Day Dispels the Dark Night | Harper's Magazine

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Day Dispels the Dark Night

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Here is some music for a pre-election Sunday. Listen to Michael Praetorius’s Der Tag vertreibt die finster Nacht, a motet in four parts, from the Muses of Zion (Musae Sioniae), pt viii (1610), here in a performance by the Huelgas Ensemble, directed by Paul van Nevel. The text, beginning “Day dispels the dark night” is derived from Psalm 139. It is a work of stark but deceptive simplicity, crafted according to what Praetorius called the principle of varietas, or differentiation. Each stanza assumes a different tonality suited to its specific sacred sense, the variations are both in voice and instrumentation. The spirit of the piece is filled with pious and attentive awakening as the darkness of a period of sadness and failure gives rise to a new day filled with hope.

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