Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't drink and download

Regretably, I have discovered that the strength of my objections to iTunes and Apple's DRM are inversely related to the quantity of wine I consume while surfing the Net and as a result the quantity of 'protected' music on my hard drive has increased of late.

I may not be able to share these files, but I would like to share a couple of discoveries. The first is a remarkable set of twelfth century tunes released by Naxos. They were composed by two almost anonymous composers that worked at the newly-constructed cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris.

Léonin was the earliest known composer of polyphonic organum. He also introduced a rational system of rhythm into polyphonic music and created a method of notation for it. Some suspect that he is the same person as Leonius the Parisian poet. Pérotin, also attached to the cathedral, further developed the new form and his works were preserved in the Magnus Liber, Notre Dame's 'great book' of early polyphonic music. Monophonic Gregorian chant can be soothing, but these pieces are really eerily ethereal.

Another classical 'disk' that has found its way into my iTunes library is a newish recording of a comparatively rare item on the repertoire, Mahler's orchestral arrangement of Schubert's Death and the Maiden string quartet. Fish first introduced me to it, and I soon cherished an earlier EMI recording in my record collection at Cambridge. The Austrian composer re-spun the intimate and reflective classical textures of the quartet with a far thicker weave, bringing out Romantic drama of striking urgency.

I might have woken up with a sore head and buyer's angst, but beautiful music that never dulls is a fine tonic for such afflictions. Shame about some of the other stuff I downloaded.

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