Impermanence  /  Lorelei Ensemble | sonoluminus |
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1. Portum in ultimo   [2:24]   ATO episcopus Trecensis | Codex CALIXTINUS (c. 1160-1173, Spain)   cc  107

2. “Vocalise I” from Windhorse   [2:07]   Tōru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)

Peter GILBERT (b. 1975) — from Tsukimi
3. “Ama no hara”   [0:46]   t: Abe no Nakamaro (ca 700-770)
4. “Akikaze ni”   [0:48]  t: Fujiwara no Akisuke (1090-1155)
5. “Tsuki mireba”   [1:15]  t: Oe no Chisato (9-10th century)

6. Rite maiorem Jacobum canamus / Arcibus summis miseri recluse   [4:09]
Guillaume DU FAY (1397-1474)  |  t: Robert Auclou

7. Pour ce que point fu de la amere espine / A toi vierge me represente   [4:01]
Anonymous  |  TURIN Codex, J.II.9, fol. 93v-94 (4/2) (15c., Cyprus/Italy)

8. O proles Hispaniae / O sidus Hispaniae   [4:48]   Guillaume DU FAY (1397-1474)
t: Julian von Speyer, Magnificat antiphon for St. Anthony of Padua / Simon de Montfort

9. Qui patris atris honoris / Paraclite spiritus   [3:08]
Anonymous  |  TURIN Codex, J.II.9, fol. 59v-60 (4/2) (15c., Cyprus/Italy)

Peter GILBERT (b. 1975) — from Tsukimi
10. “Nageke tote”   [1:33]   t: Saigyo Hoshi (1118-1190)
11. “Wata no hara”   [1:56]   t: Fujiwara no Tadamichi (1097-1164)
12. “Kokoro ni mo”   [1:01]   t: Sanjo In (976-1017)

13. Par grant soif clere fontainne / Dame de tout pris   [4:13]
Anonymous  |  TURIN Codex, J.II.9, fol. 94v-95 (4/2) (15c., Cyprus/Italy)

14. Flos florum   [3:34]   Guillaume DU FAY (1397-1474)
t: Anonymous  |  Analecta hymnica medii aevi – Herausgegeben von Clemens Blume und Guido M. Devres, XXXII

15. Sanctus in eternis regnans / Sanctus et ingenitus pater atque carens   [3:37]
Anonymous  |  TURIN Codex, J.II.9, fol. 75v-76 (4/2) (15c., Cyprus/Italy)

16. Apostolo glorioso   [3:07]
Guillaume DU FAY (1397-1474)  |  t: Malatesta dei Malatesti

Peter GILBERT (b. 1975) — from Tsukimi
17. “Hototogisu”   [0:53]   t: Fujiwara no Sanesada (1139-1191)
18. “Natsu no yo wa”   [1:36]   t: Kiyohara no Fukayabu (9-10th century)

19. “Vocalise II” from Windhorse   [3:19]   Tōru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)

Beth Willer — artistic director

Sarah Brailey — soprano
Margot Rood — soprano
Sonja Tengblad — soprano
Christina English — mezzo-soprano
Clare McNamara — mezzo-soprano
Sophie Michaux — mezzo-soprano
Stephanie Kacoyanis — contralto
Emily Marvosh — contralto

PRODUCER: Dan Merceruio
PHOTOGRAPHY: Allana Taranto, Ars Magna Studio
BLU-RAY AUTHORING: Stefan Bock, MSM-Studios
RECORDED AT: Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, MA
July 26-30, 2016

Mixed and mastered on Legacy Audio speakers.

Recorded with Merging Technologies Horus.
Mastered with Merging Technologies Hapi.
Recorded in DXD at 24 bit, 352.8kHz in Auro-3D 9.1 Immersive Audio.

