An Agnus Dei in a Dei or Two

Well, I’m a couple of days later than promised, which isn’t very good, but I have been beavering away on a second choral composition, and have got it to a state where I can share my thoughts about it.

This week’s work has been a setting of the Agnus Dei, the text of which can be found at the bottom of the post.

This setting is more of a lullaby, and stays fairly quiet and gentle. There is only one time signature change at this time, and that is just to create a faux pause towards the end. Otherwise it maintains a lilting three beat, which i have intended to convey a sort of manger-side lullaby or rocking cradle, much like some good old-fashioned carols.

Oddly, this piece has one of the clearer structures I’ve written, while all the time blurring the divisions between sections. I like the piece because it leads you to expect certain things, and instead challenges these expectations by changing the ideas. There are a couple of places where the harmonic end of one section is the beginning of the next.

Stylistically i tried to move into a more accessible range, drawing from the modal language of the Kyrie, as well as the modality of some renaissance music. Hence the Tierce de Picardie which hits you over the head at the end. Also the romanticisms of the English choral school is present, with some nice (approximately) diatonic chromatic and leading notes falling throughout the work. Although these two roots seem incompatible, they seem to fit in interesting ways, as each mode of tension and release can be swapped with the other, meaning you can blend elements of style by purpose, rather than theory.

The middle section sits quite low on all the voices, particularly the sopranos, and should end up with a dark, low and deep timbre, which could sound quite nice against the higher and more lyrical sections at the beginning and end. Again I wrote for unaccompanied choir, this time not even going beyond the four lines, (no split parts), and I am enjoying the tone and harmonic resonance a choir can create without a more rhythmical instrument accompanying.

Thinking ahead to the next few movements it would be good to experiment with some energy and rhythm, perhapps adding an organ accompaniment. Organ seems fitting considering the sacred intentions and traditions behind this work. I have no ideas for the next few movements, but the point is that I have a deadline, so I’m sure the ideas will come.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona nobis pacem.

If you want to have a look/listen and give me some feedback or thoughts, just let me know and I’ll send something through. I don’t want to make them public just yet, but when the project is up I’ll make them available to view and listen in a non downloadable format.

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