Lesson Learned

As a composer of new classical music, you end up learning many lessons as you go. I recently learned a new lesson – one that I already thought I had learned, but not well enough obviously.

One of my most recent projects involved writing a new piece for my wife – dedicated to her and meant for her to sing. I also wanted to include all of my friends on the faculty of Indiana State University and dedicate the piece to them as well, in thanks for all of their support. Basically, I emailed them all, asked if they would like to be a part of the project. If I got a ‘yes’, they would be part of the ensemble. I ended up with an ensemble that was comprised of alto sax, horn, percussion, electric guitar, accordion, piano, violin, cello and bass.

Now that I had my ensemble, it was time to choose a text. I wanted to choose something that would have special significance for both myself and my wife – something we both loved and that she would love to sing.

I ended up choosing a poem by author Neil Gaiman called “Instructions”. We had gone to see him speak in Indianapolis last year, and he did a live reading of the poem. We both loved it right away. Here is a video of Gaiman reading the poem:

Now, as a somewhat experienced composer, I know at this point that if you’re going to (dare) use a text that is not in the public domain, you need to secure the rights to it BEFORE you do anything else. So, like a responsible, somewhat experienced composer, I contacted his agency (the rights holders) and talked to a very nice man named Morris. He seemed really interested in the project – (to my knowledge, Gaiman’s work has never been set to music in quite this way). In the beginning, Morris sent me a contract that gave us permission to premier the piece, which we did in April of last year. He then went on to say (during a phone conversation) that we would need to negotiate further permissions on a case-by-case basis (including recording rights), but that it would be NO PROBLEM. Here is where I royally screwed up. I took him at his word, and did not get it in writing.

So, a few months go by, and we again want to perform the piece. This time at the Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival. So, I again email Morris for the permission. I receive a reply from a woman named Sarah, informing me that Morris no longer works for the agency and that they are not granting permissions of any kind for any of Gaiman’s works, period, thank you, good bye.

I was shocked to say the least. This led to a series of back and forth emails – me trying to explain my dealings with Morris and what the project was, she, completely ignoring my story, and telling me that they were not granting permission for play adaptations. I said, “It’s not a play, it’s a song – a piece of music.” She replies, “We can’t grant permission for play performances.” I facepalm.

Currently, I am getting together pieces and recording new ones for a new CD release of my music. I would very much like to release “Instructions” as we have a full studio recording of the piece already done. I once again contacted Sarah about releasing the piece and securing the rights to do so. After this initial, immediate ‘no’, she told me to put together a proposal, and that she would be happy to work with me to negotiate a fair deal for all parties. She also told me that the poem might be part of a new book – a compilation of Gaiman’s poetry, and that might be a problem.

I consulted one of my good friends who is a lawyer, and had worked in the music publishing industry for 30 years. Together, we put forth a proposal that I thought was very fair and equitable for everyone. I sent my proposal to Sarah, and almost immediately got back:

Thanks for your interest but unfortunately the audio rights to INSTRUCTIONS are currently under negotiation so we are unable to grant you any further rights and they are unavailable for purchase.

What the point was of putting together the proposal, I have no idea. So, I’m stuck – trying to figure out what I can and can’t do with this recording. That’s where it all stands as of now.

In short, a new lesson learned – the hard way.

Why Guitarists Shouldn’t Conduct

So I’ve told this story to several people as an amusing anecdote, and my wife has been bothering me to write it up as a blog post for at least a year now.  So, at long last, here is why guitarists shouldn’t conduct…

As an undergraduate music student, we are all required to participate in at least one university ensemble.  Most instrumentalists perform in the orchestra or bands.  However, since there is no place in those ensembles for guitar, guitarists usually end up singing in the choirs.  When I first went to music school in Austin, this is precisely what happened to me.  I had never sung in a choir before, but after a semester or so, I ended up loving it and developed a great appreciation for choir music.

When it came time for me to take a conducting class (something that was also required), I chose choral conducting based on my new found love of the choir.  It was a memorable class, but the most memorable day came during one of my in-class exams.

We had been working on the basics for a while – simple conducting patterns using the right hand only.  About halfway through the semester, we started, slowly, bringing in the left hand for cueing.  Our exam was to conduct a section from Vivaldi’s Gloria – a section where each part of the choir comes in successively – first sopranos (thus cueing them in with the left hand), then altos, tenors and basses.  Simple enough right?

