Sacred music is without a doubt one of the most beautiful things Catholicism has given then world, and polyphony is the most perfect form of that music. Five, ten, fifteen, even forty individual melodies blended into a single composition that can only be described as angelic. Strictly speaking, composers of sacred music did not “invent” polyphony, and many in the church at first balked, considering the harmonies superfluous. However, the vast majority of polyphony that I am familiar with is sacred in nature.
I first heard polyphony in “Man and the Arts,” a unique course I took as an undergrad that blended a historical overview of art, music, and philosophy. Our professor played for us a portion of Thomas Tallis’s “Spem in Alium,” a forty-part Renaissance motet, and I was instantly addicted.
Listening to this makes it difficult to believe that we are merely bags of fat and chemical reactions.