Scholar of medieval and Renaissance music gives two lectures on sacred music

This week Prof. William Mahrt (Stanford University) will present two lectures on sacred music and Gregorian Chant. The first, entitled "What Makes Music Sacred?" will take place this Thursday, October 18 at 7PM in Social Sciences 122 and the second, "Gregorian Chant as Splendor Formae of the Liturgy" will take place this Friday, October 19 at 4PM in Classics 110.

William Mahrt is Associate Professor and Director of Early Music Singers at the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Stanford University, President of the Church Music Assocation of America, and editor of Sacred Music, the oldest continuously published journal of music in North America. His research interests include theory and performance of Medieval and Renaissance music, troubadours, Machaut, Dufay, Lasso, Dante, English Cathedrals, Gregorian chant, and Renaissance polyphony.

About the lectures

What Makes Music Sacred?

While it is easy to recognize traditional forms of sacred music—Gregorian chant, classical polyphony, organ music, choral music, and vernacular hymns—it is difficult to pinpoint what it is that makes music “sacred.” This lecture will reflect upon the relation of the sacred and the beautiful in the liturgy. It will consider what is meant by “sacred,” as distinguished from “holy” and place those things considered sacred in the context of their reception and intrinsic suitability.

Gregorian Chant as Splendor Formae of the Liturgy

A principal Medieval definition of beauty is splendor formae, the manifesting of the very nature or form of a thing. While the liturgy can be described as a great divine action, it is also comprised of a variety of discrete chants. Being entirely sung, its Gregorian chants differentiate the character and function of each action and thus express a purposeful variety. This lecture will illustrate the beauty of the liturgy by comparing these chants—particularly the gradual and alleluia in relation to the responsories of the Divine Office.

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