So, I’m standing in front of this full choir – we have the instrumental part playing on a recording and I’m conducting along with it.  It’s my job to cue in the sections of the choir at the correct time.  I’m conducting away, and the soprano entrance is coming up fast.  I cue them in just in time, however, as soon as I did a couple of sopranos start laughing.  At first I was just thinking, “well, they’re just joking around – nothing to do with me.”

After a few bars, the altos.  I cue them in, and again, as soon as I do, a couple of them start laughing along with more sopranos.  So I’m like, “what he hell?” – but it was an exam, so I couldn’t stop.  I start peeking down to check to see if my fly is open, which it wasn’t.  Next the tenors – same result – a few laugh – more altos join in – and now almost the entire soprano section.  Basses – now almost the entire choir is laughing including the teacher.  Now, at this point, I have absolutely no idea what is going on.  I remember I was actually quite angry.  Here I was, doing my best to conduct (which I was self-conscious about anyway) and I’ve got this entire class laughing at me, and I can’t stop to ask what the deal is.

Here’s where I stop and explain a few things about playing guitar.  As a student, I was practicing my guitar for hours and hours every day, playing classical music that often times put the left hand into all sorts of contorted positions.  Doing this for so many hours changed the natural lay of my hands, so if I wasn’t paying attention, they could fall into almost any strange configuration.

So, back to conducting class.  I finish – people are wiping their eyes from laughing and my teacher has her head in her hands, laughing.  I walk up to her with an exasperated look on my face and ask, “What happened?!”

Apparently, I was concentrating so hard on my conducting – getting the pattern right and cueing sections when they needed to come in – that I didn’t notice when I raised my left hand to cue, I was flipping the middle finger to each section of the choir in turn.  So essentially, it was like “F-you”, ok now altos “F-you” – now tenors “F-you”, etc..

Best Vivaldi Gloria – ever 🙂

Real Life

So, ever since I finished my Doctorate in May, 2008, I have been getting some heavy doses of real life.  I have been actively searching (and applying) for academic jobs since that time (even slightly before), and have yet to even receive a phone interview.  For the past year, I have been living in Terre Haute, Indiana and teaching guitar at a local music store called the Conservatory of Music (and despite the name, is not really a conservatory).  I moved to Terre Haute to be with and marry the love of my life, and even though Terre Haute is not an ideal city for me (far from), the move here was one of the best decisions I’ve made.  However, I did intend to move away once I found a job, which still hasn’t happened.

So, after a year of teaching guitar at the Conservatory (and having many wonderful students), it’s come to the point that I can’t make a living anymore doing this.  The past summer was especially harsh, and I lost many students.  So real life has once again stepped in, and I’ve had to look elsewhere for employment.

Last week, I found a seasonal job at Sony DADC – a large DVD/Blu-Ray/CD manufacturing/packaging plant here in Terre Haute.  It pays well, and it’s a minimum of 60 hours a week (because this is their crunch time of producing for the Christmas season).

Financially, this is a great thing for me and my family.  I’ll be bringing home WAAAY more money than I ever did at the Conservatory.  This part I’m very happy about.

The part that scares the shit out of me is that this will be the first job I’ve had to take since I went to music school in 1996 that is completely outside the sphere of music.  It will be hard work and it will be long hours (4 days of 12-hour shifts, followed by 2 days off, rinse, repeat).  At the end of those days, I’ll likely be drained.  No time for music.  On my 2 days off a week, I can practice and write some, but I still have the podcast to think about.

I know it’s only temporary, but by taking a job like this, part of me thinks I’ve failed horribly – like I’m giving up.  One great thing about teaching at the conservatory is it’s given me time to really get back into composing, and also practicing guitar and learning repertoire (which at this point I have enough to perform an entire concert and then some).  I’ve also started playing out around town, which is something I’ve never done before.  All that will have to slow down greatly.

But, it’s real life right?  I know many others have it much worse than I do, and I probably shouldn’t bitch, but I’m a bit of a worrier.  This blog is a bit more personal than I usually get, but I think many people in the arts are going through similar trials.  I also know that academic job is not synonymous with a music career.  However, the schooling I received prepared me for an academic career, and really nothing else.

I guess there’s not much of a point to this blog other than venting, but sometimes, you gotta vent.

