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A Music with Roots
Inspired by Gregorian Chant, and by sacred musics from Jewish, Muslim,
Hindu, African, and other ancient traditions.
A Music with Wings
Exploring new musical approaches, with improvisation, composition,
shamanic vocalizations, harmonic overtone chanting, African and
Mideastern rhythms, and electro-acoustic atmospheres.
preconceptions and in great freedom, these artists have renewed a
sacred vocal art which emerges from the mists of time. Strange, and
Emilia Rigarda, Le Figaro Magazine
recording is not just a clever mixture of genres. It reaches towards
the deepest origins of Western music, where the mystery of East and
West were joined, just before their separation. In our tumultuous time,
such a full expression of depth and serenity has become an
Erik Pigani, Psychologies
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Drinking at the Springs of a Lost Tradition
What are the origins of music? What is its
highest vocation in human life? Why does it affect us so powerfully?
Studies of ancient and primitive
societies show that music was originally a sacred practice, as were the
other performing arts.
Recent researches suggest that
all performing arts have their origins in shamanic practices.
Is it possible to re-connect with these original roots, and overcome
the postmodern impasse of art as distraction, art as market commodity,
or art for art's sake?
If so, what can sacred music
mean to us now, in our world of cultural pluralism, with no common
mythic or musical reference?
Why should a hymn to Shiva, a
Bach oratorio, or a dervish chant be any more sacred than one of Erik
Satie's sublime Gnossienne piano pieces? Is it possible to use
the word sacred, in a way that is just as meaningful as the
traditional use of it, yet is free of traditional formalities? A
meaning that takes religious traditions into account, yet requires no
stamp of approval from any of them?
are a few of the thousands of questions implied by the deeper question:
what is the meaning of sacred art in a contemporary pluralist context? [READ MORE...]
Alma Anima Un jour d'entre
les jours Credo
The Marriage of the Heavens and
From Jerusalem to Cordoba
We offer no definite answer to
this question. But we find that the very act of asking it has an
important effect in itself. This questioning creates an opening in us,
and reminds us that in spite of its abuse and its reduction to a market
commodity, music still has the power to re-unite us with our essence,
with what is both deepest and highest in us, an experience which is
both fundamental and ever-new.
Our approach to this quest
began with our own cultural heritage, which happens to be that of
Western European Christian civilization. We discovered that this
heritage has a precious, often-neglected seed: the capacity to be far
more ecumenical, more open, more tolerant, and more attuned to other
traditions than it has typically been. Curiously, it was in the deepest
roots of Western music itself, the Gregorian Chant, that we discovered
an amazing universality. This chant has far more in common with
non-Western musics than any of the Christian musical traditions which
Many are unaware of the fact
that the true oral tradition of Gregorian Chant, passed directly from
master to student, was irretrievably lost several centuries ago. What
monks and medievalists sing today are hypothetical reconstructions,
which began in the 19th century. No one knows the authentic manner of
singing these chants. All that is left to us are the manuscipts, yet
these are somehow impregnated with the soaring aspirations of the
Despite centuries of neglect
after the triumph of polyphony, these manuscripts still astonish us
with their originality and freedom of movement, their exquisite sense
of balance, evoking the sensual grace of Romanesque architecture. It is
this very originality which inspired us to "begin again," starting from
this chant, not in an effort to reconstruct (an impossible fantasy, in any case), but to re-invent a vocal
music of today, a step towards an art of the natural voice which is
both new and ancient.
all these researches, we keep retlurning to that first impression of
vast serenity in the midst
of all musical movement, like the calm heart, or the eye of witnessing,
inside the hurricane of life's pleasurable and painful emotions.
Everyone has felt something like this on first hearing Gregorian chant,
and it is interesting that this applies to people of radically
different musical and ethnic backgrounds. Indian musicians have found
something akin to the practice of Raga or Vedic chant, Jews and Muslims
readily sense the Middle Eastern elements, African Christians have
adapted plainchant practices in a wonderful marriage with their rhythms
... even Gospel singers and Buddhist monks have heard something in this
chant which feels akin to their own practice.
What could explain this
universality? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the
Gregorian chant is inseparable from the deepest roots of Western music,
occurring right at that mysterious juncture before the distinction
between "Eastern" and "Western" began to emerge with the advent of
harmony and polyphony.
yet — the way of singing of most monks and medievalists is almost
certainly a very limited version of the way it was originally sung. For
one thing, the texts themselves manifest a tremendous variety of
emotion and mood; and yet the standard way of singing, set by the monks
of Solemnes, shows little or no variety, but only a kind of constant,
ethereal serenity. This is certainly a valid and beautiful mood, but it
cannot have been the only one. Thus the quest must continue, both in
the solo and the choral Gregorian chant, for a more varied, and
incarnated interpretation. This necessity, and this limitation of the
Solemnes interpretation, was pointed out long ago by Dom Bescond.
In singing the melismas of these
chants over the years, it was their very freedom and originality which
inspired us to begin to improvise and compose our own pieces in the
spirit of this music. Later, we discovered that there is strong
evidence that the original chant included improvisation. Going further
still, we began to incorporate percussion and instrumental sounds from
the Middle-East, India, and Africa, and even electronic sounds, into
our own chant compositions and into chants taken directly from ancient
souces. Our work then expanded to include other world traditions, as
well as primal and shamanic vocal practices.
In this great diversity of
musical colors and explorations, we return endlessly to the same
unquenchable desire: to sing all the facets of our relation to the
Essential which is in us all, here and now, in sound and in silence.