Early Music Festival: LACHRYMAE (2015) 3-track digital EP


Early Music Festival: LACHRYMAE (2015) 3-track digital EP


1. Flow My Tears (John Dowland, 16th century)
2. Instrumentalis (21st century)
3. Pois que vos Deus (medieval Cantiga from Portugal)

Angela James: voice
James Falzone: Bb clarinet & shruti box
Jason Stein: bass clarinet
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello & electronics
Frank Rosaly: drums & electronics

Release date: December 1, 2015
Recorded in Chicago on September 14, 2015 at Kingsize Sound Labs by John Abbey.
Mastered by Fred Lonberg-Holm. 
Cover Image: Hal Rammel's 2004 silver gelatin print Chirognomic Portrait

By purchasing you will receive a download code for a zip file containing the 3 tracks in high resolution WAV form. For additional download options, visit the Allos Documents Bandcamp Site

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. . . this project started with a volcano and some hate mail

You might remember Eyjafjallajokull, the 2010 volcano that erupted in Iceland causing international airtraffic problems between Europe and the US. One casualty of this eruption was the 2010 Chicago Early Music Festival taking place at the Chicago Cultural Center and curated by my friend Helen Vasey. When several of Helen's scheduled performers could not reach the US due to the volcano and knowing I had a long-standing interest in early music, she contacted me to bring in a last-minute ensemble to create an improvised version of something "early." Always up for a challenge, I gathered together several of my favorite Chicago improvisers including cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and drummer Frank Rosaly to create a piece using a 4th century Ambrosian chant. The audience, quite conservative in their interests and likely expecting to hear soothing vocal music like Machaut or Palestrina, did not take kindly to our set and many walked out. Later that night I received an email that read: "I was at your concert tonight . . . worst shit I've ever heard . . . hope I never have to hear you again!"

i knew i was onto something

Jason Stein and Angela James in the studio recording  Flow My Tears

Jason Stein and Angela James in the studio recording Flow My Tears

Since 2010 I've worked with the Early Music Festival at many venues throuought Chicago, trying out different material and personnel. Though all these experiments were fruitful, I found myself returning to the original quartet of Jason, Fred, and Frank. For several concerts in September, 2015, I added vocalist Angela James, whose incredible voice fit naturally into the mix. We spent a day in the studio recording these 3 special tracks.

Like many music students, I first encountered the music of John Dowland as an undergraduate in music history class. I was immediately struck by the beauty and intimacy of his instrumental lute pieces and his song settings and it wasn't long before I began experimenting with them in my own work. In the version presented here, Angela states the melody with the utmost clarity while Jason and I swirl around her like dervishes. Fred's beautiful accompaniment throughout, with hints of "typical" Renaissance cadences, mixes beautifully with Frank's cymbals and subtle electronics. My favorite moment of the recording is the final, climactic cadence, which somehow remained faithful to the "tradition" while also drawing it into question . . . just the way I like it. Watch and listen to a sample video of Flow My Tears above making use of Hal Rammel's wonderful photograph Chirognomic Portrait.

There was a rich tradition of instrumental music in the Middle Ages, for dance but also for contemplative practice, especially in the monastic tradition. Our instrumental piece, making use of the Lydian church mode, falls into the latter category with beautiful contributions from the electronics of Frank and Fred. 

Frank Rosaly and Fred Lonberg-Holm adding their signature sounds to  Instrumentalis . 

Frank Rosaly and Fred Lonberg-Holm adding their signature sounds to Instrumentalis

Original manuscript of Pois que vos Deus.

Original manuscript of Pois que vos Deus.

This beautiful song represents one of the Cantigas of Portugal from the 13th century. Always devotional and usually devoted to Mary, the language is a medieval form of Portugeuse, which Angela, who lived in Brazil for a time, handles beautifully. The original manuscript, or what's left of it (at right), offers a central question: "Dear God, what are you, friend or enemy?"