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Alma redemptoris mater

author of text
Antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Advent to the Feast of the Purification

Several English treatises from the late medieval period describe the singing of discant, the provision of an improvised line moving note-against-note with a piece of chant. Leonel Power’s treatise dating from the first half of the fifteenth century gives full details of this kind of practice, giving many examples of how the free line might move in relation to the chant. Movement in thirds and sixths was encouraged, whilst parallel fifths and octaves were prohibited. Although improvised discant was normally performed in two parts, John of Tewkesbury’s treatise refers to a manner of performance with chant, discant, and up to three other voices moving in parallel with the chant using the fifth, octave and twelfth. This work contains a conjectural realization of this type of sound (with no claim to authenticity) based on the Sarum version of the Marian antiphon Alma redemptoris mater, combining the full five-part texture of Tewkesbury with a discant line moving in accordance with Power’s suggestions. John of Tewkesbury observes that although the sound is of many people singing at once the music is in fact very simple, with only one person singing an independent line. Although the discant line is consonant throughout with the chant itself, the use of the fifth and twelfth inevitably provide a considerable level of dissonance.

from notes by Geoffrey Webber © 2006


All the ends of the earth
SIGCD070Download only
Hail! Queen of Heaven
CSCD508Download only
Stillness and Sweet Harmony
CSCD502Download only


Track 14 on CSCD502 [1'50] Download only
Track 1 on CSCD508 [1'50] Download only
Track 10 on SIGCD070 [2'05] Download only

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