Terre de l'absence

Painting by Rostislav Kunovski: Windows Letters (2011)
six solo voices: soprano, mezzo-soprano, alt, tenor, baritone, bass

commission: Nordic Voices
first performance: 8.3.2013 at Oslo International Church Music Festival 2013 , Norway
publisher: Svensk Musik

Texts by Adonis, from Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs (Chants de Mihyar le Damascène), translated from arabic to french by Anne Wade Minkowski © Editions Actes Sud

Terre de l’absence (Land of absence) was a commission by the norwegian vocal ensemble Nordic Voices for a concert during Oslo Church Music Festival 2013, on a given theme, Lamentations. I searched for a contemporary text and found the french translation of the vast collection of poems Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs (1961) by the syrian poet Adonis.
The titles of the chosen poems are telling: Earth of Absence / The bridge of Tears / Island of Stones ... Some extracts from the "Psaumes" in the same collection are written in the beginning of each part in the score and gives a mental image of the wandering king Mihyar through the Middle East:
" he has no ancestors and his roots are in his steps... He walks in the abyss and has the silhouette of wind... Thus I’m living in the memory of air... I move towards the distant and the distant remains... "

The piece is composed in six parts, linked by floating transitions or separeted by short and dry pauses. The singing parts develop towards extrem tessitures through whispering sough, harmonics, glissandos, rythmical speech, and singing.

Madeleine Isaksson