So, I’ve written about the Fragments Project before (here, here and here) and I’m about to embark on a trip back up to the Scottish Borders to sing in the last of the three ‘Fragments of…’ events, ‘Fragments of Red’. These events have staged audiovisual installations by The Red Field involving the performance of music from a C12th manuscript fragment alongside compositions inspired by the medieval chants.
There’s been music from Seán Doherty (for ‘Fragments of Blue’) and Michael Nyman (for ‘Fragments of Black’) and this time we’ll be singing new compositions by Grayston Ives in an event at Melrose Abbey alongside a variety of medieval tunes!
The music is beautiful and I can’t wait to join up with the choir in Scotland and hear it ring out in the abbey ruins.
I’ve mentioned my first experience of singing with the Fragments Project in Hawick and now it’s time to continue cataloguing my more recent collaboration with it in Jedburgh, through the mixed medium of preamble and poem!
(This is a digression: Actually, just typing that makes me realise the effect my research on Dante has seeped into my blogging enterprise… Both his Vita Nuova – the narrative of his love for Beatrice – and his Convivio – a philosophical treatise – are constructed from prose stories and commentaries around poems. That literary model is called prosimetrum and I appear to have accidentally slipped into it. Anyway, back to the preamble).
I was taking part in the first performance of Seán Doherty‘s ‘Et clamabant’, a piece written in response to the music in the Hawick Missal, at an event in Jedburgh Old and Trinity Church and in the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey. I’ve written a longer piece about the experience for the project blog, but for now, here’s a poem that came out of the evening:
glass fallen from the windows
ground by weather
in through emptinesses
unglazed with everchanging stain
a membrane hard not to imagine
and outside remains
if only in the persistence of window frames
if only in the voices
passed between the pillars
if only in the north wall
which half remembers holding back
the crush of sweating life
of trade and cattle profane chatter
of courting and wedding and begetting
if only in the song
if only in perception
unconvinced by the openness to atmosphere
reminding the wallstones that they belong
to the water
to the winds
to the gentle corruptions of time
to the still resounding sky
A little context: not long ago a fragment of a 12th century manuscript missal (a book containing instructions for carrying out the mass) was found in an archive in the Scottish borders. It inspired a project which has involved performances, audio-visual art, installations and new compositions.
I’ve sung in two of these events, performing plainsong chants from the manuscript and a new composition by Seán Doherty responding to its contents. While practicing and performing for these events, I’ve been prodded by the experience to write poems, the first of which (written in November 2012 at an event in Hawick itself) is here:
You want to see a soul?
A near immortal something,
that sings on in a resonance of ink
nibbed to each page
with extraordinary care;
words on skin in skin, fragmented,
now exhumed and rising
word on note on tongue
from lungs expelling songs of other times
and realms entirely;
so old they’re new,
so strange they hang in air
unbound, aloud, beyond