Notes & Reviews:
It's a now well-known story: earlier this year Universal UK placed ads in various religious publications encouraging monks and sacred singers to submit demos for consideration of a major recording contract. Word reached the monks of the Cistercian Abbey Stift Heiligenkreuz in Vienna, who applied via a clip they had posted on YouTube. With their rich and evocative sound The Monks were the easy favorites. It helped that Pope Benedict XVI has declared this to be one of his favorite monasteries. Suddenly these very modern Monks were poised to become an overnight sensation, seized on by widespread international media.
Chant, is the most peaceful music imaginable. Chant: Music for the Soul, is the ultimate in relaxation and stress relief - the perfect antidote to our fast-moving modern world. Chant has proven to heal, calm and also give strength; its power is timeless and universal. Previous albums of chant have sold in the tens of millions. Further fueling the huge general demand is Chant's use in the smash-hit computer game Halo - this is chant for a new computer-gaming generation. One of the earliest known forms of music dating from the early Middle Ages, Gregorian chant was popularized by Enigma and the Benedictine Monks of Silos in the early and mid-1990s. Its hauntingly simple and hypnotic sound has attracted many followers, and Universal is determined to find the real masters of this music to perform a 21st Century version.Notes & Reviews:
Chant: Music for the Soul is a series of 29 biblically inspired meditations sung by monks at the Cistercian Abbey near Vienna, Austria, where the order has existed since the year 1133. Recorded and released in 2008, the album hit number one on the Austrian pop charts and reached the Top Ten in the U.K.. Profits from sales, it is said, will fund scholarships for students from other countries who wish to study at the Abbey, known locally as Stift Heiligenkreuz. The chants, largely based upon Psalms and including the Canticle of Simeon from the Book of Luke, are grouped into four breathtaking rituals whose titles translate as "Into Paradise," "Mass for the Dead," "Night Prayer" and "Spirit of the Lord." The most striking qualities of this music are the gentleness of the voices and the spatial and acoustic dynamics of the edifice within which the chanting was carried out. Gregorian chant is sung in Latin and in unison without any instrumentation, so as to create a devotional conduit directly from a group of individuals to the deity. One very simple melodic line is sung without harmony. The chants are composed in what is described as "a free musical rhythm that rises and falls in accord with the inner meaning of the melody and the words." As is the case with a cappella sacred music from cultures all over the world, the listener might well experience a near-complete suspension of the sense of the passage of time. While conventional musicologists have often bent over backwards to deny it, the Cistercians themselves openly state that "the melodies have their ultimate roots in the Jewish Temple Liturgy." During the 1990s, a resurgence of interest in Gregorian chant took place when traditional plainsong recordings by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos began to sell in quantities usually associated with pop music. This surprising development eventually led to a series of weirdly inappropriate tribute albums to Elvis Presley, Elton John, ABBA, and Celine Dion wherein pop lyrics were incongruously filtered through the mouths of individuals who sang in the style of Gregorian chant, with instrumental accompaniment. While these crossover experiments (which corrupted the ancient formula and exploited the essence of the music) were perhaps inevitable, many feel that the results conveyed little more than shallow vulgarity and commercial debasement. Happily, and quite successfully, the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz have given the world a beautiful recording that is faithful to the humble dignity of authentic plainsong. It may be savored and appreciated by individuals of any social background or spiritual inclination. Listeners may find it at once tremendously moving and wonderfully relaxing. Twice during the proceedings the voices fall silent as the bells of Stift Heiligenkreuz reverberate throughout the ancient structure. ~ arwulf arwulf
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