Nostalgia and Grace, by Carolyn Lee (page 5)

Discovering Medieval Music

When the time came for me to attend Sydney University, I enrolled for an Arts degree, majoring in music. It was then that a whole new vista opened up, the world of so-called “early music”, belonging to the medieval and Renaissance eras.

Much of the lecturer's drone of information about Gregorian Chant was Greek to me. “Kyries”, “Graduals”, and “Alleluias” meant nothing, but the music itself was something else. It was worth attending class just for the few recorded musical examples played at the end. This music had nothing to do with Mozart or Beethoven. I could not even relate it to Bach. It was pure, roving melody, unshackled by any “beat”, that arose like a bird in flight, soaring gliding, hanging motionless, and sinking to rest. It was strangely empty, and yet full. It was not “by” anyone.

As I listened my whole body relaxed. There was a quality here that aroused in me the same feelings that I had had in the ruined monasteries, something that evoked the flickering gloom and frankincense of Sacre Coeur. I recognized a beauty that was not of this world, and I longed for it.

My studies were one-pointed. I graduated in a few years with the necessary scholarships and sailed out of Sydney Harbor on a voyage of discovery to the Old World rather than the New.