February 22, 2009

"The worlds of the sacred and profane are bound together"

Jean Richafort - Requiem in memoriam Josquin Desprez

I found an interesting thought here...

...The title of this post is derived from a recurring line in Richafort's Requiem, written in honor of Josquin des Pres. The melody and text come from a chanson by Josquin entitled Faulte d'argent: "Faulte d'argent, c'est douleur non pareille." (Lack of money, there is no greater sorrow.)

To give an idea of the mind of the late middle ages and early Renaissance, the chanson is about a man who lamentably discovers he lacks the money to pay a prostitute. Richafort baptizes the bawdy lyric by inserting it into his Mass for the Dead; the death of the loved one is the sorrowful event. The worlds of the sacred and profane are bound together, perhaps in the same life, just as the worlds of the living and dead are joined.

I enjoy telling people the story behind the Richafort Requiem, because it perplexes our modern sensibilities: we assume that the sacred and profane are irreparably sundered. One is either a saint or a sinner, either alive or dead; once a sinner, always a sinner, once dead, dead forever. Our forbears withstood paradox better than we do.

Just as the absent brother, be he absent through geographical separation or death, is not infinitely distant, he is not, like the missing coin of St. Luke's Gospel, irretrievably lost. He will be found again, and when he is, the widow will share her joy with her friends and neighbors; so, too, will we rejoice when we are reunited...
Posted by John Weidner at February 22, 2009 5:20 AM
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