Conductus, organum, and discantus may not be words in your everyday vocabulary, but these terms identify musical forms that defined everyday musical activity during one of music history's most fruitful periods. The 12th century in France, especially in Paris–the artistic, educational, and religious center of Western Europe–saw enormous progress in the arts, architecture, and education. Not surprisingly, technical and theoretical aspects of music advanced as well. On this disc, the six-voice men's ensemble Lionheart demonstrates in vivid, rich vocal tones the sometimes stark but always powerful sound of Medieval chant and its expanded two- and three-part forms. The liner notes give clear explanations of the compositions and provide the listener with meaningful historical context. But listening to these excellent voices is not just an educational experience. The music has an inherent purity, sensuality, and honesty that's refreshing and reassuring.
…The unison singing is quite remarkable for its clarity and smoothness. The singers have discovered, too, how to manage repercussions, subtly but entirely convincingly. The ordering of the recital, with its frequent use of First Mode pieces juxtaposed, and its judicious groupings, is successful and never monotonous. The listener is left with a good sense of how sacred music was developing in the 12th century by leaps and bounds in so many directions, even to the extent of cantillated readings being occasionally sung in three parts.
In a world growing increasingly smaller, China still seems a faraway and exotic land, with secrets and mysteries of ages past, its history and intentions veiled from most Westerners. Yet behind that veil lies one of the most amazing civilizations the world has ever known. For most of its 5,000-year existence, China has been the largest, most populous, wealthiest, and mightiest nation on Earth. And for us as Westerners, it is essential to understand where China has been in order to anticipate its future. This course answers this need by delivering a comprehensive political and historical overview of one of the most fascinating and complex countries in world history.