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May 23, 2011 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Paper Plains(ong)

For those of you not in the know ‘plainsong’ is not merely the opening track from The Cure’s 1989 gothic rock album Disintegration (way cooler than it sounds, guys), but is actually a word for a musical body of chants (I guess I should have looked it up rather than just assuming Robert Smith was stuck for song titles and feeling a bit boring).

Plainsong or ‘plainchant’ is monophonic, unaccompanied, religious, Latin chant with free rhythm (there’ll be no foot-tapping, it ain’t gospel song), dating back to the 3rd century A.D. If you ever went to a Christian school and attended some form of chapel service you may’ve already been subjected to your school choir, perhaps just its better half, performing plainsong. (Having participated in the senior school choir for a few years myself I don’t know how I didn’t learn what plainsong was then, I blame mindless teenage ignorance.)

I recently acquired from a flatmate a CD (the digital kind that comes on a memory stick from an unknown source, probably not Marbecks) of Gregorian chant, a form of plainsong named after Pope Gregory I or II (Wikipedia isn’t sure). Canto Gregoriano features about an hour and a half of plainsong by the Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in northern Spain.

Now I’m not sure about the rest of you but I can barely read, study or even sleep in silence, let alone to music playing. I’ve been told classical music while studying works a charm, but not for me – memories from ballet performances I’ve seen take over my brain, which is pretty distracting when trying to write a rather toilsome essay on Kant at 1am. I’ve since found that plainsong is the solution to my short attention span: as well as being incredibly mellow and calming (moods I lack with exams creeping closer), its consistent uplifting vibe gets my brain gushing out great ideas and into a celestial study mode – sometimes I forget I live on a main road.

So, if you’re a serial study procrastinator, weary insomniac, keyed up caffeine addict, or are just in the market for some new tunes, I recommend losing the Ludacris and putting on some plainsong – your flatmates will probably thank you for it too.


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  1. Kelli says:

    This is way betetr than a brick & mortar establishment.

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