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Early Choral Music with Paul Osborne


**Morgan:** Paul, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.


**Paul:** Thank you, Morgan. Thanks for having me. It's fun to be here. I'm very excited


**Morgan:** to talk with you. For our listeners, can you give us a, kind of a rundown, who you are


**Paul:** musically? Sure. My name is Paul Osborne. I'm a local well, choral director, mostly. But I used to teach high school at San Luis Obispo, or I used to teach choir at San Luis Obispo High School for five years.


I started a group, Resonance, that we've now been having this summer choir for about 11 years. Of course, Morgan, you sing in that now for the last couple of years. Great group. I work with the local opera companies Central Coast Gilbert Sullivan and Opera San Luis Obispo. I perform as a soloist you know, during the day I work at one of our local wineries.


So I think, you know, we live in a place where we can do a little bit of everything and enjoy it all.


**Morgan:** Yes. I've met a lot of musical people here and. You really do everything. There's a lot of people who have niches, and you really do everything.


**Paul:** Yeah, we live in a great community, you know, where there's there's kind of something for everybody.


You know, if you like jazz, there's great jazz. If you like, you know, rock bands, there's a lot of live music to go to. If you like symphonies, we have a symphony. You know, we, there's just a little bit of everything. And if you


**Morgan:** like everything, then you're Paul and you do


**Paul:** everything. Yes. Yeah. And you keep way too busy.


Yes. I


**Morgan:** don't know how you do it. But we are here of all of those interests that you have. We are here specifically today to talk about one of your, I would say, do you think it's your biggest passion, early music?


**Paul:** If not my biggest, one of them for sure. And I think it's, it's one of the ones that I think is probably.


Least represented on the, on the world stage of music, you know, the one that I think still seems niche to people.


**Morgan:** Yeah. Yeah. So I think a good place to start is just, can you define early music? Like that is, it's fairly broad period and some of the stuff that you program was written not that long ago. So how would you define early music?


**Paul:** Yeah. So early music, I think we can start with. What I believe is the official definition, which is basically anything prior to Mozart, you know, anything before the flourishing of symphony orchestras and orchestral, you know genres and things like that, you know, anything that could span from Gregorian chant in the first, you know, thousand years you know, CE or two, anything to, you know, the medieval period, the Renaissance, which of course is kind of my area of specialty.


It includes the Baroque era, which is roughly the same 17th and the first half of the 18th century. And right about that time is when Mozart was big and opera became big and symphonies became big and you know, what we kind of know as, as functional Western music theory keys, all the things we associate with music now, when that stuff sort of became mainstream.


So anything prior to that is considered early music, but my particular interest kind of. Is narrower than that, you know, I, I can't even necessarily narrow it down to the Renaissance because a lot of people think of choral music in the Renaissance and they think of madrigals and things like that. But, you know, I've always had this particular love for this little subset of, of Renaissance choral music called polyphony, which is literally translated, it's from the Greek.


It means many sounds or voices. And what it is, is it is a style of music where every individual voice part is kind It's very independent and what they do is they weave together to form this amazing harmony and this amazing architecture which is just creates a wonderful effect. And so that's, that's a particular part of music that I have always had this little bit of specialty in.


Just going


**Morgan:** back, I'm curious how. Bach gets looped into that because I feel like Bach was very structured.


**Paul:** Yes, Bach was very structured. In fact, you know, usually when you study music theory or counter counterpoint, you know, counterpoint class where you study this kind of idea of polyphony, you usually study two composers as kind of model citizens in their period, you know, in the Renaissance, it was Palestrina.


Who is the great master of the Roman school. And then when you study the kind of the later type of counterpoint, they sometimes call it species counterpoint. You study Bach because he was the, you know, quintessential rule follower, you know, master of that style. And is often one of the few composers of.


Early music who is often ranked amongst those who came later, you know We still look at Bach as one of the great, you know, top masters of music and yeah, he kind of straddles that I feel like Yeah, so Bach, you know, he was born kind of in the later part of the Baroque period really he was, you know born 1685 and lived until 1750 as I recall and You know, so right around that time, you know, the world was changing into more of what we would call the classical period.


You know, we will say that with a capital C, you know, a small C classical music is like all of it, but the classical period, Mozart, Haydn, a lot of you know, opera became more prominent as a genre, symphonies, orchestral suites, concertos, a lot about solo instruments and things like that became kind of more of the mainstream, but yeah.


**Morgan:** Yeah. So this is again, as you mentioned, fairly niche. What was, how did you get into this? Was there like a key moment or something where you're like, this is cool. I really like this. Yeah.


**Paul:** You know part of it, I think as, as many of us who are still into choir, we have fond memories of probably our early choir experiences, high school choir for me.


I didn't actually join a formal choir until I was a sophomore in high school. I had, you know, been in band and played instruments and things up until then. But it wasn't really until I joined my high school choir at 15 that I, that I realized that singing with a group, especially a really good group of singers was something that was moving, honestly.


And so I remember one of my very first memories, my very first semester. I was part of this after school chamber choir. It was the Lompoc High School Madrigals, you know, about an hour and a half south of here. And we were singing, in fact, the very first piece of polyphony I've ever sung. It was called Jesu Dulcis Memoria by Victoria, who was a contemporary of Palestrina, a Spanish contemporary.


And it was, we were going to perform it on our, kind of, Christmas season concert. And we... You know, we rehearsed every day after school. I think it was an hour, like after school class. And one of those days we had, we had put up a Christmas tree in the choir room and, and it was all full of white lights and things like that.


And as choir directors do, we sometimes like to set the mood. And so one day we were just going to run this piece, Jesus Dulce's Memoria, and we turned off all the lights and we were singing this. And so like, we could barely see each other. He wasn't even directing. We were just singing this thing just out of us and listening to each other.


