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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chant: Music for the Soul

Some relaxing Gregorian chant from the Cistercian monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz
You can buy their popular CD (tens of thousands sold) at the Holy Cross bookshop.

"It's a pretty safe bet that very few of Universal Music's recent signings count Pope Benedict XVI among their fans. But the pontiff is a definite admirer of the latest boys in the hood(s) to sign globally to Universal Classics"

Here's a nice newspaper article on the monks :)

A sense of timelessness is part of the attraction of the chants, which are sung in Latin and, unlike most music, don't have a fixed rhythm and are sung in unison. They are composed in eight "modes", with the words taken from the Bible, usually psalms.

Another monk, Edmund, explained that the origins of the chant lay in pre-Christian Jewish liturgy, but they were assembled and collected by Pope Gregory in the 7th century, and began to be written down in the 11th century. "The monks sing back to God the words he has given us. They are not written by any monk in particular, but developed over the centuries."

The success of the record doesn't seem to have affected the monks' lives too much - the monastery is already a well-known tourist attraction, attracting more than 100,000 visitors a year and the church is packed at feast days and Christmas. "We do find that more people come to hear us sing at vespers," said brother Edmund. The abbot has decreed that they will not perform in any shows, or on television but that people who want to hear the music live can visit the monastery.

"What we are doing is not an artistic performance but continuous prayer," said Johannes Paul. "That is one reason people love the music so much - art and the sacred have become separated in the modern world."

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