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It is a profane song form that is applied to seduction, satire, lamentation or other strong emotions.
Generally without the kind of popularly expressed notion of rhythm, polyphony is often referred to as the song of a free people.
The origins of Corsican polyphony are much disputed and since until recently they have been undocumented, no clear evidence exists of its source.
Though I'm no musician, I sense it as inheriting a bit of everything Mediterranean from the north, south, east and west. Traditional Corsican polyphony, following its revival in the 1970s, is now a central part of the expression of Corsican culture.
And there's a great new book about Corsica's traditional music by Caroline Bithell called Transported by Song: Corsican Voices from Oral Tradition to World Stage (Europea) This page: Introduction / Polyphony / Religious Chant / Secular Song / Lay Brotherhoods / Traditional Instruments / Concerts / Learning Polyphony / Corsican Music Websites / CDs by Corsican Polyphony Artistes / Other Corsican Recordings The sacred use of polyphony is particularly associated with death, funerals and mourning, which are still deeply celebrated in Corsica.
There were those who recorded old people singing time-honoured aurally transmitted chants and others who started writing what can be described as political songs.Of course, as with most things Corsican, that said, there are many variants, typically by micro-region.Within the paghjella form, the interpretation of each song is open to a fair amount of improvisation by different groups or individual singers, who may make extensive use of the ribucatta - a free form of ornamentation with vibrato, which creates a slight time-lag with the other singers.Sacred polyphony is frequently sung by groups in concert performances.
You are unlikely to hear a traditional concert without a dies irae, miserere or a kyrie.
It has, nonetheless, its own special 'periodical accent and duration of notes'.