℗ & © 2018 Sono Luminus, LLC. All rights reserved.
PO Box 227, Boyce, VA 22620, USA • •
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Migration of peoples across borders has shaped the human experience for millennia. While securing permanent shelter—a home—has become a goal for the majority of individuals in our world, migration remains one of our main strategies for survival. Today, tens of millions of individuals live a nomadic lifestyle as hunter gatherers or pastoralists. Pilgrims seek moral or spiritual significance through extended physical journeys. Immigrants and refugees seek freedom, stability, and safety in new communities and countries. Whether physical or metaphysical, humanity survives by way of continuous movement—our culture, beliefs, and histories are marked by impermanence. This album is an exploration of that concept—traveling between early and contemporary repertoires, based in texts, melodies, and timelines that refuse to be conveniently pinned down by norms.

Impermanence is the bedrock of Buddhist philosophy and practice: continuous becoming as the truth of our existence. Buddhists consider this ever-evolving reality to be undeniable and inescapable. All temporal things—physical and mental—are subject to a continuous cycle of decline, decay, and rebirth. Fully embracing this concept is both humbling and freeing. It is particularly thrilling to consider this perspective as an artist committed to creating and delivering meaningful temporal experiences.

Music functions as a container of meaning, a vehicle we have used for centuries to express and grapple with the ineffable. We want to capture music—to write it down with a notation that clearly defines and preserves our musical ideas for generations to come. Yet, we have struggled to create a collection of symbols that can fully express our intentions—intentions that go far beyond pitch and rhythm. As Western notation systems have evolved, we have managed to refine this musical language, with each innovation allowing us to translate ideas in greater detail, and expand the possibilities of what could be recorded and communicated by the composer, to the performer. With this evolution came an ever-expanding musical vocabulary, new levels of complexity, and an increased desire to prescribe performance practices with the pen. But music resists this containment—the possibilities precede and outlast the technology that seeks to write them down. It is precisely this imperfection and constant evolution of notation that has allowed great music to survive for centuries. It is the unknown and the undefined corners of the score that keep us coming back to re-interpret and re-invent ideas that well precede and defy modern practice.

Recording is perhaps the most inflexible container of music we have yet devised. Live performance is, after all, the ultimate expression of musical impermanence: no two performances can ever be the same, even if delivered by the same artists. In recording, the goal is often to be absolutely consistent in terms of interpretation—tempo, dynamics, color—so that different takes can be combined into a cohesive and perfect musical “moment,” captured for posterity. In the sessions for this album, however, I felt the repertoire resisting this method. Of course, in rehearsal we model all of our artistic choices; we plan for a product that we can predict. But in tracks predicated on spontaneity and improvisation, such as the fifth movement of Tsukimi, each take must stand alone as a single iteration of that musical idea—it can’t be convincingly reconstructed from multiple takes. In early motets, shaped by choices of tempo or ficta, our preferences sometimes shifted between takes. And in both cases, moments of complete silence or harmonic stasis (ideal “seams” for splicing two separate moments together into one) are hard to come by. And so, in the process of recording, we found ourselves “continuously becoming,” as we grappled with a repertoire that invited constant re-imagination.

I like to think of the “unknown” elements in both early and new music as opportunities for bringing a piece into the present moment. New music has no performance history, and often begs conversations between the composer and the performer. In some early music, we may never fully understand the composer’s intentions. Our theories surrounding choices of tempo, ficta, and vocal tone, are grounded in contemporary research (and, quite plainly, contemporary bias), but the scores themselves leave significant room for interpretation. Musica ficta (“false music,” in early contrapuntal music) might be defined as “the introduction by a performer of sharps, flats, or other accidentals to avoid unacceptable intervals.” But scholars disagree—were these “unacceptable intervals” horizontal or vertical? Working from Alejandro Planchart’s new Du Fay editions, I made a number of artistic choices, driven at times by a modern understanding of Renaissance musical theory, and at times by my own artistic preference. Accepting and wrestling with these unknown elements is simply part of the process in approaching this stunning and slippery repertoire. What is sure is Du Fay’s commitment to innovation and evolution of musical style, particularly in regards to sacred repertoire. Though he certainly pays homage to the traditions that precede him, we can be certain he was never restrained by expectations of his time.

