Monday, August 4, 2008

Parce mihi domine (Spare me, Lord)

Written by Spanish composer Cristobal de Morales (1500-1553) close to five hundred years ago, this chant is one of the most beautiful pieces from the Renaissance. I'm going to present to you two different versions of it, one very traditional and the other with a more progressive component.

This is the first version of the "Parce mihi Domine" and much closer Morales' original arrangement. It's beautifully imbued with serenity, profound contemplation and mysticism.

Now comes the second arrangement. This version is unique, to say the least, but not without merit. What makes this translation progressive is that it contains a saxophone in the arrangement, something that is unheard of in sacred music. When I first heard it on the CD, I oscillated between appreciation and recoil. But after hearing it a few times, I understood why I hadn't rejected it with complete disgust. This second version offers an interesting blend of the sacred and the profane, evoking an imagery that suits the feel of the arrangement: Imagine a small group of friars walking on a sidewalk, in a single file, way before the crack of dawn, in a major metropolitan city. They are making their way to a dining facility to feed the poor. Hooded, quiet, and with their arms tucked, as they walk to their destination they pass enormous buildings, banks, and other financial institutions. The city is quiet so early in the morning and the friars stare mainly at the sidewalk as they make their way to the poor, uttering prayers under their breaths. In this imagery, the chant is symbolized by the monks (sacred), and the saxophone symbolizes the city (profane). Please disregard the video of the second version since, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with the chant. Just listen to the music.


paramedicgirl said...

I absolutely love the first version. I find the sax at times really hard to listen to in the second, probably because I experienced the beauty and serenity of the other version first.

Tom in Vegas said...


The first version is beautiful in every way, but I've also developed an appreciation for the second arrangement as well. The second arrangement is the version I listen to mostly when going to work very, very, early in the morning. And driving while listening to it reminds me of the imagery I wrote about on the post: the sacred within the profane, i.e., the consecrated host (sacred) within the city (profane); holy men and women (sacred) reaching out to the poor in a secular setting. For some reason, when I listen to either version, my mind focuses on soundless, contemplative monks.

I hope I make sense.

Shirley said...

Both versions are beautiful; I find that the second version brings to mind an early morning and a city waking up;it is somewhat sad while the other one lifts your mind up to contemplating God.