Palestrina

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The Pope Marcellus Mass is a mass written by Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina. One of the Musical movements, it was Gloria of the Ordinary. The main theme of the Pope Marcellus Mass is praising God and Jesus Christ; the literal meaning of the entire title, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” is “Glory to God in the highest.” Also a praise to the Holy Trinity, the Mass is usually performed a capella with a total of six voices, which is a multiple of three. It may not have been done on purpose, but numbers definitely do pose significance in the music. The biggest influence upon the mass though was most likely the need of reformation of Church songs. Because it was thought that complicated textured and polyphonic were ruining the songs and making them rather un-religious, the priests wanted more untainted sound. Consequently, the new songs, such as the Pope Marcellus Mass, were written as a capellas with emphasis on clarity of the words. Written in 1567, the sound of the music and voices not only represent the glorification of God, but also corresponds to the other historical events happening in Italy at the time. For example, there were many architectural achievements, especially in Rome, in the 16th century. Look at the Basilica of Saint Peter, one of the four main Basilicas. First beginning construction in 1506, it was being built throughout the 1500’s. The St. Peter’s Basilica is to this day one of the largest Christian churches. While Palestrina was writing the Pope Marcellus Mass, the construction of this religious monument most likely influenced the sound of the piece. The Mass opens with a monophonic chant and more voices come in and turns into a heterophony. The song gets louder and louder until the line “we give Thee thanks for” is emphasized, with five voices chanting it. The grand sound of the five voices together is reminiscent of the greatness of the St. Peters church, which also happens to be the place where the most Papal ceremonies take place, also thanking...
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