spill from new musical notes --
Magnificat and Magnum,
two fleeting rainbows of sound.
Yesterday afternoon we performed the world premieres of several new works: the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis of British composer Douglas Mason, and a setting of Ut Salvetur Mundus by Jason Noble, a doctoral student in composition at McGill who is also a tenor in our choir.
Jason's piece includes some aleatoric sections, where individual singers are instructed to improvise on a set of notes or other musical instructions. I looked up the word: it comes from the Latin word alea, which means "dice." While John Cage and Charles Ives were some of the first modern proponents of "chance" or "random" elements in their compositions, there are examples dating back to the 15th century, and it's known that Mozart created a game of dice for selecting the sequence of a set of musical measures, in which each measure had several possible versions.
Before joining this choir I'd never seen this kind of musical score, and found it a little intimidating. Four years on, I'm comfortable -- works written by our director often have aleatoric passages -- and I like the unpredictability the improvisational sections lend to each performance, as well as the particular quality and sound texture such writing can create, very different from music where everything is completely written out. Jason's piece included sections of chant, and also used solo passages with underlying choral textures - I thought the result was very effective and beautiful, as well as being completely appropriate to the text, and am looking forward to performing more of his work in the future. It's such a pleasure to help bring a new musical composition to life that way, especially when it's in the presence of the composer!
Text of Ut Salvetur MundusKyrie eleison. O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio. Christe eleison. Non enim misit Deus Filium suum in mundum ut iudicet mundum, sed ut salvetur mundus per ipsum. Kyrie eleison. Amen.Lord, have mercy. O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger. Christ, have mercy. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Lord, have mercy, Amen.