And it was just sort of this. moment where we went, wow, this is a group of people with no instruments that is connecting to each other that maybe, you know, some of us even outside of the choir room didn't like each other, but there was this just kind of special spark moment that happened there. And it was like, Oh, this is like why we do this.


Yeah. And, and that, that. That feeling and that kind of emotion with, with choral music, especially this choral music was has stuck with me.


**Morgan:** Yeah. Yeah. That's so powerful. And I've definitely had moments like that as well. I always laugh because you, your brain just remembers stuff. I couldn't, I could, don't think I could name a single piece I did in high school.


Eric Whitaker. No, Eric Whitaker. I thank you God. We, that one was. That was, but yeah, that's about the only


**Paul:** one. Yep. It's my special gift. I'm the complete opposite way with pop music though. I'm like, I can like sing a, like a pop song. And if you asked me who sang that or what the name of the song is, I'd be like, beats me, but like composers and pieces.


Yeah. Yeah. That's my special, you know, mental dictionary. I love it.


**Morgan:** Okay. So I, I've been in your group for like, this is my second season. I have a very frank question for you that kind of started this whole, I should have you on my podcast. Why don't I like early music until I sing it with you? Like I have sung for years.


I've also sung since I was, I think I was 14 when I joined choir. Never stopped all through high school, all through college. I like there's been, there was a period, there was a terrible year and a half after I graduated and I moved to another city. Like I missed the audition period and I had to like wait a year where I wasn't in a choir.


That's the only time I haven't been in choir. I've sung almost any, every kind of music there is never liked. Early music couldn't connect thought it was boring. But when I do it in resonance when we sing this stuff It's just vibrant and I'm like, wow, what is okay. This is what it's all about


**Paul:** Yeah, why no and I think I've observed some things about the way early music is kind of viewed both in just I think the General choral culture also the you know, the more academic Musical culture.


I mean I remember being kind of a big proponent of this stuff Even when I was in college and I sort of got this impression from my fellow music students that early music was sort of archaic or too predictable or it was all the same or, or there was something, you know, there was something that was just lesser about it.


Like we looked at it as this sort of thing in the past that, that we've moved on from. And so I never felt like it got a lot of respect. And even nowadays you sort of see it used kind of as a Like a, like a checkbox in a program. You'll go see a choral festival or a choral concert, and there will be that one piece of Renaissance music.


Because, oh, we gotta have at least one of those, right? Or sometimes it'll be early in the concert. We got that out of the way. And now we can get to the really good music that was written, you know, recently. Yeah. Or, you know, and then, you know, there's this idea that like the, the, the fruition of Western music happened in the middle of the 19th century or something, you know, your art song never got better than Schubert and orchestral music never got better than Brahms and, and Mahler and, and, you know, opera never got better than, you know.


Larry Cavallo and Verdi or Puccini or whoever, you know, this idea that that that's the prime thing and that everything ever kind of since then has either been derivative of that and everything prior to that just hadn't arrived yet. And so there's this kind of disconnect from, you know, what's in the music, this idea that it's not emotional and, and you hear it in the interpretations of the pieces too.


When I often hear performances of Renaissance polyphony, you know, other than some groups, which I'm sure we'll end up talking about. It's performed very sort of placidly, you know, it's performed very purely and very devoid of emotion as if it's just this sort of like stained glass window that needs to not disturb, you know the emotions and it just sort of kind of a song in a boring fashion.


And, and I don't know if it's this idea that that's how it was like, if they feel like that's a more authentic way of, of singing it, which I don't know if there's any real. historical evidence of that. Yeah, for sure. I mean, my thought is that these people, you know, yes, they live 500 years ago. In fact, we just sang a piece to celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Byrd's death.


And, you know, culture, yes, has changed somewhat. Society has changed. Our modes of doing things, technology, the way we connect with people has changed. But our base, like, instincts and urges and emotions and spirituality and all that stuff hasn't really changed. And so it's finding where is that stuff in this music because it's in there.


And I think so often it's, it's purposely not found. Like we're, we're going to present it as is and leave it exactly that way. But you know, if, if you kind of read into the lines, you know, all of these lines are very expressive and there are moments where lines repeat and lines ascend and lines descend and there's.


There's a lot that's in the music. So I, I, you know, I try not to necessarily say, Oh, let's put everything from the past through a modern lens, because that's also, there's issues there too, but on the other hand, acknowledging that these people who wrote this music. We're considered the best of their time, just like we would look at Eric Whittaker now or Leonard Bernstein, and you got a great movie coming out about him soon, actually, all of these people we consider to be kind of the top of their game, you know, Palestrina, William Byrd, Victoria, these were the guys at that time, and they were, they were the best at their craft, and they were the same kinds of humans that we are now.


So I think finding ways to connect to that is one part of it. Making it, making it alive, you know, don't sing it like it's music. That's been dead for 500 years. Sing it like it's music. That's alive and real. And that's


**Morgan:** how it feels when we've performed with Resonance both, both years I've been there, it feels like I am, yeah, I feel the same as, as if I were, and you do program, that's part of why it's like, I don't know, we'll, we can loop around.


I want to hear some of these stories of these people for sure. But when you program, just, just a curious question here. I mean, you must do that intentionally because you pair Whitaker right next to these guys and it's, and you can hear like there are some similar, especially anything with line. There's any, you know.


How do you approach


**Paul:** that? Yeah. So, I mean, I, I commit everything thematically. I, you know, we end up, you know, as, as probably any choral director, anybody who does, you know, I have a list of songs that I want to do, you know, I'm like, this is a great piece. This is a great piece. Oh, so and so suggested a piece.


