Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Top of the pops, circa 1450
I thought this would make a good item for show and tell.
About 20 years ago -- I was living in Philadelphia and working as a horse-and-carriage driver at the time -- I bought this piece of music out of my love for music in general.
It's Italian, from the 15th century and is written on vellum, or sheepskin. It had been part of a church songbook that some genius long ago likely took apart so as to sell the leaves individually for maximum profit.
When I was much younger, I could read music. This ability has since atrophied into illiteracy. But I can follow the general course of the melody, even if the musical notation is different from that used today.
The Latin words are a mystery to me, though. I recognize an allelujia here, an os quia omnia there, but it's mostly Greek to me. (Any of you lovers of Latin out there wanna give a crack at a translation?)
The thing that most moves me is that even after 600 years, this melody still fills the air, even if sung by a choir whose delicate voices can be heard only in my imagination.