Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble

Our collaboration was five years old when we returned to the monastery of St Gerold. We wanted to do two things: record versions of some of the new music that we had added to our repertoire since Officium, and renew our encounter with the unknown, experimenting with music we hadn’t come across before.
Officium was based broadly on early music principles; we have now performed together hundreds of times and the repertoire, and what we do with it, has evolved a long way from those first explorations. So Mnemosyne really contains two sorts of music. The most straightforward are those pieces where we sing existing music (conventionally notated) and the saxophone improvises around us. We may reorder the music a bit but we know more or less what we’re going to do (we never know what the saxophone is going to do … ). This was how much of Officium worked.
A lot of the newer repertoire on Mnemosyne consists of very small amounts of material with minimal notation. These are rarely complete pieces and often just a few scraps, recovered from old book bindings or buried for centuries under desert sands. We may decide on an outline form and share out the material, then we all improvise and none of us knows what will happen next. It was another magical experience for us, five musicians plus the mercurial creative impulse of Manfred Eicher, and the timeless hospitality of Pater Nathanael at St Gerold. We did it for each other, in the absence of an audience, and these are complete, one-off performances, which will never sound the same again. John Potter

The Hilliard Ensemble
David James, countertenor
Rogers Covey-Crump, tenor
John Potter, tenor
Gordon Jones, baritone
Jan Garbarek, soprano & tenor saxophones

Mnemosyne

A sign we are, inexplicable
Without pain we are and have nearly
Lost our language in foreign lands.
For when the heavens quarrel
Over humans and moons proceed
In force, the sea
Speaks out and rivers must find
Their way. But there is One,
Whitout doubt, who
Can change this any date. He needs
No law. The rustle of leaf and then the sway of oaks
Besides glaciers. Not everything
Is in the power of the gods. Mortals would sooner
Reach toward the abyss. With them
The echo turns. Though the time
Be long, truth
Will come to pass.

“Officium”“Parce Mihi Domine” (Cristóbal de Morales, 1550-1553, Spain). Recorded at Propistei St. Gerold, Austria (Sept. 1993). “Parce mihi Domine” is from the vulgate translation of the Book of Job. The whole text is beautiful and Morales has created a truly transcendent piece here, very much ahead of his time:
“Spare me, Lord, for my days are as nothing.
What is Man, that you should make so much of us?
Or why should you set your heart upon us?
You visit us at dawn,
and put us to the test at any moment.
Will you not spare me and let me be,
while I swallow my saliva?
If I have sinned, how have I hurt you,
O guardian of mankind?
Why have you set me up as your target,
so that I am now a burden to myself?
Why do you not forgive my sin
and why do you not take away my guilt?
Behold, I shall now lie down in the dust:
if you come looking for me I shall have ceased to exist.”
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