<< -- 2 -- Malcolm Miller EPISTLE OF LOVE
If there was a potentially political slant to Tavener's personal
dedication of the cycle 'to his brother Roger, his brother's fiancée
Marina and the Martyrs of Serbia', those Martyrs alluded to were presumably
closer in time to the 14th-16th century texts from the book of Medieval
and Renaissance Serbian spiritual poetry used, rather than our own era.
Certainly the cycle is overtly non-political, its aesthetic intent explained
by Tavener in a public introduction. He was attracted to the notion of Eros
'raised to the divine', something associated with 'primitive'
cultures (in the best sense -- for example, American Indians, Russians,
Ancient Egypt, as well as Serbia) and the thoughts of saints and monks'
who 'see the divine in every person'.
The melodic lines are coloured with an eastern flavour in the use of
modes and drones, yet there is no overt quotation of Serbian sources, but
rather, the modes of Armenia and Russia. Yet however much Tavener's
musical language draws on Eastern European or oriental sources, it is the
tantalising interplay of East and West -- the contrast of the timeless
monody, modal melisma and static drones with tonal direction and formal,
directional drama -- which gives the music its transfixing energy. In
a conversation with Sir John Tavener following the performance, he commented
on this blend of influences: 'I believe the artist speaks with what
is within, what is a part of him. These are part of me. It is not a "self-conscious"
process like world music. If I had wanted to write eastern music I would
have used eastern singers. Patricia Rozario -- for whom I have composed
several works -- also has that particular mixture of background, both
Indian and Roman Catholic.' It was intriguing to learn too that the
song cycle will be 'recycled', especially the eastern elements,
in a larger work. 'Some of the material will be reused in a type of Rite
without a priest, for Indian and oriental instruments, soloists and choir.'
Copyright © 25 March 2001
Malcolm Miller, London, UK
SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE ATTENDS A TAVENER PREMIERE
& Vision home