So and so suggested a piece. And I put them in a big list and ended up sort of just thinking about them thematically. I just think that everything connects to people more if it's part of sort of a cohesive message or topic or theme. So I start there and it's just there's a lot of you know, the same spirit of early music, you know, if you listen to some of the music of Eric Whitaker, there is, there are elements that sound like chant, and there are, there are elements where there's these cool interweaving of parts.


Everyone always thought of him, I think, as somebody who, Oh, he writes these, just these big dissonant chord clusters. I'm like, he does, but that's not all he does. And so the same kinds of sounds that, that, you know, it's just a way of connecting the past and the present. Yeah, I think it's


**Morgan:** very effective both as a singer and then also I can see as an audience member, you know, you're, you, cause the singers are conveying the same intensity in both of these and they're taking it.


Seriously and I heard, you know, so many compliments about, you know, some of the new stuff we were doing at our most recent concert, as well as you know, like I would ask several people, what's your favorite? And it was kind of 50, 50 other than stars was take stars


**Paul:** away and then we'll talk about that one.


But yeah, you know, it's just, I, I think that. You know, the, if you go back to the period when you study you know, a lot of the way they even wrote the music down, you know, we're, we're so used to looking at modern pieces of music where we see all the vocal lines and a score format, we sometimes will even have editorial dynamics and things like that.


But, you know, back then, you know, everybody had they, they sang out of something called a part book, which is basically everybody was just looking at their own individual line. There was no. There were no dynamics written there were basically note values and text underlie underlay. And that was about it.


You weren't really given a whole lot of information. You would just sing these things. And so I think that kind of gave rise to this idea that none of those things were expected.


**Morgan:** I kind of think of it like a, almost like a jazz lead sheet. Like if you were to look, say you're 500 years in the future and you look at a jazz lead sheet.


You'd be like, well,


**Paul:** this is nothing. Yeah, the fake book. You're encouraged to fake it. You make stuff up and you put it in there. Dynamics, there's this whole thing called ficta, which is basically the adding of accidentals in certain places harmonically that are not written in the score, but you were expected to just do them.


And so there's a lot that that would have been done that wasn't actually written down. And I think now you have a lot of people who say, well, nothing was written down so we're not meant to do anything. Right. And that gave rise to this sort of boring, you know, less effective way of performing this music, you know?


Yeah,


**Morgan:** where it all sounds the same. I think that's one of the things too, is every other place I've sung it, it... It feels very ethereal. There's like this purity of voice and it just kind of everything floats and you move like yeah with the others but then you know the the pieces we do here are they're they're meaty yeah they're


**Paul:** going places there's a lot of it too you know you mentioned the ethereal thing I actually do like that sort of.


I like it intentionally. And you know, there's also this kind of historical movement towards, okay, well, you know, this would have all been sung by boy choirs in churches. Yeah. And, and, you know, a lot of the great groups that are doing this now are, you know, British boy choirs, King's College Choir and all that stuff.


And so everything, you know, you expect it's supposed to have this pure sound and yes. Pure is great. You know, you want everything to be clear. They want there to be clarity, but this idea that there's no oomph in the sound and, and, you know, their, their audience, you know, historically that's not even necessarily true.


You know, if you go back, if you go back to Palestrina and, you know, you go back to like the Sistine Chapel choir, that was a professional hired. Adult ensemble that would have contained female singers. And so, you know, is Palestrina meant to sound like a British boy choir? Probably not. And, but we don't know that for sure.


Yeah. So all we can do is what do we think is the best way to sing this music that showcases it, I think, in the most effective way. Yeah. That's all we really have.


**Morgan:** Yeah. Yeah. I love it. Okay, let's let's go through history if that's cool with you. Sure, let's do it. Tell me about some people. So I, I went through some, some people that you have programmed a lot.


Hmm. So let's start there. Who is Schutz?


**Paul:** Heinrich Schutz, yes. So I suppose he would be considered probably early Baroque. His style is somewhat transitional, but I would sometimes refer to him, and maybe I'm not even the one who made this up, as sort of the father of German music Heinrich Schutz, you know, in the period of the Renaissance, he, let's see, he lived, gosh, late 16th century, and he lived through most of the 17th century, he actually lived a pretty long time for his age.


He was very prolific and he kind of studied all over Europe. So he was German, but he spent some time, as many people did in the kind of the late Renaissance, he spent some time studying in Venice with like the Gabriellis and the Venetian school and a lot of really cool antiphonal, like, polychoral stuff, a lot of stuff that sings and echoes from all these different balconies.


And so he has an early style that has a lot of that going on. And so, you know, they were very international at that time. You know, there, there was a little less of like, Oh, this guy was Italian. Oh, this guy was German. Most of them, you know, ended up writing for churches or something like that, but Heinrich Schütz was just a very prolific composer who I think was the Probably the most well known and most just like Bach He knows the perfect example of his period and Palestrina is the perfect example of his period That period of the first half of that 16th or 17th century.


I mean Heinrich Schütz was like the voice of that time period at least in choral music. And, and so I just think that he has, he wrote, he even wrote some opera, you know, he was, you know, one of the first, other than again, Madrigals, he was one of the first composers to be writing church music in his native language.


You know, a lot of his music's in German, you know, instead of in Latin for a change. He was, you know, that whole post reformation, which had happened about a hundred years prior. You know, he just has this intensity to his music that I think is, is. not common for the time period. Like, like there are those, the pieces we did, Zeylig Zinti Toten, there are some, there are some of those cascading dissonances that happen in the soprano lines that are just meaty and spicy and you dig into them and you know, it's just something that's, I think it's easily, I think.


