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Word Count: 953
Magister Leoninus Viderunt Omnes When George Gershwin wrote I Got Rhythm he knew that for generations to come listeners and performers alike would have a good idea of what he meant After all there would be recordings and piano rolls of his actual performances of the piece Not to mention a standardized notation system to guide future performers Alas no such musical preservatives were available to Magister Leoninus in the last half of the 12th century presuming he would have wanted them even if they had existed What were his sonic intentions Well cover some of the possibilities using two very different recordings of his version of the Gradual from the Mass Proper Viderunt Omnes One interpretation by the EMCL C 1975 utilizes a strict metrical rhythmic structure while the other example by the Ensemble Organum C 1990 features a much freer rhythmic approach These will be referred to as metric and free respectively The metric version has a Western feel that would seem more correct to ears of European leaning or learning Much as we tend to view the past through the prism of today those who eventually set these ancient chants in standardized notation saw them through an equally tainted gaze The Benedictine monks left most ornamentation out of their chant settings C 1900 because they viewed it as an 18th Century tradition1 This bias along with a need to have an easily learnable piece of music tended to simplify rather than embellish the standardized arrangement True it could be argued that the text has a certain rhythmic lilt conspectum gentium however only one writer from the period around 1300 noted any parallel between the rhythmic modes and poetic meter2 Hardly a case for common practice To my ears this metric version sounds stilted and stoic Almost as if it has been stuffed into ill-fitting clothes by a nearsighted tailor I find the addition of a bell reinforcing
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