Reading this account of liturgical singing in the early Church, one marvels at the detective work of Dr. Page, a reader in Medieval Literature and Musicology at Cambridge. No musical scores survived this period (staff notation itself was first developed in the 11th century, as an aid to church singers) and our knowledge of early liturgical practices is decidedly sketchy. But Page ferrets out bits of evidence from unlikely sources-funerary epitaphs, cathedral architecture, fragmentary chronicles, saints' lives-to construct a fascinating picture of how the Church's musical ministry emerged, and flourished. As he recreates the social context of psaltes, lectors, cantors, monks, and scholae cantorum
(the specialized groups who originated Gregorian chant), Page gives us 'people, real flesh and blood,' as one reviewer notes. 'We have a full list of those who gathered for a Eucharist at Abitina in North Africa in February 304, and what they sang before they were marched off to be martyred.' There are glimpses of early talent scouting, with priests on the lookout for musical ability among orphaned boys, and of outright jealousy: one 10th-century composer 'studied music in secret, on account of the envious.' Enhancing the book's exhaustive research and literary pleasures are color photographs of mosaics, tombs, landscapes, and medieval cathedrals, all on art-quality paper.
An Eighth Day View:
A renowned scholar and musician presents a new and innovative exploration of the beginnings of Western musical art. Beginning in the time of the New Testament, when Christians began to develop an art of ritual singing with an African and Asian background, Christopher Page traces the history of music in Europe through the development of Gregorian chant--a music that has profoundly influenced the way Westerners hear--to the invention of the musical staff, regarded as the fundamental technology of Western music. Page places the history of the singers who performed this music against the social, political and economic life of a Western Europe slowly being remade after the collapse of Roman power. His book will be of interest to historians, musicologists, performing musicians, and general readers who are keen to explore the beginnings of Western musical art.