The English word “chord” derives from Middle English “cord”, a shortening of “accord” in the original sense of “agreement” and later “harmonious sound”.
Chords are formed when three or more musical notes are played together. (Two’s an interval, three’s a chord). There are complex laws of harmony that determine which notes work well together, and the result can be discordant, sad, sweet, jazzy, triumphal, mystic, psalmic or many other moods. It depends on what the composer wants to evoke in the listener, and that is the point. Music is a powerful form of emotional communication. As a piece of music progresses through various chord structures, the listener is brought on an emotional odyssey which intertwines with the meaning of the lyrics. The response is highly individual, and depends on the listener’s emotional history and balance.
I was very powerfully moved on listening to the Eric Whitacre piece published the other day, and thought I should find out more about how it was done. I have no musical training or background, and only know what I like. My ears were opened like never before.
Choral polyphony requires no technical instrumental skill, just lots of practice and teamwork. Even bass drones like me have a part to play in swelling the sound, or rattling the rafters. I think it should be encouraged in Catholic Church music right down to the parish level, and not just left to the professionals, or those who love the sound of their own voice.
There’s a lot of choir work in Heaven. We should all start training now.
Please consider the comments section below to be open season for the posting of links to beautiful a cappella Christian choral music. The best links may form the basis of future posts.