James Weeks: Mala Punica

Album cover art for upc 025091023929
Catalog: 910239-2
Format: CD

EXAUDI Vocal Ensemble; Hortus Ensemble

With its roots in Egyptian and Mesopotamian love poetry and fertility rites, the Song of Songs is the greatest p├Žan to human love in ancient literature. Its verses describe a love song from man to woman to man, flitting between lover and beloved in a mosaic of iridescent, enigmatic imagery familiar from its co-option into Judaeo-Christian religious traditions and a millennium of European musical settings. Re-reading teh Songs as literature today seems only to emphasize its sharpness and extremity: the inexhaustible overabundance of metaphor and its patchwork construction give it a decidedly modern edge. I designed a set of pieces with a variety of vocal orchestrations, each channelling the canon's intrinsic momentum in different ways: creating proliferating, growing textures, or shifting densities of sound like passing clouds, or folding the canon back on itself into more static or circling formations. I collated the texts from all over the poem, often bringing together related phrases that appear in different chapters of the Song. Each piece takes a nature-image from its text as a basis for its structure and overall character. I imagine each piece as taking place in real-time, like an unedited film. In that time the steady-state textures change gradually: the sun increasingly catches the leaves of teh plans over the eight minutes of the first piece; the wind rises and falls across the span of the second piece, and in the last there are slight, unpredictable fluctuations of gently rustling foliage. - James Weeks

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