Understood even by the modern year. So he's just, I just love what he does. I, you know, we've, he's probably the composer we've performed more works of than any other in 11 years. Yeah, he


**Morgan:** is. And I know that because I went back to the program from our, the 10 year anniversary and it's in there. That's a, you went through and you counted.


**Paul:** Yeah. Some favorite composers. We get them all the time. Yeah. Yeah.


**Morgan:** Awesome. We've talked about Palestrina a little bit. Who was he? He was so influential. Can you tell us a little bit about the man?


**Paul:** Yeah, Palestrina. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Palestrina was the name of the town that he came from. For those of you who have traveled to Italy, it's a little town just north of Rome and they like mine, you know, marble there and stuff. So like some of the famous Italy, Italian marble, like comes from this town of Palestrina, you can go visit it. But he kind of came up trained and worked his way through, we now call it kind of the Roman school. Basically this. group of composers who lived and worked primarily in Rome and wrote primarily for the Vatican, either St.


Peter's, which had been started, probably was still a work in progress during Palestrina's time, but also some of the other Basilica churches throughout the Roman period, but yeah, basically a church composer. He wrote some madrigals, but he's primarily known as a sacred music composer and You know, just like Bach, you know, he is the one who I think most exemplified the style of the time.


And he was the most consistent in the way he wrote things, his rules, the way his lines moved were very consistent. And that's why we study his works when we study counterpoint. There's a little bit of, as anything in music history or history goes, there's some mythology around Palestrina. And one of those things is, one of the topics of the Reformation in church music was, you know, the average person doesn't speak Latin. Yeah, and they definitely don't read Latin. So there's this a bunch of this liturgy that nobody understands. So, we need to make we need to make the liturgy more intelligible in the music and of course, you know early polyphony when you go back to like the 15th century and like Josquin Desprez, it was much more complex to the point where The text was almost obscured in, in this really dense polyphonic writing.


Palestrina was part of this kind of post reformation movement. Some, well, that's often called the counter reformation, which is like, can we make church music that is still in this style, but can still be more clearly understood. And so the mythology comes in with I'm trying to think of what it was, council of Trent or one of these ecumenical councils around that time.


Oh, Pope Marcellus. Okay. Cause the name of the mass. Yes. Anyway, he wrote a mass. That was very intelligible called the Pope Marcellus Mass or the Misa Pape Marcelli. And this, this story, the legendary story was, is that, you know, they were going to do away with this polyphonic style and, and, and get away with all this stuff.


We're going to completely change the face of church music and Palestrina said, well, I'll take a look at this. And the story is that the Misa Pape Marcelli saved polyphony in the Catholic church. Probably not. But. We love these kind of stories and so the idea is that Palestrina saved polyphony and to this day it's kind of its greatest champion so there you are.


**Morgan:** I love it. It's kind of, who do you think these guys, like these guys he was learning from, you mentioned rules and there, there are rules that at least that in you know, theory one back in ye olden day, you know, taking learning about counterpoint and, Parallel fifths and fourths and all these things.


There, there are rules, but do you think that, I mean, at this time, where were those at? Were they actually codified? I, I doubt it. Tends to


**Paul:** abide by them. I doubt it. I, I would imagine that. We invented those rules later upon observing their writing and saying, you know, this is the way they always wrote their music.


You know, you would, you would go down by a scale and then you would leap up. And if you leaped up, you would always follow by a downward scale and opposite motion and all this stuff that we observe now. Like you said, it's sort of codified music theory and counterpoint rules. I sincerely doubt that there were any rules of that kind at that time.


I think it was just us trying to define what they were doing. And, you know you know, we'd mentioned Victoria. Victoria was, it was not a rule follower. He had some things that very much broke the rules. And we Gisualdo, which I know we're going to talk about Gisualdo, but Gisualdo broke. Every rule there was to break.


William Byrd broke some rules. Thomas Tallis broke some rules. But Palestrina was very consistent. So it's, it's very easy to, I think, look at a piece and go, oh yes, that is classic Palestrina there. Yeah.


**Morgan:** So, I would say probably the other early music composer that most people have probably heard of is Thomas Tallis.


Can you explain kind of who he is?


**Paul:** Yeah, so Thomas Tallis was a little earlier. I think he, his dates are 1505 to 1585, I believe. And he was a kind of in that Tudor era, era of England. And so, you know, for the, the historians out there that was, you know, started with that whole Henry the eighth period and all of his many wives and the, you know, the, all that stuff, you, you know, there's great HBO shows about it and stuff.


But at that time, you know, Catholicism was sort of persona non grata in England. You know, everything was the church of England. And so you know, there were some composers who went full on into the English style Thomas Tallis was the earlier of the two William Byrd came later, but Thomas Tallis kind of was.


I think due to his popularity, his music was so well loved, including by the monarchs of the time. He was sort of granted special, you know, dispensation to write not only Church of England service music, but he was able to also write Music for the Catholic Church as well. So you see great music in English, you see great music in Latin.


And so Thomas Tauss kind of had this like monopoly on, on, on publishing church music in Tudor England. And so you know, he, he had a really cool style, you know, some of it was very, almost Corrali, you know, easily sung. More kind of homophonic stuff, including up to, you know, crazy 40 part motets where you'd have people standing around a room.


Did you say 40? 40 parts. One day I would like to get 40 singers in residence and do that piece cause it's amazing. Wow. Oh, wow. Yeah.


**Morgan:** Okay, so those are, when I was going through again, we could, we, there's so many, there's so many. But when I was kind of looking, we've got Schutz, kind of this line, Tal is Palestrina Schutz.


Obviously there are so many in between. Who would you like to add to that?


