For many centuries, Gregorian chant was the sole source of religious vocal music. For a number of twentieth-century composers, this seemingly necessary return to their roots is due to both the purity of the chant and the sense of peace that this musical form exudes. However, the monophony – voices in unison – that contributes to this state of timelessness generates a uniform, somewhat austere sonoristic.
That’s why I decided to harmonize certain Gregorian melodies by imagining a harmonious encounter between the horizontal writing of plainchant and the vertical writing of chord progressions.
Because of their specific melodic interest and harmonic adaptation, the parts of my Gregorian Mass are taken from several Masses of the Catholic Office. The Kyrie comes from Mass XI, the Gloria from Mass IX, the Credo from Mass III, the Sanctus from Mass IX, the Benedictus from Mass VIII and the Agnus Dei from Mass XI.
Most of the time, I’ve left the Gregorian melody unchanged. Of necessity, I have occasionally shortened it, transposed it, changed the tessitura or added a reprise, taking care that these additions do not alter its spirit.
Furthermore, in adapting the monophony of plainchant to polyphony, I was obliged, for reasons of performance convenience, to indicate metrical markings using the barlines within the Gregorian melodies. However, the original sinuosity remains unchanged.
This approach is not intended as a revision of plainchant. It is the result of a new way of thinking at the beginning of the 21st century, which joins the approaches of other composers, each one personal. Far from being a substitute, this compositional process is, on the contrary, a way of renewing with the traditions of a unique musical past that has become an essential reference point in the history of music.
The first performance took place at Saint Justin church in Levallois-Perret on April 21, 2005, with the Jeune Choeur d’Ile de France conducted by Francis Bardot.
|21 × 29,7 × 0,3 cm