Monday, August 06, 2007

Antoine Brumel

Tonight, while listening to my latest favourite radio station, the third starion of Hrvatska radiotelevizija, I discovered Antoine Brumel.

I consider myself an early music lover. Perhaps I would even call myself somewhat of an aficionado of this music. I have read Music in the Renaissance by Gustav Reese, as well as the more recent Renaissance Music: Music in Western Europe, 1400-1600 by Allan Atlas, and yet, despite this, when this stunning music poured through my speakers, I was at a loss. As best as I could tell, I thought it was Thomas Tallis. It just had that kind of sound to it.

So I try to silence my toddler son who is jumping on a bed behind me, in the hopes that my rudimentary knowledge of Croatian will allow to find out who wrote this stunning piece. The fates smiled upon me, and I pierced the veil of unintelligibility long enough to determine that the piece I was listening to was an Agnus Dei by Antoine Brumel.

I've never heard of him.

So much for my self-proclaimed knowledge of the field. I suppose someone's going to want to confiscate my lute now...

Well, as any of us do these days when we know nothing but a rigid designator, or for your continental philosophy types, a name, I typed "Antoine Brumel" into google, and it delivered me right to his wikipedia entry.

Now, the big question - was what I was listening to in the Naxos Music Library? Could I pump this sweet, sweet aural liquor back into my system, to again bathe my senses in its rich broth?

Yes. It was there, in fact, it was the very recording I had been listening to on HRT, by the Tallis Scholars.

The mass I am listening to right now, the glorious, life giving bit of music, music everyone in the world should listen to, is the Missa Et ecce terrae motus, or Earthquake Mass.

Wikipedia also quickly reveals why I thought it was Tallis - the Earthquake Mass is for 12 voices, which was highly unusual for the time Brumel wrote it, if not outright unheard of. The richness reminded me of Tallis' famous Spem in alium, although the Tallis is 70 years younger, and as I listen now, it seems clearer, with the strangeness of the cadences, that we are not quite yet at the fulcrum that is Josquin, when things begin (I mean begin in the lightest possible way here) to turn towards the great aesthetic paradigm that emerged alongside probability, calculus and gravitational theory - western tonality, or the major/minor tonal system, or whatever you want to call it.

One day I will attempt to articulate in much greater detail what I mean by that, perhaps in an academic thesis, or perhaps here. Who knows.

But who cares about that. Enjoy the Brumel.


Gawain said...

I will start listening to the Croat radio -- and subscribe to Naxos.

I have been listening to Tygodnik Literacki -- Literature Weekly -- on Warsaw's PR2; nothing like this anywhere else in the world: the style of conversation, the insights, the refinement; why is all English language literary talk invariably tied up with political issues and programs?

Also getting up at 3 am to listen to the poetry corner (which is on at midnight). Is it possible that nobody in the west has thought to construct radio plays made up entirely of selections of poems?

Otto van Karajanstein said...

I wish I knew why so much english language talk is tied to political economy. But then I guess that's why I read Heaven Tree instead of the Wall Street Journal...

I highly recommend HRT, and I should say that I still listen to polish radio, despite the fact that that I understand virtually none of it!

Gawain said...

i listen to PR2 mostly for the talk shows -- and radio plays. there was a fantastic radio play 2 weeks ago on the meeting of Rossini and Wagner in Paris. They debate art and music. Then, when the servant leaves and they are alone, Rossini asks Wagner what he does to retain such beautiful hair -- Rossini had gone completely bald. Wagner says nothing - that kind of head. Ah, says Rossini suddenly, yes, of course, a different head... that explains everything, doesn't it?

Otto van Karajanstein said...

I hate to say this, but I think CBC has dropped its radio play programs. If I'm wrong, I'd appreciate being corrected on that.

My problem with all these find slavic radio stations is that I do not understand them! And correcting that problem will take a lot of work, and hopefully by the time I can understand them, they won't have gone the way of our own "cultural" programming.