**Paul:** Well, you know, we sometimes talk about who, who had like the big three, you know, composers always have, we like to like classify things, you know, we're like, ah, who are the top five? Who are the top whatever? And so in this late Renaissance period, which is probably the period we, Touch on the most, you know, Palestrina Victoria is considered big Orlando de Laso, who we sang this year.


He also goes by Lasus. He goes by all these different names. Let's talk


**Morgan:** about him. He was, that was interesting when I was looking him up. Yeah, cause again, finding a version of, you know, different versions of some of the stuff that we've done was, was challenging until I realized like, oh, he's got these


**Paul:** other names.


Yeah. And so he was technically Flemish. So he was from kind of the more Northern. Sometimes they call these guys the Burgundian school, you know, Burgundy is the area of France, you know, which is of course now famous for its wine. But this kind of Northern school of polyphony, which was a little bit more about structure, you know, whereas Palestrina and a lot of that kind of polyphony was a lot more about line and interweaving of things.


There was a lot more kind of vertical structural singing in the Northern school and layering of a lot of voices. And you get. While still being polyphony, it's a more of this just kind of like wall of sound stuff. And so Orlando de Lasso was his Italian version of his name. A lot of these guys traveled all over Europe and they had a different version of their name, depending on which country they spent time in.


And, and he was also very famous for his madrigals. He has, he has some, he's a very prolific magical writer, actually, including some that are. Quite filthy, you know, madrigals were,


**Morgan:** so we, we have, we should probably talk about this in case there are people out there who don't know what is a madrigal. A


**Paul:** madrigal is a secular piece of Renaissance choral music, often, you know, sung in whatever the native language was.


It originated in Italy. It was a very kind of polyphonic style which was songs about love and songs about death and songs about lost love. And, you know, but oftentimes what sort of became a convention is a lot of like double entendre, double meaning, you know, and a lot of it was you know like synonyms for death were really actually sexually sexual terms and things like that.


And so there was a lot of that writing in there and of course it wasn't on the face. It wouldn't have been, I think, you know proper for the time to make it overt, but making it covert and understood. I'd like to


**Morgan:** point out that nothing has. changed. Yeah, it's still there. It's the same. That's what pop music is.


**Paul:** And then, you know, a lot of people think of madrigals, you know, it moved up to England and you have a one of the most famous English madrigalist was named Thomas Morley. And that's where you get all the fa la la la la la, you know? stuff to follow the laws, you know, so it's just a fun, it's a fun style of music.


I don't dislike madrigals, but, and I've sung them, you know, plenty, but that's, that's kind of the secular choral music of the period. Yeah. Yeah. The pop music of, yeah. And so Orlando de laso, yeah. Big church music as well. And you know, he, yeah, you know, the piece we did Timor at tremor this last summer was kind of him.


Playing with tonality a bit, you know, and at that time we didn't really have the same kind of functional music theory as we have now But he just had a very a way of kind of turning these little chordal shifts on its head So it's very kind of disorienting piece, but it's all about word painting You know, in Madrigals, in particular in Madrigals there was this idea that we want to make the music sound like what the words are saying.


So, you know, if you have a piece called fear and trembling overtook me, you write this very kind of ridiculous music that makes you feel kind of like unstable. And so that's what was going on in that piece. Yeah.


**Morgan:** Yeah. So you recently programmed some music in the mannerism style, which was so interesting.


Can you explain what that is and its place in music history? Yeah.


**Paul:** So. That was a great little segue, because we just started talking about that a little bit with DeLasso. So, Mannerism was a term originally coined to talk about a period in art. And, one of the things that was really nice in college I was able to take some art history in addition to music history, and it was amazing how many parallels there are.


Art history and architecture and that stuff tend to run... Tend to run a little ahead of music history. Some of the parallel movements in music came 50 to 100 years later sometimes. But one of the things, you know, about mannerism in art is you just started to take, you know, if you look at like the art of the high Renaissance, which is like, you know, starting with maybe Leonardo da Vinci even into some of Michelangelo, not all, but you start to see kind of this idea of like realism.


Really hyper detailed realism, portraits, landscapes this development of perspective, you know, making buildings look like they recede into the distance and making mountains look like they're far away and all that stuff was kind of invented in the Renaissance in art. So that stuff started to happen in music too.


But what, what started to happen in both art and music is you took some of those, those detailed realism and it sort of became hyper realism. So in the mannerism, they would do odd perspectives and they would make things wildly out of proportion. Like if you ever looked at like the Pieta, the, this sculpture by Michelangelo, you know you've got Jesus on Mary's lap and she is a giant.


If you ever look at her, she's like. And he's tiny. And so that's not a real life like at all, but it looks very well proportioned until you actually think about, Oh, she's like a giant holding a little like kid in her lap. And so, you know, these weird perspectives and odd colors and just this, this, this sort of hyper realism we took.


The kind of the period stuff and just took it to the next level to almost absurdity. That's kind of what, what marked mannerism. And it was a little strange. It was a little like shocking for the time. So it wasn't a very long lived period in art and in music, it was kind of the same thing. You know, we had this Renaissance polyphonic style that met its culmination with Palestrina and this refinement and this perfection.


And then it was like, well, now let's. turn that up a few degrees and see where we can go with that and taking things like word painting. And, and if we say the word dolore, which means pain, we're going to make that sound as ugly as we possibly can, because that's what pain sounds like. And so it was just a hyper definition of, of reality.


And so that kind of took its, and yeah, it didn't last very long. And we started to see some more of that in like the 20th century. I was going to


**Morgan:** say like, this


**Paul:** sounds like Schoenberg. Oh, absolutely. In fact, the piece we sang by Gesualdo. And I'm sure again, I'm sure we'll talk about just Waldo again, but you know, there, there he, he literally has a section of that where every one of the 12 chromatic notes exists.


