Martyn Brabbins, music director, English National Opera
The above recording of Harmoniae Naturales VI is from its world premier in February 2019 at St George’s, Hanover Square, London as mentioned in the above promotional video and detailed below. The overtone singing demonstration and improvisation is by Wolfgang Saus, Rollin Rachele, Lothar Berger and Jan Heinke.
The recording of like Shining from Shook Foil features soprano Olivia Robinson and the Orpheus Sinfonia conducted by Thomas Carroll.
combines the astonishing and mesmerising sound of four overtone singers with an orchestra of strings, brass, percussion and specially tuned keyboards. In it I have set some of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ most tortured and transcendental words for soprano and tenor. It is the culmination of over two decades of my development of natural harmony.
I have been captivated and amazed by overtone singing from the moment I heard it. As a composer, when I first encountered these magical sounds, I felt inspired and compelled to include them in my music. I was particularly drawn to the sublimely beautiful sound world created by overtone singers such as Rollin Rachele, in which the vocalist amplifies overtones over gentle ground tones. You can experience Rollin’s ethereal singing in the video above.
For this project I had engaged the following stellar array of musicians: soprano Patricia Auchterlione, tenor Daniel Norman and overtone singers Rollin Rachele, Wolfgang Saus, Lothar Berger and Jan Heinke (a specialist in the ultra low sub-harmonic throat singing known as kaargira. The Orpheus Sinfonia was joined by a superb line-up of instrumentalists – including Bruce Nockles on natural trumpet, and horn soloist Laurence Davies – and was conducted by Simon Wills.
In his Irish Sonnets of Desolation, Hopkins plumbs the depths of despair and questions his strict Jesuit faith. Two of these Sonnets form the centre piece of Harmoniae Naturales VI. In the final song, That Nature is a Herecletian Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection, the poet transcends these dark thoughts in a celebration of the eternal energy of the natural world. This is reflected in the transformational sounds of overtone singing and natural harmony.
1. The Sea and the Skylark
ON ear and ear two noises too old to end Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore; With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar, Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.
Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend, His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour And pelt music, till none’s to spill nor spend.
How these two shame this shallow and frail town! How ring right out our sordid turbid time, Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,
Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime: Our make and making break, are breaking, down To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.
2. Irish Sonnets of Desolation
NO worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief, More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring. Comforter, where, where is your comforting? Mary, mother of us, where is your relief? My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing — Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling- ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.”‘
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep, Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.
Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.
from Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet
THOU art indeed just, Lord, if I contend With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just. Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must Disappointment all I endeavour end? Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend, How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend, Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain, Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes. Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
3. That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
CLOUD-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air- Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches. Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches, Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair. Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare Of yestertempest’s creases; | in pool and rut peel parches Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature’s bonfire burns on. But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone! Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark Is any of him at all so stark But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection, A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, | joyless days, dejection. Across my foundering deck shone A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash: In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, Is immortal diamond.
Gerard Manley Hopkins