Would you like to write a song that would be sang for few centuries and still be fascinating, never boring, heart opening for generations to come? Would you like to give up the copy rights for it? No fame for your name…
That happens right now in Europe. People, particularly young, are buying Winehouse, Radiohead, U2 and lately “Chant-Music for Paradise”. The last one debuted in UK as 9th in the song charts, totally unexpected, and now bunches of sociologists, psychologists and other “-gists” are trying to figure out what’s going on.
Are we overwhelmed with the speed of life, and need some calming, simplified singing to stop our havoc? Are we bored with the noisy postmodern version of music and looking for refreshing sounds for our iPods? Are we trying frantically to invent something new, but we can’t be creative and quick enough, evolving from one sound to the next, so we reach for the ancient old?
800 years old house of prayer
This story starts with one of the monks who sent the link to their music to the Universal Music. Universal was searching for something new, and they were picked.
13 Cistercian monks were picked to record the album. The chants were written few hundred years ago by anonymous monks. The ones on the album include Veni Creator Spiritus ( I sang it sooo many times before, it’s beautiful) and few funeral chants, as two of their brothers recently died and they did not feel like singing “upbeat chants”. They recorded the album in a church, praying/singing the chants. That’s what they do for living in the Stift Heiligenkreuz Abbey in Austria, founded in 1133, as a house of prayer to thank and praise God and to intercede for the sake of the whole world. It was open continually, till today. They pray 5 times a day together, chanting prayers, and working.
The phenomenal singers are asked to tour around, but they refuse, because they are called to Ora et Labora, following the order of St. Benedict.
800 years old songs
What are the characteristics of this form of sung prayer, which is “daily bread” in convents and monasteries?
Father Wallner: Gregorian chant is very ancient. It was born in the first millennium, appearing already in the 4th century, and in many aspects is addressed to the Most High.
First of all the texts are, for the most part, verses from the Bible: hence it is the word of God, which from the mouths of men returns to God in the form of singing.
In the second place, the composers of the melodies were pious anonymous men consecrated to God, mostly monks, who created the music not out of a desire for fame, but men who desired, once the work was complete, to return to total anonymity. Hence, men who in their longing for holiness created something holy.
In the third place, chant is very fascinating, inasmuch as it is situated outside our normal experience of music. There are no tones of C major or D minor, there are no tempi, there is no established rhythm; it is a song for only one voice. Hence, it is a different sound from all other sounds that we today call music. And at the same time, it is at the root of all that which subsequently developed as music.
Fourth point: chant is above all a sung prayer. We sing it always before the altar; therefore, it is not for the people, but for God. That is why we can never go on tour with our chant, because it is always a question of prayer. The recordings for the CD “Chant — Music for Paradise” were also taken from prayer. (from Catholic Online)
Gregorian chant is a form of sung prayer which has been tried and tested through the centuries. It has pre-Christian roots in the ancient Jewish Temple Liturgy. The early Christians adopted many of the ancient chants and developed them further. The Roman Church had the core of what we now know as Gregorian chant by the 7th and 8th centuries. The name “Gregorian chant” comes from Pope St. Gregory the Great (died 604) who founded a “schola cantorum,” a chant school, which collected all the existing chants.
These texts are generally taken from the Bible, the word of God. Thus the monks sing back to God the words which He has Himself given us…joining Heaven and earth. Most of the texts are taken from the Old Testament Psalms. The music is always at the service of the text—unfolding its meaning, and disposing the soul to enter into its spirit ( from their web site).