MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Lagrime di San Pietro

Overwhelmed by this late Renaissance masterpiece from the end of Orlando di Lasso’s life: Grant Gershon will lead the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a performance to open their season next month — in a new staging by the brilliant Peter Sellars.

A teaser, from an interview I just conducted with Sellars:

Lagrime is one of the most magnificent pieces in the history of music: vivid and complex and yet an incredibly humble last work .

Orlando at this point in his life — just 30 years after the death of Michelangelo — does not need to prove anything to anyone. He is writing because this is something he has to get off his chest to purify his own soul as he leaves the world. It’s private, devotional act of writing, but these thoughts are now shared by a community — by people singing to and for each other…”

Filed under: Grant Gershon, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Peter Sellars, Renaissance music, Uncategorized

“Most Strange Effects”: Sacred Choral Music from the Renaissance

josquin-des-prez

From a recent essay I wrote for the Los Angeles Master Chorale:

There’s a touch of irony in the concept of the Renaissance as a specific historical period. An inspired reawakening of respect for an age long past — classical antiquity — is considered one key aspect of the Renaissance attitude, yet that attitude itself was singled out via a backward glance. Not until the nineteenth century did historians construct what we’ve come to think of as The Renaissance, as a period clearly marked off from the “Middle Ages.”

And it’s taken even longer for the vast store of musical treasures created during the Renaissance to be recovered from the oblivion of intervening centuries — a recovery we can credit to the revolution of “early music” awareness.

So what period are we talking about? For convenience, but recognizing the arbitrariness of the dates, let’s say the standard 1400-1600, give or take. Just as with quite a few of the composers from this era, there’s no clear-cut date that unambiguously marks the “birth” of the Renaissance: proto-Renaissance traits pop up at various points throughout the preceding centuries.

Still, overall, a major shift in thinking about the art of music, its purpose, and its creators did start manifesting itself around the fifteenth century, paving the way for composers like Josquin des Prez and the others we hear on this evening’s program.

continue reading

Filed under: choral music, essay, Renaissance music

A Taste of Josquin

To the extent that anything can be said to be the work of Josquin des Prez — so popular in his time, the gold standard of quality, that his “output” increased enormously after his death thanks to a flurry of false attributions.

Martin Luther remarked: “Josquin is the master of the notes, which must do as he dictates, while other composers must follow what the notes dictate.”

Filed under: Renaissance music

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

RSS Arts & Culture Stories from NPR

  • Bob the Drag Queen
    Bob the Drag Queen discusses his wig-filled basement drag closet and his HBO docuseries We're Here. Then, Bob takes on a quiz tailored specifically to his interests, from Kesha to Whoopi Goldberg.
  • Funky Stuff, Part 2
    Cristin Milioti and Camila Mendes join house musician Jonathan Coulton for a game where funky songs are rewritten to be about things that smell funky.
  • Hallmark Holidays
    Cristin Milioti and Camila Mendes (Palm Springs) compete to see who can identify holidays based on the text of Hallmark cards.
  • In A Hurry
    Comedians Erin Jackson and Laurie Kilmartin work together to answer questions about some of the world's fastest things.
  • Foley Moley
    Comedians Laurie Kilmartin (writer for CONAN) and Erin Jackson (Last Comic Standing) face off in a game about the strange noises that go into creating movie sound effects.
  • Actor André Holland Explores: 'Where I Fit, How I Fit, If I Fit'
    Best known for his roles in Moonlight and Castle Rock, Holland has a starring role in a new radio version of Shakespeare's Richard II. Originally broadcast in 2018.
  • You May Be In Sweatpants, But COVID-19 Hasn't Stopped Haute Couture
    In a fashion first, this season's collections were presented digitally, rather than in-person, in-Paris. The virtual venue was an opportunity for designers to experiment in the online space.
  • World War II Naval Drama 'Greyhound' Charts A Trim, Efficient Course
    Tom Hanks stars in, and wrote the screenplay for, this familiar but effective tale of a Navy captain leading a convoy of merchants ships through U-boat-infested seas.
  • Dawn Wacek: How Can Libraries Be A Path Toward Inclusivity And Forgiveness?
    Are overdue library book fines necessary? Librarian Dawn Wacek wants all libraries to do away with overdue fines to make library services more inclusive and welcoming to all readers.
  • No Reading, No Peace: The Power Of Black Stories Out Loud
    The difference between owning a book by a Black author and experiencing its power lies in reading it aloud — particularly for kids' books, which can help kids speak up about their own experiences.