The Turin Codex (J.II.9) provides ample opportunity for exploration of the unknown, both musically and historically speaking. Serving as one of three primary sources of the ars subtilior (along with the Chantilly Codex and the Modena Codex), it preserves and displays a repertoire of extreme rhythmic and notational complexity. Long thought to have been a repertory confined to the early fifteenth-century, and primarily situated in Paris and Avignon in Southern France, recent scholarship repositions the ars subtilior (“subtler art”) as a prominent and flourishing repertoire in northern Italy well into the 1430’s, overlapping at least partially with the composition of Du Fay’s motets (all four included here composed between 1420 and the late 1440’s). At this time, humanist circles in Italy developed an interest in “northern” music, not only leading to the copying of major sources of the ars subtilior (such as J.II.9), but also the commissioning of new works in the “old-fashioned” style. Presenting these dual-texted Latin and French motets alongside the isorhythmic and cantilena motets of Du Fay provide a window into the diversity of musical styles cultivated in northern Italy during Du Fay’s time. Due to the complexities of both the scholarship and the music itself, performance of the Turin motets is rarely undertaken. We are pleased to present the debut recording of three of the four motets included herein, selected from this extensive and virtually untapped source of ars subtilior repertoire.

I also believe that some of the “known” elements in early repertoires are worth questioning and even upending, assuming proper respects are paid to their origin. We know the motets of Du Fay and the Turin Manuscript were never intended to be sung by women. But in the 21st century, we are able to offer this rebirth to a repertoire that has long been reserved for male voices alone. Rather than remaining attached to historic ideas and expectations, we have chosen to let go of the gender norms that have limited access to this repertoire for centuries. In doing so, the music too gains access to a more inclusive, and therefore diverse, group of artists and their interpretation.

The repertoire on this album is rife with symbolism and metaphor that further teases out concepts of impermanence, migration, and the transient nature of musical language. From the wordless vocalises of Takemitsu’s Windhorse depicting Tibetan nomads, to the 12th century polyphony of the Codex Calixtinus sung by pilgrims traveling along the Camino de Santiago, to the dramatic shifts of polyphonic style seen in the 15th century motets of Du Fay and the Turin Codex, to Peter Gilbert’s settings of Japanese waka poetry meditating on the phases of the moon—temporality is a common and unmistakable thread. And I suppose if one accepts impermanence fully, we might begin to see it in all of our work as artists.

The sand mandala, a practice of meditation in Tibetan Buddhism, provides a poignant example of impermanence in creative work. An intricate design is conceived and assembled by a team of monks over days or even weeks, layering colored sands in an elaborate depiction of the universe. Upon its completion, the sands are brushed into a pile and spilled into a moving body of water to spread the blessings of the mandala. And so stands this album, as a temporary but thoughtful meditation on a collection of repertoire that is sure to make a mark in its moment, but will just as sure evolve beyond this particular artistic take.

—Beth Willer, 2018


The CODEX CALIXTINUS (or Liber Sancti Jacobi, “Book of St. James”) was compiled circa 1160-1175 for pilgrims traveling along the “Camino de Compostela” or “Way of Saint James” in Northern Spain. The five volume collection covers all aspects of the pan-European pilgrimage route across Northern Spain, as well as documenting the liturgical practices in the Cathedral at Compostela. Its fifth and final book, “The Guide of the Medieval Pilgrim,” includes ethnographic accounts of the communities along The Way, as well as some of the earliest known polyphonic notation. Portum in ultimo is one of several revolutionary works included in the collection, defining it as an important bridge to the monumental polyphonic tradition established at Notre Dame in the 12th and 13th centuries, most notably by Léonin and Pérotin.