The Rag and Bone Shop (the rest)

Welcome to my second installment on my brand new song cycle titled The Rag and Bone Shop. Last time I talked about the third and fourth pieces in the cycle, Ritual and I Am Not I. I also hinted at the question of how I took four songs and made a cycle of five.

First, how I made it into a cycle of five. As I said in my previous blog, a cycle of four songs bothered me because I wanted the song Ritual to be the centerpiece of the cycle, and you can’t have a center in four songs. So what I did was, I composed the last song These Days on the poem by Charles Olson of the same name. Then, I transferred the vocal melody from that song to the cello and composed an instrumental prelude for piano trio based around that vocal line, but opposite in character to the song, and titled it These Nights.

So with These Nights, which starts the cycle, I wanted a piece that was in opposition to the final song of These Days. Both are based around the same melody, however These Days is a solemn and dirge-like piece, closing the cycle with an introspective austerity. By contrast, These Nights is brilliant and explosive, faster in tempo and cast in a more major-ish mode.

These Nights.mus
(click here for .pdf)

The second piece in the cycle is the first song titled True, and comes from Kabir’s poem titled How Much Is Not True.  The text here is quasi-religious and introspective – very philosophical.  However, even though the poem has a kind of sacred tone, the message of the poem is quite anti-religious.  The music is a bit of a departure for me, being again in a major-ish mode, and very simple – almost like a straight up pop song.  I even employed some of my “rap-recitative” that I first used in my song Dubious Arrangement for voice and guitar.

True.mus(click here for .pdf)

As far as the third and fourth pieces, you can read about those in my previous blog post.  The final song, on Charles Olson’s poem These Days closes out the cycle.

These Days.mus(click here for .pdf)

The entire cycle ended up being somewhere between 15-16 minutes, which was about the maximum duration I was going for.   You can view the official page for the piece here. Now, onto my next commission – a piece for harp and saxophone for the fantastic duo Pictures on Silence!

The Rag and Bone Shop (so far)

Hey peoples… I thought I would get back into blogging by talking a little bit about my current compositional activity and give a small preview of what I’ve been doing musically. Many of you know that I have been busy with my podcast All the Cool Parts, and I’ve let that kind of stifle my personal blogging. I have been at work on other things believe it or not. Aside from playing much guitar and learning new repertoire, I’ve been composing a new cycle of songs for baritone David Small and violinist Brian Lewis, both professors of music at my alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin.

David and Brian first approached me about commissioning a new song for the two of them to perform on one of their favorite poems – A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William Stafford. This would be a compositional challenge. The poem is fairly long, and they wanted it to be for voice and violin only with no other kind of supporting harmonic instrument (like piano or guitar).

The first thing that entered my mind was this fantastic recording by violinist Christoph Poppen and the Hilliard Ensemble called Morimur. On this recording, there is a version of the famous Chaconne from the Violin Partita in D minor, BWV 1004. In addition, there is another version where Poppen plays the Chaconne, while the Hilliard Ensemble sing all of the chorale quotations that Bach wove into the fabric of the music. It’s an amazing performance, to hear this solo, virtuosic violin playing going on with this haunting singing in the background. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try to do something like that. After talking with David about it, we settled on a cycle of 4 songs with poetry provided by David. Initially four songs was a problem for me. If you look at any of my multi-movement music, you will notice a pattern – it’s always an odd number of movements so I can have everything revolve around a central movement. With four – well, there’s no center damnit! I’ll explain how I dealt with that little problem later…

So I started with the first song that we talked about, and shortened the title to simply Ritual. I knew this was going to be the center song (that’s right – the middle of five – I said I would explain later :)), as well as the longest song in the cycle. So even though I had a loose idea in my head, inspired by the Morimur recording, it was still a challenge creating a viable and real accompaniment from just a solo violin. The poem too was a bit stream-of-consciousness-y, and I wanted the piece to be very musically unified – much like the Bach. What I ended up doing was coming up with a couple of main themes for the violin and the voice, and then changed and augmented them to fit whatever the words were trying to convey. Here is a small taste of what I came up with – the first page of the score:


(click here for .pdf)

