August 11, 2009
Musings on motets and writing without acquiring encyclopedic knowledge on a subject
Gye Nyame recently requested a post about songs I like, which I’m going to interpret relatively loosely, because on his blog he recently mentioned motets (or rather, I see as I click over to the post in question, a particular motet), and I thought, ooh! Motets! I know about motets.
When I was a junior in high school I got it into my head that I should audition for choir. I’m not sure where the idea came from (I was… okay, and really still am, when given half a chance… a dedicated band geek), maybe from successful experiences in various musicals, but I do distinctly remember my boyfriend at the time pooh-poohing the idea. (Harrumph.) At any rate, I have a good ear, which got me into the chamber choir for my senior year. In the chamber choir we focused largely on motets, about which I went over to Wikipedia to brush up my knowledge/memories.
Whereupon I discovered that I pretty much don’t know anything about motets.
That’s an exaggeration, of course; before reading the Wikipedia entry I still knew a lot more than the average person on the street (unless we’re talking about the street right in front of, say, Juilliard). This, then, speaks to another reason I don’t end up blogging as much as I might: I know a little about a lot of subjects, and that little I know is enough to tell me how much I still have yet to learn. This is, perhaps, what marks me as a perpetual student: rarely do I feel like I know enough about a particular subject. Rarely would I even be able to define what “enough” would be; all I know is that I want to know more. (Of course, as some wingnuts are often all too content to illustrate, not everyone sees a lack of knowledge, or even simply a lack of certainty on specific details, as a deterrent to disseminating opinions via the internet.)
Anyway, though: motets. Pretty much anything I could say about them is detailed at the Wikipedia link above; in short, they’re a lovely style of a cappella vocal music that evolved from Gregorian Chant and are well worth checking out if you’re inclined to such things. My recommendations (just sort of off the top of my head) are Maurice Duruflé’s Quatre Motets sur des Thèmes Grégoriens (a 20th-century composition based on the Medieval style) and Anonymous 4’s renditions of pieces from the Montpellier Codex.
So—there we are, a post about something I kind of know a little bit about. That wasn’t so hard, was it?