TŌRU TAKEMITSU describes the process of nomadic migration that shaped his composition: “Wind Horse is a divination practiced by Tibetan nomads, for deciding where they should next go and live. Over a vast tableland of open space, there is stretched a rope to which are tied and hung various pieces of cloth of all colors from their folk costumes. A gust of wind comes along, causing rustling sounds through the cool clear air of the plateau. The nomads commence moving in the direction which the cloths tied to the rope are blown. This rope is called ‘Wind Horse.’” Excerpted from the larger work, Vocalise I and Vocalise II unfold entirely without text. Spare, angular counterpoint alternates with thick, mesmerizing vertical sonorities. In the second vocalise, the lines eventually arrive at an exceptionally tonal melody—the quotation of a Bantu lullaby. Through rhythmically symmetrical gestures, we are lulled to a place of stability and rest, both musically and spiritually.

PETER GILBERT’s setting of eight Japanese waka poems serves as the structural and conceptual framework of the album. Showcasing an individual vocalist in each movement, Gilbert devises a cohesive yet disparate collection of miniature musical moments that resist traditional musical categorization, exploring the flexible and illusive nature of the vocal instrument, and the ideas within the poetry itself.
Gilbert writes: “Translated as ‘Moon Viewing,’ TSUKIMI is a traditional Japanese celebration of the full moon dating back to the Heian period (roughly 800-1200 AD). The Heian era was a great era for Japanese literature and saw the revival of native waka poetry. The waka became more concise at this point, bearing only five lines: three of 5-7-5 syllable lengths (which would eventually stand alone as the hokku) and two final lines of 7 syllables each. A famous anthology of the time, the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, brings together 100 great poems of the time by different poets. Powerful and condensed, they leverage the broad-reaching contemplations of Buddhism to create moments which are simultaneously descriptive, intellectual and spiritual in their beauty. The moon is one of Buddhism’s great symbols. Itself a surface of reflection, it makes a wonderful mirror for the concept of the illusion of the senses. This sense of the illusory nature of our experience of life is summarized by a single word in Japanese: ukiyo, which translates as “floating world” but really implies the world of the senses hovering all around us. The Ogura Hyakunin Isshu is full of such remarkably dense imagery. For me, reading them in a foreign language, the poems themselves are especially like the moon’s light: reflections beyond my grasp that illuminate the world about me in magically ethereal hues—emotional, ephemeral, slipping back into invisibility.”

The motets of GUILLAUME DU FAY are among the most celebrated works of the 15th century. Spanning across decades, they serve as a uniquely diverse and defining repertory of the Early Renaissance. The compositional virtuosity and discipline displayed in his more archaic isorhythmic motets (Rite maiorem Jacobum / Artibus summis miseri  and Apostolo glorioso / Cum tua doctrina) lie in sharp contrast with his more modern cantilena motets. In works such as Flos florum and O proles Hispanie / O sidus Hispanie one can observe a remarkable fluidity of both style and form. The freedom and unpredictability of these works is not only unique to Du Fay’s oeuvre, but to the entire repertory of the 15th century. Yet, the composition of these four works, all written between 1420 and 1440 in northern Italy, follow no predictable or linear pattern of stylistic evolution. Flos florum in fact precedes both Rite maiorem and Apostolo glorioso in its composition, with O proles Hispanie following two decades later. It seems clear that “older” compositional styles, such as the isorhythmic motet, remained present alongside the development of a more “modern” style, rather than one following the other.

