Making Musical Connections: An Introduction

Welcome to the first post in what (I hope) is a series of posts exploring interesting musical connections. In each entry, I’ll be taking a look at a couple of different pieces of music and exploring their relationship. Up first…

This is the Dies Irae, a piece of 13th century Gregorian Chant. You can explore the notation here (WARNING! NEUMES!) It’s just simple chant, in the Dorian mode.

Now, I could share quotations of the Dies Irae by Holst, Mahler, or Berlioz. But we can find something a little more…unexpected.

In 2007, Nike put out a commercial for their special 25th Anniversary Edition Air Force One shoes. For music, they went with a tune by New York-based rapper Juelz Santana. Just listen to the opening hook.

Yep, that’s a note for note Dies Irae quotation. By a 21st century hip-hop artist. And you know what? It fits the song perfectly. The string/brass/chime timbre combined with the Dorian mode lends the song a certain amount of grittiness, and the repetitive ostinato effect really propels the music forward.

I love that this piece of hip-hop can trace its musical roots back 700 years. It’s probably safe to say that Gregorian Chant-inspired hip-hop songs are few and far between, which makes this find that much more enjoyable.
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The Trombonist’s Mouthpiece by Joe Guarr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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