In that, in that section. Yeah, you know, it's just A little tone roll thrown in for... Yeah, exactly. It might as well be a 12 tone piece, you know, because no, you know, nobody kind of approached that level of just chromaticism and strangeness again for several hundred years. Yeah, yeah,


**Morgan:** yeah. So, part of this project is, you know, I'm, I'm, I love looking at different anything musical, literally almost anything musical through the lens of, you know, the culture that created it.


And, and I love watching like the further back you go, history, it's just cycles and cycles, history repeats itself. And, and that's one of the reasons I was so fascinated by this piece of Jess Waldo, let's talk about that now and, and how I could tie it to something I knew a little more about, which was the, you know, that, that.


Schoenberg era of like, just kind of revolting against all of the structure and, you know, everything made sense. The symphony was, you know, it was dramatic and big, but it was all very, they're orderly and there were so many rules and you had to follow the rules. And he was like, no, you don't. And just.


You know, scrapped it all and did his own thing and it didn't last very long because


**Paul:** again, not very It was, it was a very much an academic exercise for me. It was like a math problem. It was, I


**Morgan:** think needed, it shook things up and then what came out of it was very cool. And so anyway, let's talk about this, this Jez Waldo guy.


Who


**Paul:** is Jez Waldo? So Giswaldo was another of the late Renaissance, a madrigal writer, some church music, but I would say mostly secular music. He was an interesting fellow. He was both a, a count and a prince of a region. He kind of lived down in he had a castle down in Avellino, which is kind of down in that Naples area.


It actually used to be the kingdom of Naples. And so he was, he had his princedom of that. He was, you know, just. You know, hereditary, very rich, and very wealthy, and all this stuff. So he kind of had this freedom to do whatever he wanted, and he, you know, he traveled around a little, I think, and somehow he was just kind of drawn to experimental composers, and, and he also, you know, as, as, as still happens today, you know, he struggled with various kinds of mental illness, and depression, and guilt about things he did in his life, and the most famous story of his...


Is that he's mostly remembered, other than as a composer, as being a double murderer. He his wife was having an affair. And he came home to find his wife and her lover, basically, in flagrante. And he murdered them both. Like you do. Like you do. And, and the story that like, apparently there's some record of like, you know, a servant or something who wrote this down.


He left and then he came back just to make sure they were dead. And so, so it was very gruesome story. But somehow you know. The laws of the time, and I don't know, maybe he wrote them, he was the prince, you know? But the laws of the time apparently allowed for murder to be acceptable in cases of marital infidelity.


And probably that would only work from male to female, not the other way around. I would guess. I would guess. But apparently he was not guilty of breaking any laws at that time. So, which is wild to us, I think, but that's his, that's his most famous story, but for the whole rest of his life, you know, he just lived a very dramatic tortured life and kept to himself, you know, he had the money to basically do whatever he wanted and what he decided he wanted to do was basically sit in his castle, hire all the best musicians he could.


Write compositions for them to perform basically for him, just like as his own private audience. He had his own little private musician. He didn't care anything about the public or what they were doing. He, I don't even think they were probably invited to these performances. He just wrote for his own pleasure.


He had, you know, due to some of his guilt issues, he had servants whose job it was to beat him daily. Oh my. You know, and just, he, he just was such a fascinating. guy, and it was so obvious, I think, in some ways, how that was demonstrated in his musical output. And so, DeLasso, you know, as I said at one of the concerts, he, like, dipped one of his toes in this mannerism period.


Giswaldo was, like, immersed, and he's like, I am mannerism in music, you know? Don't expect anything normal sounding from me, and very fascinating music. Yeah,


**Morgan:** it really was. When I started singing it, I thought I was singing a 20th century piece until... I looked at the date. I was like, what? I was like, this must be a misprint.


Like there's no way this wasn't written


**Paul:** in the 20th like for a brief second, it starts to sound like a magical and you're like, Oh, here we go. And then it, Oh, nope. Sorry. You only get that for three bars. Yep. So interesting guy. And yeah, one of our singers Spud has been suggesting Giswaldo for me to you for years.


And I've just.


**Morgan:** Well, yeah, I was, I was very glad to have done it. I enjoyed it immensely. And I'm good for a minute.


**Paul:** He's not going to become one of our staple offerings, but after having worked through one of his pieces and, and finding again, just. Getting to know the piece better and what the piece was about and a little bit more of his history, the more times we sang it, the more I liked it.


Like I just started to kind of get it after a while. But I don't think back in June when we started rehearsing it, I don't think any of us were like, Oh yeah, I get this. We were all kind of like, Okay, here we go. Yeah. Yeah.


**Morgan:** So let's talk, we've, we've talked about early history quite a bit. Let's talk about kind of more present day.


Who are some people like who are continuing this tradition in more recent years? What do you look for when you're determining whether to include a particular composer in this repertoire? Because like I mentioned at the beginning, like you, when, when you put these programs together, they feel very consistent.


Each segment feels consistent, but the, the timeframes can be very drastically off. So there are people writing music now in this style and it sounds very good. So, so who are some of those people?


**Paul:** Yeah, well, that's a good, a good question. There are some composers so we'll use the word contemporary, that is composers that are writing music now.


Then we'll say some are modern or 20th century, or they were, they were writing music maybe in the latter half of the 20th century. Maybe some of them passed away recently, but they're still relatively recent composers. Yeah, we mentioned Eric Whitaker while being very modern has, has a lot of chant like elements and polyphonic elements, which are really beautiful.


We. Did a couple pieces by John Tavenner. Yeah. Who was very much influenced by Eastern Orthodoxy actually. He was, he was Eastern Orthodox, although he was British. So he had this great fusion of, you know, the British Cathedral Choir, which is all about clean early music and service music, and then this kind of extra depth and of, of orthodoxy and orthodoxy, you know, for, for lack of a better term.


