The actual definition of plainsong

Plainsong is usually synonymous with Gregorian chant and is essentially the unharmonized chant of the medieval Christian liturgies in Europe and the Middle East.

There have been four main dialects of plainsong that have been developed - Ambrosian, Roman, Mozarabic, and Gallican. Each dialect seems to have been derived from similar sources.

During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and also in later times, the chant melodies were used as the basis for polyphonic composition. The Benedictine monks of Solesmes sought to restore the Gregorian chant to its original form and their published editions from 1889 onward ended up as the official music of the Catholic Church. The texts of plainsong are the words of the Mass, the Psalms, canticles, and certain verse hymns.

The memory of Plainsong by The Cure

I remember that during my university years, I hardly had a dime to spend on basic necessities, much less spend too much on music. Lucky for me, however, that the University of Ottawa had a Music Listening Room which was basically a lounge with a central area and four semi-private rooms. Each room had its own sound system that was controlled by the attendant in the central area. The vast collection of music that they had came from donations and also from the campus radio station (CHUO).

One day, I was sitting in a semi-private room listening to some Nirvana when the album ended and another album was put on - "Disintegration" by The Cure. From that moment on, I became a Cure fan. I never really listened to any of it, thinking that it was the stuff that my crazy uncle listened to most of the time so it couldn't be good. However, when "Plainsong" came on, I was in awe. Simply put, it was the most hauntingly beautiful song that I had ever heard then and have ever heard since, and the first song to bring tears to my eyes.

Those moments are extremely rare...when a song just totally enraptures your senses that you cannot do anything but sit there stunned. To this day, I have yet to experience that feeling again over any other composition.

Plainsong is a critically acclaimed novel by Kent Haruf which tells the stories of several individuals whose lives are intertwined in a small town in eastern Colorado. The book has received several awards, as well as being a nominee for the 1999 National Book Awards.

The story revolves around the small town of Holt, in Holt county, eastern Colorado. Holt is a fictional town that has served as the backdrop and setting for almost all of Haruf's previous stories and novels. The town sort of acts as a composite of the eastern Colorado area, where Haruf spent his childhood. As such, it vividly represents the sense of rural isolationism and small-town community-mindedness that is so common in the high plains area. This is a community far from the hustle and bustle of the big city, a community where everyone knows everyone, a community whose nearest neighbor is almost 40 miles away. The people here are mostly farmers, working just to survive.

Within this town, Haruf introduces us to the lives of several of its residents. Among them, Victoria Roubideaux, a local high school student who, despite being basically a good kid, has found herself pregnant without a husband, and has been kicked out of her home by her mother consequently; Tom Guthrie, a teacher at the high school who, after separating from his depressed wife, works to raise his two sons alone; Ike and Bobby, Guthrie's two children of 9 and 10 years old, who are just beginning to experience life for what it is; the McPherons, two brothers who've spent their lives living and working together on a farm and whose one track lives leave them more than a little naive about their surroundings; and Maggie Jones, another high school teacher and friend of Guthrie's, who manages to keep her life under control despite her senile father and the goings on in the town.

Haruf's style within this book does a lot to help depict the life that the characters lead. Most apparent here is the sense of plainness and straightforwardness that he creates. It fosters the sense that he, like the characters within the novel, is just writing to write, with no extra style or extravagance, just as the characters are simply living their lives from day to day, simply getting along. Especially effective in this is the lack of quotation marks in the book. Haruf even defines the word plainsong on the first page of the novel as "the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air," which fits in perfectly with the simple and unadorned style of the book itself.

I personally found this to be a really great novel. The prose is easy to read, and the plot is easy to follow, yet the story remains interesting despite the overwhelming sense of plainness that the novel gives off. But it isn't really the plot that makes this book such a good read. It's the characters, who are so well developed in their humanness as to be endearing on a level that few other books I've read have provided. I'd suggest this book to anyone, really. Its a great and original look at familiar people for anyone who lives or has lived in the high plains area or even rural communities in general, and an interesting look at the small-town culture to anyone who isn't familiar with it.

Haruf has just recently published a sequel to this book, titled Eventide, that I haven't had the pleasure of reading yet, but I understand it's just as good as the original.

Sources/Links:
Amazon - <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0375705856/qid=1112897391 /sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/002-4471216-0136808?v=glance&s=books&n=507846>

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