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Giovanni Gabrieli: Canzona No. 14

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: Sacred surround sound

Long before Dolby or THX, the idea of being surrounded by sound was already popular. The cavernous spaces of churches and cathedrals well-suited for playing with acoustics and the passions they can evoke. Gabrieli was employed at Venice’s San Marco or Saint Mark’s Basilica, a church uniquely suited to the Venetian “polychoral” style. In polychoral music, small choirs or performers, singers and instrumentals, are scattered about a space, in front, back and to the sides of the congregation or audience. These forces then sing in concert with or in opposition to each other, allowing for the sound to literally jump around the space or create the effect of a near-perfect echo.

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