A musical celebration and honoring of the dead based on religious texts is called a requiem. November 15 & 16, you’ll hear one of the most famous of the genre at The Mozart Requiem.
Requiems have been around since the second century when they were composed using simple chants. Like a fine wine, music has aged into a mature bold sound. Composers started incorporating something called polyphony into vocal chant music during the 15th century. Polyphony combines independent musical lines that act as their own melodies while also creating harmony against each other.
Think of it like this… the chant is like a conga line; everybody moves in one line in the same direction. Polyphony is like ballet — groups of dancers perform their own routines in support of the entire production on stage. Each dancing group looks great individually and in combination.
Or imagine the chant music like trying to merge onto I-25 South from Highway 6, and polyphony is like what I imagine being a pilot with the Thunderbirds is like: conquering the sky in every direction… smooth, majestic, and totally awesome.
Composers then upped the ante by combining the now polyphonic chorus with a full-blown orchestra.
Now keep in mind, Mozart wasn’t the first to write for this new souped-up sound. His requiem is however full of unique sounds and a history of its own.
Mystery surrounded the requiem from the very beginning. A count who wished to remain anonymous commissioned the composition to honor his deceased wife. It just so happens that Mozart was working on it near the end of his own life and didn’t actually complete it himself. In fact in some movements, he only completed vocal parts and basso continuo lines (basically a blueprint for what the harmony should be). The debate continues today over who wrote which parts, and how much is authentically Mozart. Regardless of who wrote what, the requiem is both incredible and an important piece within the classical canon.