“Echoes of Babel” : Musica Nova’s new programme
with a documentary by Yves Bénitah & Patrice Pegeault, produced by Acte Public Compagnie
The Musica Nova Ensemble presents 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.
Ensemble Musica Nova puts forward a program commemorating an unprecedented historical, political and religious event: the Lutheran Protestant Reformation. In 1517 Martin Luther published his “Ninety-five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” with the purpose of reforming the Roman Church. The Papal reaction and the chaos that ensued compelled him to establish a New Reformed Church, dissenting from the Vatican. Luther adopted a new liturgy and new chants were introduced. He created a choral repertoire in vernacular language, allowing the worshiper to pray in his own language, while inviting polyphonist composers of his time to write motets inspired from the themes of German chorales.
The focus of this project is precisely on this first step in the development of the Lutheran repertoire, and namely on the works of Johann Walter (1496-1570), one of Luther’s closest collaborators.
Few recordings and concerts are dedicated to this music that constitutes the very foundation of all future German Lutheran production up to the XIXth century, including the compositions of J. S. Bach.