickets and night birds as the darkness passes over.

If one could hear it all from the stratosphere, it would surely be amazing. Perhaps a sort of symphony in itself, with diminuendos over the oceans (though perhaps the fish sing in a range we cannot perceive with human ears?). And along with this surge of song, the crackles and hisses of storms, the groans of the dying, the cries of the newborn, the crashes of war, the peaceful rhythms of weaving, dancing, and chewing; the clop and jingle of harnessed horses, the hum and laughter of mealtime conversations, the crackle of motor vehicles.

Perhaps we have the advantage in listening from where we are – to only a small portion of the symphony, which to our small ears would be cacophony if heard all at once.