It sort of puts you in this chant, you know, it's a vibe, you know, nothing is short. in orthodoxy. I mean, there's liturgy that lasts hours and hours and hours. And the piece we did, it was eight minutes. And that was like the shortest part of the liturgy. But just this music that necessarily isn't, isn't.


complex, per se, from a compositional standpoint, but is more about unlocking something in your spirit, you know, and so John Tavener is definitely one one of the composers that he has described as kind of a kindred spirit and one we've performed once and hopefully we'll do some more of again and we are going to do some more of in Master Chorale coming up.


It's Arvo Part. Yes. Arvo Part, you know. Interesting guy. Estonian composer who, you know, his style of music, they call it tintinabuli, which is basically like church bells, you know, cause he's got all these cool cascading little entrances that kind of overlap, but again, very much of that same spirit, not Complex, but deep at the same time.


And so Arvo Part, I love the music of Arvo Part. Even some of the stuff I've written, you know, a lot of the stuff the arrangements I've done have had kind of an early music flair, or they've actually been arrangements of Gregorian chants and things like that. But, yeah, it's, you know, it's, there's a lot out there, you know,


**Morgan:** yeah, there are, there's a lot.


And one that just kind of a personal story of yours that I really love is that you studied under Renee Clausen. Is that true? That


**Paul:** is amazing. Yeah. So. That's that's the other thing we haven't really talked about is the whole Lutheran tradition thing, but yeah You know going back to this Lompoc high school that I sang in kind of came full circle this year because my high school choir director sang with us this year I don't know if you knew that or not, but I knew he


**Morgan:** traveled.


I didn't


**Paul:** know he was your director So yeah, he's he's been out of the game for a little while. But Nikolai Anikushin, he's Russian and he We'll call him kind of second generation, you know, Midwestern. So we'll, we'll, we have to go back in history again. I can't, I can never do the nutshell version, but the St.


Olaf Choir, you know, founded by F. Malius Chris Johnson back in the I think 1912 it was. And then one of his sons, Paul J. Chris Johnson went off to direct the choir at Concordia College, which is in Moorhead, Minnesota, and was there for 50 years and continued that tradition there. And during that tenure.


There was a woman named Phyllis Zimmerman, who was a Concordia graduate who was from California. And she came back and taught at Santa Barbara high school for 35 some years. And then when she retired, started an adult choir, very much kind of in the vein of resonance, you know, probably was a lot of her alumni.


singers originally they were called Canticle and she was just, you know, for 40 plus years represented this Midwestern tradition on the West coast. And so my high school choir director had gone to Santa Barbara high school and sung with her and then had gone to some summer courses out at Concordia.


And so he brought that tradition to Lompoc high school in the late nineties, just about when I joined choir. So I happened to time that just about perfectly and, and, and become kind of the next recipient of that tradition. And so yeah, I ended up going to Concordia and graduating in the early 2000s and Renee Clausen was the choral director there who.


I think coincidentally, I think he was originally from California also. So, you know, a lot of this, you know, Californians, you know, living up to the, the Midwestern Lutheran tradition, but yeah, he, he's amazing, you know, Rene Klaassen is he was very much, you know, as famous as he is as a clinician and a composer, he's a pretty humble guy, you know, he doesn't.


Talk much about himself when he talks about, when he talked about his position at Concordia, he talked to very much about, Oh, he was just kind of a steward. This was a thing that was bigger than all of us. And he was just the custodian of it at that moment. And so really cool tradition. You know, and, and that's, that's another thing that kind of, I think pushed me even stronger into the early music thing is cause the Concordia tradition and the Lutheran tradition is all mostly about big choirs, you know.


A lot of big, you know, based in Lutheran chorale singing and a lot of big church music and large scale works and things like that. And so early music has always kind of suited itself to smaller groups. And so I just have this kind of like, all right, I'm at Concordia. I'm at this great like choral Nirvana place, but you know what?


I need to start a group. I need to, I need to start a small group. And so I had this little octet, you know, they did Renaissance music and chant services and things like that. And so, yeah, it was, it was great singing with him. I learned. You know, I think a good musician takes things from everybody they work with.


You know, they don't just say, well, I was at Concordia, so I'm only going to remember what I did at Concordia. You know, I learned things from, you know, Nick Anacushin at, at the high school about even just discipline and the way you approach things and, and you know, just kind of lessons for life. And I learned a lot about just sound and style from.


studying choral conducting with Rene Klaassen and, you know, and I, you know, went for, went to this one of the groups out of England, one of the great professional groups of polyphony, the TALIS scholars, there's TALIS, the name again, they did a summer school in California or not in California, in the United States in Seattle back in the early two thousands.


And I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of their, their singers for the first year. And so I got to spend a week kind of learning their whole thing about how, how we perform, you know, polyphony. And so, you know, just so many great influences, but yeah, singing with Renee Clawson and singing with the Concordia Choir was very meaningful.


**Morgan:** Yeah, that's, that's awesome. I've sung many works by him. And just the. There are certain composers, I think that's why people like Whitaker so much, they just know choir, like writing for voice, they just know it, inside out, backwards, forwards, and I would say Clausen is absolutely one of those, where you sing his works and it feels good, you know, when he sends you up, as a soprano, he'll send you up to a high B, but he'll do it the right way, he'll do it gently, and it makes it


**Paul:** easy.


There are composers which you can tell, they're like, they were an organist, or they were an orchestral writer, and you're like, they just like absolutely torture the human voice. But then you can tell like, yeah, like Eric Whittaker and Renee Clausen and all these guys, you're like, you know, that these people have spent a ton of time with choral singers.


