Texte suite Home en Boire
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 a saxophone solo by John Coltrane? Do we really even need the word "sacred" today, other than as a reference to specific religious belief-systems? These 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?

The beginnings of our music in Gregorian chant (introduction to the album Alma Anima)
We offer no definite answer to this question of what makes music sacred. 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 succeeded it.

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. (There is overwhelming evidence, however, that the origins of the chant had nothing whatsoever to do with St. Gregory!) All that is left to us are the manuscripts, yet these are somehow impregnated with the soaring aspirations of the medieval soul.

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, but to re-invent a vocal music of today, a step towards an art of the natural voice which is both new and ancient.

In all these researches, we keep coming back to that beginning 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.
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 sources. 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.