This podcast is the second in our series on new concert music. New music can be unfamiliar and challenging - this series, written and presented by composer Arthur Keegan-Bole, is designed to present new music in a non-scary way or at least to explain that composers are making logical music - not trying to make weird, 'difficult' music to confound the listener.
The sublime music in this podcast, I will Pour Out My Spirit, ‘Effundum Spiritum Meum’, is a newly composed piece by Benedict Todd relating to the lost sounds of a ninth century Iberian liturgy. It was composed as part of Bristol University's exciting Old Hispanic Office project.
Now over to Arthur to introduce this podcast.......
Arthur Keegan-Bole: Hello, you’re listening to I will Pour Out My Spirit, ‘Effundum Spritum Meum’, a podcast about how a newly composed piece of music relates to the lost sounds of a unique liturgy called the Old Hispanic Office which was first sung on the Iberian Peninsula before the 9th Century.
Hold on, stay there, stay with me. It’s not as niche-an-episode as you might think. No working knowledge of early medieval Spanish church-going is necessary… I promise.
My name is Arthur Keegan-Bole and I’m a composer the purpose of these podcasts is to explain ways that new music relates to music of the past. In this episode we are going way back to music first written down in the Tenth Century and how musicological research into this repertoire has directly inspired the piece of music you’re hearing.
The piece was written in 2015 by Benedict Todd (hello Benedict!). You’ll hear much more from him as we discuss then interaction of music and text and how the medieval notation greatly influenced his piece of music.
We’ll also hear from Dr Emma Hornby who leads the cross-disciplinary research team investigating the Old Hispanic Office and whose project spawned the call for new works. All this to come, but for now lets just enjoy this really good bit…
Before getting onto the new stuff, lets explore what the Old Hispanic Office actually is by first hearing what it is not. It’s not the familiar sound of Gregorian chant which forms the Roman Catholic liturgy and which could be said is the genesis of the entire Western tradition.
Emma Hornby: The old hispanic office is what was sung across most of Iberia until about the year 1080 when there was a big suppression of it by the pope.
This is Dr Emma Hornby, an early music specialist and reader in music at the University of Bristol. She heads up the Old Hispanic Office project.
It’s a Western, Latin, Christian church but it’s not the Roman liturgy - that’s the Gregorian chant.
Okay, so brass tacks - ‘liturgy’ we’re talking about how the church goes about structuring services through the day
Exactly so, yes. So the Office is the way that monks and clerics go around and around singing the Psalms, singing chants, readings, prayers and the shape of how they do that in medieval Iberia was unique, different from anywhere else in western Europe. It’s not just that the melodies are different and that the texts are different, it’s that the whole shape of the liturgy is different, so you get through the day in different ways and it’s almost entirely un-studied.
Interesting stuff to an early musicologist or historian maybe but what has this got to do with composers? That stems from Emma’s novel response to a problem with the sources for this music - the notation does not give enough information for the sound to be fully recreated. We can’t know what it sounded like.
As I was planning this research I kept coming against the sticking point that I want to share my research with...