The second song I tackled was a translation of I Am Not I by Juan Ramon Jimenez.  I should mention that the remaining songs are to be for voice and piano trio.  With this one, I had a really clear idea of how to start it, with a really cool melodic line for the voice, which I paired the strings with (which is another thing that’s unusual for me since I tend to opt for counterpoint over doubling).  After I wrote about 20 measures, I started to get a bit stuck, because it started to go in a direction I didn’t want it to go in.  Previously, I have really tried to avoid having direct or obvious “styles” in my music – like something that really sounded like blues for instance.  I’ve always strove for my music to sound like me I guess.  This piece was really moving in a kind of South American direction – lol, and I fought with the piece for a few weeks trying to get it to go another way.  Finally, I just decided to stop fighting and let it be what it wanted to be.  After that, the composition was smooth sailing, and I ended up with something that I really like.

I Am Not I

(click here for .pdf)

So, how did I take four poems and make a cycle of five songs?  Stay tuned to find out!  I’ll make another post when I finish the cycle and explain it all.



If you were unaware, I’ve begun my own classical music podcast called All the Cool Parts.  I’ve been a podcast listener for years, and I’ve wanted to do one for a long time.  I finally stopped procrastinating and just did one.  Once I overcame all of the initial technical hurdles, it all got much easier.  My experience doing All the Cool Parts has been really cool so far.  I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially concerning the initial episode.  I also started a kind of call for recordings called All the Cool Parts Idol.  This is where I hope to get some cool recordings from some up and coming artists that might still be under the radar.  So far, I haven’t received a single submission, which kind of surprises me, but I’ll just keep putting the call out there and hope I get something.

I love podcasts, and I took inspiration for doing mine from many different favorites.  Among them, The Instance, the Naxos Podcast, Filmsack, and Coverville.  All great podcasts – all worth checking out (excepting possibly The Instance, which if you don’t play World of Warcraft, will be incomprehensible).

I plan to keep doing All the Cool Parts indefinitely, presenting “recent” classical music recordings (and by recent, I mean perhaps recordings spanning the last perhaps 15-20 years).  Because I’m doing the podcast totally on my own, and not under the auspices of some record label, etc, I’m free to present whatever I want to present, which is exactly how I want it.  Some may wonder why I would present a recording that was made in 1992 (as I did in the last podcast with the Ensemble Modern album of Zappa).  My reasoning here is that no classical music recording – certainly released within the last 20 years – has had enough of a large scale impact that everyone would know the recording already.  All of these recordings need more exposure – even one from 1992.

Another thing I’ll be doing in addition to presenting recordings – I’ll also be doing shows presenting web sites of performers, composers or ensembles – providing there is enough downloadable and/or streaming content on the site.  If you have any suggestions of great web sites and/or recordings – please let me know!  I’m always open to suggestions, and to things that might have slipped past my notice.

The web site for the podcast is http://allthecoolparts.blogspot.com – please check it out and give the podcast a try.  You can also subscribe in iTunes.

Composer opportunity update blues

I was going through the monthly “Opportunity Update” that’s put out by the American Music Center this morning, and I thought I would post a little bit about my frustrations with this system of competitions/call for scores/new music festival/composers conferences that is available to composers of new classical music.  Ever since I turned 30, I have seen my eligibility for these things dwindle more and more, year after year.  Below are bullet points that represent one opportunity (and the “type” of opportunity it was) I was not eligible for, and the reason.  I’ll comment after each one:

  • Type: New Music Festival call for scores – reason I was ineligible: Provide your own performers

OK – so you’re putting on a festival of new music.  You’re at a fairly decent music school with lots of faculty and student performers.  All you need is the music to fill the concerts, and the composers to come fill the seats.  Not only do these composers have to invest the money to travel to your location, pay for lodging/food/etc, pay for the materials – i.e. producing scores and parts, etc – you want them to bring their own performers with them???  So now they have to ask the performers to pay travel and lodging for the honor of playing at your festival??  wtf..

  • Type: Call for scores – reason I was ineligible: New York area composers only

This annoys me.  I understand wanting to promote composers and music centered in your area, but it seems like I see this way too often.  You may say I’m just pissed because I don’t live in NY and therefore can’t submit.  Yeah, pretty much.

