Composed of Italian madrigals from the end of the Renaissance era, this musical course invites an appreciation of words and of musical texture.
Polyphonists hailing from Northern France and Flanders, such as Cyprien de Rore and Roland de Lassus, become acquainted with Petrarchan language and the then new musical form of the madrigal, which came into being at the end of the fifteenth century. In the madrigal, the learned art of counterpoint blends with language, the richness of which carries a wealth of expressions and rhetorical devices that are essential for writing in this dramatic tone. These sixteenth century writers successfully adapted to music the Canzoniere sonnets by Petrarch in the madrigal form (which were written two centuries earlier).
The colourful range of music that developed in around 1550 tends to reinforce this form of expression. Roland de Lassus wrote the celebrated Prophéties des Sybilles, an entirely chromatic work.
Gesualdo, in his madrigals, takes this technique of writing to its highest degree.
At the turn of the seventeenth century, the madrigal, despite its intense and expressive function, was gradually replaced by the new style of instrumentally accompanied monody. This seconda prattica was born of the profound desire of composers to heighten the significance of the words above that of the music.
This transformation takes place when the number of musical instruments increases. The instruments simultaneously parody and adorn the voice in this way, much like in this new version of the madrigal Ancidetemi pur, played on the harp.
A polyphonic instrument, such as the harpsichord, lute, theorbo, harp, or a combination of several instruments, henceforth insures harmonic, multi-tonal support. Consequentially, the voice becomes a soloist.
With the support of
The Musica Nova Ensemble presents in 2016 Echoes of Babel, an original program blending Early and Contemporary Music by way of Mediterranean depth of thought. Reflecting an impressive linguistic and cultural richness, the sounds of Southern Europe, of the Maghreb, of the Middle East, and those of the Byzantium are brought together in a single encounter. The work commissioned to Saed Haddad, a Jordanian-born composer, brings to light the harmonies between the polyphonies of the Middle Ages and the monodies sung by the Moroccan Anass Habib, accompanied by Aurélie Tissot’s qanun.
The myth of Babel, reflecting both fear and defiance towards the Hereafter, has generated a profound fascination in the minds of men. Surpassing one’s own limits and earthly condition, building higher and ascending spiritually, this may be the substance that all mortals share. The Gothic cathedrals of the Middle-Ages testify to this day to this incessant quest of reaching the peaks of existence, but music also yields to the desire of producing works of inordinate proportions. It is this desire that has led the people in Babel to align their forces in all their diversity. It is also the reason why they became subjects of Divine punishment, a penance which gave rise to a diversity of languages, bringing chaos and incomprehension on Earth. “Rewriting Babel” could allow us to consider the dissimilarity of languages not as a source of dissension, but as a reason to search for harmony. For lack of a tower, this program
proposes to build a musical architecture, while laying down a possibly even greater defiance.
Languages in their diversity show and preserve identity, but they may also enrich one’s voice with strange sounds, while their knowledge may amend one’s world-view. For singers, exploring languages is an everyday work, a voyage deep within the human heart, a barrier always pushed further, feeding the imaginary. Musica Nova’s instinct was to open its musical field to Mediterranean traditional sacred music. Be they Byzantine, Aramaic, Lebanese, Algerian,…these songs may recall the monophonic origins of Mediaeval polyphonies. The meeting with Moroccan singer Anass Habib has been crucial for this project, partly because of his anchorage in traditional Moroccan culture, but also due to his desire to explore all Mediterranean music regardless of religious beliefs.
The work thus created stems from a desire to build, beyond all linguistic and musical differences, an edifice respectful of diversity.