A review of music written using Latin texts in service of the liturgy of the Catholic Church encompassing music written in all periods with a concentration on contemporary composers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hiley on Chant

David Hiley, Gregorian Chant [Cambridge Introductions to Music]. (Cambridge: CUP, 2009) 250 pp + illustrations.

David Hiley made a monumental contribution to the availability of chant scholarship to a more general audience with the publication of his Western Plainchant in 1993. That volume was a successor to Willi Apel's Gregorian Chant which, from the late 1950s, had been the principal work, in English, for students wanting an overall introduction to the history and issues arrounding ecclesiastical chant. Whilst the new volume contains within it a summary of previous scholarship it is quite obviously quite new introducing, to an English speaking audience, some of the research Hiley and his colleagues have done in the last decade.

For composers working today with Latin texts there is always the need to look back to see what the principles were of the setting of the texts in former times. Much can be learnt and mistakes avoided particularly if sacred composition is new to the individual composer. Whilst designed as a 'taster', and probably aimed primarily at tertiary students as part of an introductory course, Hiley's 'Further Reading' advice, appearing at the end of each major section, is precise and uncluttered pointing towards the most recent sound scholarship on the subject.

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