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Effundam spiritum meum
I will pour out my spirit
- Composed: June - August 2015 (revised September/October 2015)
- Duration: 6 mins
- Instrumentation: Choir SATB div.
- Awards: Highly commended in the Old Hispanic Office Project Composition Competition (2015-17)
- First performance: during the Old Hispanic Office Project Composition Workshops, 4 - 8 March 2016 by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
- Subsequently performed: as part of the final Old Hispanic Office Project concert on the 20 May 2017 by the combined choirs of Bristol Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
- Notes: This piece is closely intertwined with the sacrificium chant Haec dicit Dominus formans te contained in the Liber misticus from the Monasterio de San Millán de la Cogolla (E-Mah Cod. 30, Fol 209v - 210r).
Upon first encountering the Old Hispanic Office repertoire I was immediately struck by several seemingly important characteristics. The first of these is the adiastematic neumatic notation. The neumes of the original chant have directed my composition in a number of ways. In many places they are used to inform the general pitch direction outline of phrases, but in other passages I wanted to delve a little further into their intricacy. I was intrigued by the paradox of this notation; the elements which can be read (i.e. inter-ligature melodic direction) seem to be greatly outnumbered by those which we can no longer be certain about (e.g. absolute intervalic values). This uncertainty results in a huge increase in the number of possibilities for each melodic fragment. I wanted to somehow incorporate this into the music, so I therefore devised a way to build up counterpoint using a number of different possible renderings of phrases from the manuscript.
Another feature I found particularly interesting was the use of melisma to stretch and, possibly, to highlight key passages in the text. Again, I wanted to incorporate elements of this technique in my composition, and have done so in several ways. Firstly, I searched for a text which had a greater than average number of melismatic passages. Then, whilst setting this text to music, I paid close attention to the pacing of the text setting, elongating several passages which are drawn out in the original.
- Programme note: Effundam spiritum meum sets a text found in the Liber misticus from the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla in northern Spain. The manuscript preserves both text and musical notation of this chant, which is part of a larger sacrificium for use at Mass on the feast of St Vincent. Music written in this neume-based system cannot be transcribed directly into modern pitched notation as crucial details have either been lost or were not originally encoded. Yet glimpses of the original melody are found in the pitch contours (the ‘ups and downs’) which can still be read from these neumes. My music grew from the multiple possible sonic realisations of these contours; not seeking to reconstruct the ‘lost’ chant, but exploring the characteristic shapes and structures of the tenth-century setting whilst also forming a musical allegory of the situation in which we, and the OHOP researchers, find ourselves.
This recording was made at the final concert of the Old Hispanic Office Project in Bristol Cathedral on the 20 May 2017. The choirs of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford and Bristol Cathedral came together to sing this piece under the direction of Stephen Darlington. I am incredibly grateful to both Stephen Darlington and Mark Lee for preparing the piece with both choirs, and to both them and the members of the OHOP team, particularly Emma Hornby, for organising this project and allowing me to make the recordings available here.
This recording is copyright © B Todd 2017. All rights are reserved.
Effundam spiritum meum has been made the subject of a podcast! Composer Arthur Keegan-Bole is in the process of making a series of podcasts about new music, and he choose to use Effundam as the subject for the episode looking at the Old Hispanic Office project’s work. You can find the podcast, in which Arthur talks with both Benedict and Dr Emma Hornby of the OHO project, on the PodAcademy site, on iTunes or you can subscribe via this RSS feed.