I have actually been directly affected by this kind of thing.  Some years ago, I won a competition to be on a reading session of a prestigious choir.  I was told that my travel and lodging expenses would be provided, in addition to a daily per diem to cover food.  When it got close to the date, I was informed that only the composers from NY (and where the readings would be held) would receive travel funds and the per diem.  Myself, and one other participant who was from Arizona had to cover those costs – the other participants (who were all from NYC or the unnamed place where it was held) did receive those funds.  Again – wtf…

  • Type: Call for scores – reason I was ineligible: Super specific “theme” (quoted below)

    “The theme of the concerts is “Avian Creatures,” and the piece must embrace this theme. Some suggestions include: Birds, Bats, UFOs, Rockets, Balloons, Airplanes, Fairies, Satellites, Flying Squirrels, Skydivers, etc.”

LOL – Skydivers are avian creatures??  This is just one example of calls like this I have seen over the years.  Are there really people out there that are composing special “bird” pieces just for this competition?  Should I start a string quartet about flying squirrels?  How about just looking for music that’s GOOD, regardless of whether it’s about flying things.

  • Type: muliple calls – reason I was ineligible:  I’m old…

So, as I mentioned earlier, probably the biggest reason I am often not eligible for these things is my age, which is currently 36.  This brings up a whole other issue for me, and one I’ve often thought of writing about, which is – composers in this day and age are starting later and later in life.  I think the old model of people composing their first piece at 9 and going into music school with symphonies under their belts at 18 years old is becoming less and less common.  Many composers that I know, myself included, discovered music through pop and rock bands, and didn’t discover classical music until later in life.  I didn’t start music school until I was 23 years old, and by the time I had any music worth submitting, I was already ineligible for many of the big student competitions like the BMI prize, which has a cut off of 26.  I did manage to win an ASCAP/Morton Gould, but I did so at 29, and was forever ineligible the following year.  I’m not suggesting there shouldn’t be competitions for young composers, but I see far too many that SHOULD be open to everyone – not just people under 30.

  • Call for Scores/Competition – reason I wasn’t eligible: Only open to women composers

This one fell under the affirmative action category of competitions.  This is, of course, a sensitive issue, and I’ve seen all kinds of these calls – calls for women – african americans – jewish americans – mormons – etc.  While I am for the equal treatment of everyone, I am not a big fan of affirmative action.  I am sure there are still racist/sexist bigots out there, but I think for the most part, people today are being given a pretty fair shot at things – especially in the arts.  I’m just for equal opportunity – that’s pretty much it.

  • Type: Choral composition competition – reason I wasn’t eligible: Super specific text requirement

This is another example like the “avian creatures” one, except this deals with specific texts to be sung – in this case by a choir.  The call read “..text must reflect one of the 3 Abrahamic faiths, and the relationships between them.”  Now, I can see the need for a religious organization to want text dealing with thier religion, but it was the caveat “and the relationships between them” that got me.  Is this a question on a religious studies exam?  They not only want a religious text, but one that deals with the relationships between Christianity, Islam and Judaism?  Do I have to use a #2 pencil to write the piece?

  • Type:  all types – reason I was ineligible:  I refuse to pay someone else for the opportunity to have my music judged

This brings me to the second section of the opportunity update – opportunities with entry fees.  All of the above listed opportunities, although having carried many very specific requirements, at least did not require money as well.  About 40% of the opportunities currently listed in the update did require entry/application fees.  I just believe this is straight up wrong.  If you’re going to provide opportunities for emerging composers, don’t require those same composers to fund it.  One call was $60 – $60!!  You seriously expect me to pay you $60 for the small chance that you’ll choose my piece to recieve a (probably bad) performance??  PLUS, I have to pay to travel there, and stay there, and eat there, and pay to produce the scores and materials to apply, and mail those in a large padded envelope – again I say WTF…

I actually totalled all of the fees from all of the calls that required them.  If I entered every single call that required a fee that is currently listed in the update, it would total $495 – and that’s not including all of the other fees like travel and lodging and food and material costs.  And these are (for the most part) supposed to be for young (often student) composers.

Anyway – I know this is somewhat of a rant, but I’ve seen one too many of these things now, and I thought it would make an entertaining blog (to composers at least).

