Wednesday, February 02, 2005

O Magnum Mysterium

Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium" performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conductor Paul Salamunovich:

Because of its seemless and flowing texture, it is hard to define moments of cadential pause. This task is made more difficult due to the mixing of voices. Perhaps identifying such distinction is easier for more discriminating ears, but I find the effect it produces upon me one of mystery and continuous development. Seventeen seconds into the recording, there is a potent dissonance at a forte dynamic which then resolves into assonance and softness (ti do in sop? -it resolves a half-step up). The effect opening is repeated (but I do not believe exactly), thus creating a vaguely chantlike effect, although the texture be multi-voiced. There is a lulling and gentle undulation between stronger and softer dynamics. Dissonance between two voices presents itself in a moment of passion and then gracefully resolves into the warm and gentle harmonies of the unified texture very much as taffy is pulled apart and brought together again. Two minutes and forty-five seconds into the recording, the soprano line dips into a sweet, rich clash which it sustains for a few counts before resolving. It then repeats this gesture. Throughout there is a soaring, then falling soprano motif (often fa mi re mi la). Tonally it moves slowly like a wide river, but the ending seems to fade away out of audio range. As far as I can tell it ends on a PAC, and does not really pause or give strong cadential sentiments in general which it approaches several times (but by the end it's quite soft, so it's hard to hear if the piece was left dangling at a half cadence or if it closed itself with an authentic--though the overall feeling produced in that of closure, and when I listened with my ear to the speaker I could tell it ended on an authentic, though the men's voices were so soft it was hard to hear if the lowest not was on mi or do).

I love the dissonances, how they seem to be like one voice breaking into two and who then rejoin the ocean of sound waiting to swallow them. I love the texture of voices and how well they blend. The drone of the combined harmonies I find very peaceful. I love it when the soprano soars clearly over the top of the texture and then folds back into it like dough or clay. I am both emotionally roused and sated at once. I enjoy its peace and fluidity, and how it sinks slowly into silence at the end.

1 comment:

Scott Spiegelberg said...

I like the simile of taffy pulling! The ending is indeed very soft, part of the mystery and a sense of eternity for this work.