The mysterious and unattributed TURIN CODEX (J.II.9), also originating in the early 15th century, offers a glimpse into the remarkable fluidity of people and culture between the European continent and Cyprus—an island whose late-medieval culture bore the influence of not only Greek, Italian, and French cultural groups, but also Armenian and Turkish. The extensive repertory of the Turin Codex—including plainchant, polyphonic mass settings, dual-texted motets, and secular songs—certainly originated at this unique crossroads of the East and West, at the French court under the rule of King Janus of Cyprus. The origin of the manuscript itself, however, is highly-contested. Recent scholarship by Karl Kügle1 links the Turin Codex to singer-composer Jean Hanelle as a key contributor to the copying (and perhaps composition) of the entirely “anonymous” manuscript. Hanelle’s permanent residence on Cyprus for much of the early 15th century is confirmed by records of his arrival with Charlotte of Bourgon from Cambrai in 1411, his appointment at Nicosia Cathedral in 1428, and his long-time service as chapel master to the King of Cyprus at the Lusignan Court. Overseeing the royal music during his tenure with the King, his own compositions may very well have been included in the Turin Codex.2 However, Hanelle did not remain in Cyprus exclusively during this period. On a trip to the continent in 1434 (likely toting the entire repertory of the Cypriot-French court), Hanelle was reunited with Du Fay at Savoy, whom he almost certainly knew from their time at Cambrai Cathedral before 1411. Recently recruited to Savoy from the papal chapel, and well-connected within the musical “scene,” Du Fay would have served as an excellent professional resource to the newly-relocated Hanelle. It was likely during this time in Italy that Hanelle copied the Cypriot-French repertoire of Lusignan into the collection we now know as J.II.9.

—Beth Willer, 2018

1  Kügle, Karl. “Glorious Sounds for a Holy Warrior: New Light on Codex Turin J.II.9.” Journal of American Musicological Society, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Fall 2012)

2  Kügle goes so far as to suggest Hanelle as the sole composer of the works included in J.II.9, or one of only two (perhaps also Gilet Velut). If in fact this repertory can be attributed entirely to Hanelle, Fügle hypothesizes, “the codex offers us a quasi-single-author collection that quantitatively approaches or exceeds the oeuvre of such famous figures in fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century music history as Guillaume de Machaut and Guillaume Du Fay.”

Beth Willer, Artistic Director

Heralded for its “warm, lithe, and beautifully blended” sound (New York Times) “impeccable musicality” (Boston Globe) and unfailing display of the “elegance, power, grace and beauty of the human voice” (Boston Music Intelligencer), Boston’s Lorelei Ensemble is recognized nationally for its bold and inventive programs that champion the extraordinary flexibility and virtuosic capability of the human voice. Lorelei is an all-professional vocal ensemble, comprising nine women whose expertise ranges from early to contemporary repertoire, and whose independent careers as soloists and ensemble singers across the globe lend to the rich and diverse vocal palette that defines the ensemble’s thrilling delivery of “exact, smooth, and stylish” programming (Boston Globe). Under the direction of founder and artistic director Beth Willer, Lorelei has established a remarkable and inspiring artistic vision, curating culturally-relevant and artistically audacious programs that stretch and challenge the expectations of artists and audiences alike.

Lorelei has commissioned and premiered more than fifty new works since its founding in 2007, while also exposing and reinventing early works of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque repertoires. Driven by their mission to advance and elevate women’s vocal ensembles and enrich the repertoire through forward-thinking and co-creative collaboration, Lorelei partners with established and emerging composers to create new works that point toward a “new normal” for vocal artists, and women in music.

Based in Boston, Lorelei frequently joins forces with local artistic organizations to the enrich the city’s vibrant music scene. Collaborating ensembles include the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Music Center, A Far Cry, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Odyssey Opera, Grand Harmonie, Boston Percussion Group, and Juventas New Music. In addition to its work in and around Boston, Lorelei maintains a national touring schedule, enjoying performances on numerous concert series and at venues and institutions across the country. Appearances include Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Art Museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Trinity Wall, Five Boroughs Music Festival, Rockport Chamber Music, Chamber Music Columbus, Duke Performances, Schubert Club of St. Paul, Louisville Chamber Music Series, Monadnock Music Festival, Kent Hall Masters Series, and guest appearances at state and national conferences. Educational residencies have included work with young artists at Harvard University, Bucknell University, Yale University, Duke University, Macalester College, Pittsburg State University, Mount Holyoke College, Hillsdale College, Keene State College, Pennsylvania Girlchoir, Connecticut Children’s Chorus, and Providence Children’s Chorus.