Producer Bruce Marcus on the recording of Chant

The CD Chant, recorded by a choir of cloistered Benedictine monks in a monastery in northern Spain, had sold in excess of five million copies since last January.

The tremendous success of this and other similar recordings of medieval Latin plainsong was a phenomenon that took many by surprise. Just as astonishing was the realization that young people between the ages of 16 and 25 were, at first, the majority of purchasers.

In the 1960s and 1970s the quest for enlightenment drew many young people to the mysterious East, where the sitar music of Ravi Shankar and the chanting of Tibetan monks filled the ears of spiritual searchers. In the '90s there is an intense new emphasis on spirituality, as people of all ages search from within the roots of their own Western culture for serenity and a sense of purpose in an often chaotic world.

That spirituality is undeniably present in Christian liturgical chant. It has a profound, specifically religious significance for an enormous audience, and it has the mystical power to captivate all audiences. Monophonic plainchant, which survives intact from the Middle Ages, is the very foundation upon which all other, more elaborate music of Western civilization was built. In its original, pure form, Gregorian Chant soothes the soul, entertains and inspires.

The music in the television program GREGORIAN CHANT was recorded in September 1995 in monasteries in northern Spain and was arranged by Ismael Fernandez de la Cuesta. It represents the only recordings ever made of "discant" or harmonic chants based on 12th through 14th century manuscripts. These chants have the ability to conjure the image of monks of the Middle Ages, who were cloistered from the secular world, isolated from pain, suffering and distraction.

More important, these chants enable the modern-day listener to shed the worries of everyday life, contemplate and enjoy the deceptively simple melodies of the chant.


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