Yeah. And, and, and the way And


**Morgan:** themselves, they know their, their voice themselves. They're clearly singers. Yeah, they do. Yeah. So is there any, what other things do you wish people knew about?


**Paul:** Well, you know, I kind of just wish more people knew it exists, you know, I, I think it's still kind of just this kind of niche thing.


Although every now and then you do get some modern. little kind of fads that come out. I can remember the sea shanty thing, and like, as somebody who's like sung in like men's choirs and sing the sea shanties, I'm like, man, this is so cool. The sea shanties are popular in the mainstream culture. And like, then when you listen to like, you know, I don't know, probably even like game of thrones and stuff like that.


You listen to some of those soundtracks and some of the vocal style, a Lord of the Rings soundtrack, you're like. That is an English boy choir singing that right now. And so, so there's these little glimpses where you're like, okay, if people love those soundtracks, like I wish they knew that there was this whole genre of music that was like that all the time.


And you know, it's just, I think it's just underrepresented. Yeah. Yeah. You know in, in both choral programs, I think in pop culture


**Morgan:** And what would you like to see more of in the early music community? You've talked about some of the things already about bringing it to life and making it more vibrant, but what are, how can the early music community, if people are involved in that, what would you like to see more of there?


**Paul:** Maybe, yeah, getting them more into the mainstream as well, because I think there's, there's a lot of, There is a fairly large early music community and there's a group that, you know, but they're, they're sort of, I feel like early music people are sort of like nerdy hermits sometimes. Like where, like, like we talked about this Facebook group that I found where it's all memes about early music and the jokes are always like, you know, rather than watching Netflix, I'm at home looking at score facsimiles and stuff like that.


And facsimiles, like they're like. reproductions of original manuscripts. And like, we get nerded out about this stuff and we turn all this stuff into cool, like, look at these cool note values and who look at this and look at this. And, and we sort of like get dig deep into like, it's almost like the lore of early music, but like, and we dig it like, and we dig it, but we're like, we dig it in this little tiny, like, like insular community.


Right. And so I. So we, we like have early music festivals and early music little programs, and that's a festival for that early music group. And, and it just, it's still just sort of seems like we, we live in these little caves, you know? So, you know, I guess I don't necessarily know how that changes, but, but, you know, to see like something like.


For example, like we have this we have this I don't know if I want to call it countywide, but area music festival that goes on throughout the year called Festival Mosaic used to be called, actually used to be called the Mozart Festival back in the day. And we just have all these different groups that come up, string quartets and.


And different groups and they perform all over the county and all these great venues. What I don't really see usually, and I could be wrong, but is a lot of early music and those kinds of things, you know, just like you know, there's a lot of Bach festivals. Bach is like the one exception, you know, he's, he's like the end of early music.


You know, he's like the latest possible we would consider early music, but Bach like gets a pass Bach is like Bach is the master. Right. And so everybody recognizes Bach. There's the Oregon Bach festival. We've got the Bach week at Cal Poly. But what you don't, you know, see a lot of is, you know. Groups singing polyphony at these music festivals, you know, and so maybe just finding our way into more of those things I think making people realize it's not boring.


Yeah. Yeah, it's it's it's a live music if you perform it, you


**Morgan:** know that way Well, Paul, I have one last question. Mm hmm, and I ask every guest this so, you know, what's that guest is? I know As I


guys there's a there's a moment, you know when you're just and you've already described several so I know you know that moment where You just, you just click in and it connects and it feels vibrant and alive and you love it. I, I call that a zeitgeist moment because it's, everybody has it. Don't care what subculture you're, you're related to, whether you do, you know, punk or cello or, you know, any of the, the Broadway musicals, doesn't matter.


You feel that. What was some recent


**Paul:** Zeitgeist moment for you? Yeah, I would say it was very recent. So another one of these composers that I would say was, is a kindred spirit and some of the composers we've talked about already. This composer, Eric Eric Eschenwald, who's a Latvian. So again, another Baltic composer who wrote this piece we performed called Stars.


And, you know, it's a beautiful piece and I'd heard lots of great recordings of it and things like that. It was accompanied by tuned water glasses, those of you who don't know the piece. And we had rehearsed it for a long time without the glasses. You know, we, and it was beautiful and it was, it was almost, it sounded great the first time we rehearsed it.


It's just one of these kind of very natural kind of pieces. Again, another, I think, composer who very much understands the voice. But for me, the very first time we rehearsed it with the water glasses, and it was just one of those moments where, you know, there are just these moments in music that are sensory experiences, where just you hear a sound, and it just sort of makes your hair on your arms stand up.


Yeah. And there's just something so, like, you know, I've heard, you know, I've sat there and I've, Played a wine glass, you know, but like to hear 17, 18 people playing different pitched water glasses all around you. And it was just an immediate, like, Whoa, it just took it to a whole other level. And, and then when we did it in the second concert, you know, we had, you know, this church where we had aisles around the audience, and so we performed it like in the round around the audience.


And, and. And that audience was extremely moved by that. And it's just, again, it's just such an experience to have this sound all around you and a sound that is kind of, you know, just, it's not a sound of a human voice. It's not a sound of an instrument that you're familiar with. It's like a sound that was otherworldly.


It's just not something you're used to hearing in everyday culture. And so it's a pretty special. Yeah.


**Morgan:** Yeah, I, I, I was there for that and it was an amazing moment.


**Paul:** Yeah. I mean, just, yeah. From the very first note. Yeah. I was just like, wow.


**Morgan:** Very cool. Ah, well, Paul, thank you so much for being


on my podcast.


**Paul:** Yeah. Thanks, Morgan. It's fun to talk about this stuff.



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