Palestrina and the Fundamental Difference Between Classical and Pop Music

I wrote this blog a few years ago and posted it on another site that I only used very briefly, and honestly kind of forgot about it until today.  I came across the blog and thought I’d re-post it.  It was mostly a blog about the Pope Marcellus Mass of Palestrina, but also gets in to the topic of what is the difference between our rock/pop music and classical music – a question that when I was starting out as a “classical” composer I would often ask, but never got answered.  I thought for a long time about it, mostly because I’m the kind of person that feels like I have to really fundamentally understand something to really do it, and I finally came up with an answer that satisfied me.  If you’re really interested, you can read the stuff about Palestrina too.


Today I focused on determining the overall “key” of the Pope Marcellus Mass. This can be a somewhat difficult task, for many reasons. For one, the concept of “keys” did not exist in the 15th century as we think of them today. Music was based on a system of “modes”, and mode was determined by the range and melodic activity of the “tenor” – which was considered to be the most important voice in the choral texture. It’s strange to us, because this voice was in the middle of the texture. Our ears are always focused on the highest voice as being the most important – this comes from our perception of music being separated into a vocal and accompaniment – a concept that also didn’t exist during Palestrina’s time.It’s hard for us, living in 2009, to relate to this way of thinking, or even to understand it. Our society is surrounded by popular music – it’s our vernacular music, and it’s how we think musically. People often ask the question, “What’s the biggest fundamental difference between pop music and classical music?”.

My simple answer: pop music comes from a harmonic tradition, and classical music from a melodic tradition. So, what does that mean? When we write music, we think vertically (like a stack of notes – a chord) – we chunk, chunk, chunk out chords – we think in chordal relationships – this chord goes to that chord, etc – or I to V to I – whatever terminology you want to use. In classical music – especially music written before 1600 – music was thought of as separate, independent lines that could work together to create a tapestry of polyphonic sound – like threads woven together. The concept of “chord” didn’t exist – chords as we think of them were merely points of rest where the separate lines would converge after a moment of tension and activity. This is the way composers thought – from Palestrina to Bach to Mozart to Beethoven – this is the fundamental basis of “classical” music, and the biggest difference from our modern pop music.Coming to this realization was HUGE for me as a composer. No one had ever really explained this difference, and since I too came from a rock/pop background, I struggled for years with understanding classical music from a really fundamental level.Anyway, I kind of digress from my topic of Palestrina’s Pope Marcellus Mass – but it is important to understand how he thought of music to understand how he composed, and how he thought of “key” – which he would have called “mode”.We still use modes today, but essentially only use 2 – “Ionian”, which is our “major” scale, and “Aeolian”, which is our “minor” scale. There are 5 other modes though that you sometimes hear, although hardly ever in popular music. A good example of a different mode would be the very first three notes of Danny Elfman’s theme from the Simpsons – very clearly in the “Lydian” mode.Just to further complicate things, the medieval church modes were quite antiquated by Palestrina’s time. By 1547, the 16th century music theorist Glareanus had already put forth a theory of 12 modes (which is closer to our modern system of keys – 12 major and 12 minor). So, although there wasn’t a concrete tonal system of keys yet, composers were already moving in that direction, while at the same time still observing some principles of the old modal system.

So, lets get down to business and look at where the different sections start and end:• Kyrie I – Mixolydian (G major) to Ionian (C major)• Christe – Ionian to Mixolydian• Kyrie II – Mixolydian to Ionian• Gloria – Mixolydian to Ionian• Credo – Mixolydian to Ionian• Sanctus – Ionian to Ionian• Agnus Dei I – Mixolydian to Ionian• Agnus Dei II – Mixolydian to IonianIn typical tonal music that we are all most familiar with (this goes for classical music as well as pop music), you would typically have the piece, song, whatever start and end with the same harmony. So, if a piece is in C Major, it would typically begin with a C Major chord, and end with a C Major chord. However, as you can see, Palestrina hardly ever does this (only in the Sanctus). So, what mode is it in? If we go by how he starts the section, it looks like it’s in the Mixolydian mode (we would say G Major). If you go by the END of each section, it’s clearly in the Ionian mode (we would say C Major, although Palestrina would never have thought in that way).  So, which one is more important – the beginning or the end? Having established that the tonal system did not yet exist, we have to assume that Palestrina was still following many of the conventions left over from the medieval system of modes. One of the conventions of determining mode was the FINAL, or last note of the plainchant – and very often (it was the norm actually) for the plainchant to start on a note other than the final. So, observing this convention, we can safely say that the intention is Ionian mode for the Mass. Damn – all that just to find out what key it’s in!