... residue

for Double Choir

22 Mins
Double Choir (24 voices)

Description

First performance: 24 April 1999, SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, Witten New Music Days, Witten, commissioned by WDR

 

1. With a glance

imagines a sound texture, its position and initial qualities - here an 'assemblage of voice' organised as probabilistic and non-repetitive movement; oscillates internally and suspends the impression of an initial impulse.

"you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace."

 

2. Dancers who dream

Like a series of freeze-frames the sound-image here is of a slow ritual, which governs a number of repetitions - a slow drift of permutations.

"Dancers who dream yourselves sisters of the dawn."

 

What links the two texts, one in Hebrew the other in French, is the play with allegory and a residual traces of 'otherness' which emerges from the commentaries and speculation gathered around a text - what has been called, in relation to the poet Edmond Jabes' work, a kind of "delirium of meaning". In the Hebrew Canticles 'The Song of Songs', which could be translated as 'The Residue of Residues' (due to the particular characteristics of the Hebrew alphabet), the allegorical themes of sexual/sacred love represents marriage as a union between ideas and knowledge upon which, for example, the

Kabbalistic tradition of 'commentary' has generated much mystical speculation. It is thought by certain scholars that the verses date back to Abraham and a pre-Jewish Chaldean period where knowledge was seen as direct experience devoid of mysticism. The poet Robert Graves has spoken of an even older and pagan source for these verses which emphasises the hallucinogenic aspect of ritual and meaning. The tradition has been further explored by the marriage in Jabes of [Mallarme's] meaning/absence and a form of allegorical commentary around the idea of the [endlessly folding] book. The superposition of text and music creates an inevitable and simultaneous marriage/divorce of meaning. Here the linguistic structures of a text, its grammatical, intonational and phonetic aspects are subjected to musical demands; a ritual which renders tensions 'beyond' any original semantic structures.

In residue there are no desires to 'set' the text, one intention is to explore a sound landscape created by this collision of text and music. However the choice of text is not simply the source of vocal colour but is also one form of resonance - like the palimpsest what remains is a 'residue' of structure. The Canticles have been cited as the basis for much of the Western cult of the dame, which came through the Middle Eastern Sajal singers to the troubadours who flourished around the 12th Century.

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