Machaut: Messe de Notre Dame

Machaut: Messe de Notre Dame

The Hilliard Ensemble


The celebration of mass is a rite whose central activities are unchanging: the daily ordering of words and movements at the core of which lies a mystery. We sup and dine on the flesh and blood of gods – God – in the guise of bread and wine, themselves distillations of the elements into which our own mortal remains will one day disappear. As David Jones put it (in The Anathemata, London 1952): ‘We already and first of all discern him making this thing other.’ Is this a creative or a re-creative act that the poet describes? And wherein resides the difference between them? If the art of music is to serve religious observance then it must surely enter into a comparable kind of communion, and must therefore be formed with a profound sense of order and imagination – the human and divine linked inextricably in a production of sound.

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