I mentioned the Winchester Troper in an earlier post. As it happens, I came into some Amazon.com gift certificates and as a result, "Christmas in Royal Anglo-Saxon Winchester," a CD of music from the troper, arrived yesterday.
I was slightly disappointed that the liner notes didn't include any mention of how they reconstructed the music. That's probably a lot to ask from liner notes when there's a $220 book on the subject available. But I was hoping for a crumb or two.
I haven't finished listening to it yet, but three early impressions:
1) Yeah, that's chant. I really have to focus or else my mind wanders.
2) But if I do focus? Sweet. There's something about the melodic structure that makes it pop just a little more than some of the other chant I've listened to. I could see using some of this music for contrafacta. I've got a Cambridge Song - a haunting poem about a woman scouring the sea-shore for her absent lover - that I'd love to set to music.
3) Organum: wow. The CD opens with two monophonic pieces, and then the organum (early harmony) hits you. By modern homophonic standards, it's a thin, two-voice harmony at strange intervals. But after listening to extended monophony, it's just an amazing difference, like an orchestra suddenly swelling up from underneath a flute solo. Only not quite, because you're not suddenly lost in that sea of sound... eh, I'm not doing it much justice.
I've got Sequentia's "Edda" which makes similar switches between monophony and organum-like singing, and I don't find it nearly as affecting as this. Possibly it's a matter of pitch - Sequentia's paired singers are usually two women, whereas this recording features mostly male voices (there's one female soprano).
I'm very pleased with my purchase.