Revelations (This Early Song)

2017; dur: 55'; Mezzo and string quartet; 
Text by Aasne Linnestå; Score at nb.no

RevelationsWeb

Ultima 2017, photo by Andreas Turau
 
 

I – we – thou – who – ye – that – this – what – not – bark – worm – hand – fire – ashes – mother – man – black – old – spit – pull – hear – give – flow

A collection of 23 words, so-called cognates that the language scientists say are connecting all the languages of the Eurasian continent 15.000 years back in time, is the point of departure for this new work. Among the words, are the most robust pronouns, but also words like ‘bark’ (from the tree), ‘worm’ and the verb ‘to spit’, words that are no longer in normal daily use. What can the words tell us about who we are and our civilisation? Poet Aasne Linnestå and composer Maja S. K. Ratkje weave the words in with new sounds and poems and wish to give the words new colours of our own time.

There are nine parts that constitute Revelations (This Early Song) with remarks for staging and direction. Can also be performed as a concert piece, the whole piece or single parts.

Commissioned by Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival. Premiered by Marianne Beate Kielland and Engegård Quartet, Jakob kirke Sept 9, 2017.

En veldig sterk sangsyklus som kanskje sier like mye om hvordan vi mennesker har det idag som hvordan man gikk rundt og pratet på slutten av forrige istid. Det har en vakker og poetisk tekst av Aasne Linnestå, som har tatt utgangspunkt i disse 23 ordene, men som går langt videre enn det. (…)
Det som teller her er hva Ratkje og Linnestå gjør med dette nå idag. Jeg tenker at dette er et ganske moderne budskap som passer like godt til vår tid som det gjorde for 15.000 år siden: Vi må ta vare på naturen, kjærligheten er det som betyr mest. Vi må ta vare på de sosiale fellesskapene og dele på ressursene. (…)
Det har blitt et veldig velkomponert verk for strykekvartett og mezzosopran. Som alltid hos Linnestå og Ratkje, så er det politisk, men teksten er rik og poetisk nok til at dette aldri blir enkle sannheter. Og framførelsen er som sagt veldig sterk fra Marianne Beate Kielland og Engegårdkvartettens side. (…)
Jeg syns at Maja S. K. Ratkje står fram her som en av de absolutt fremste og mest interessante musikkskapere vi har her på berget. Det er nok et givende samarbeid her mellom Ratkje og Linnestå, framførelsen sitter som et skudd. Jeg håper at dette er en sangsyklus som kommer til å bli spilt og hørt også utenfor Norges grenser.
-Eystein Sandvik, NRK P2
 
Reviews

Programme note in Norwegian:

Dette verket tar utgangspunkt i 23 ur-ord, såkalte kognater, som språkforskere mener er felles for hele det eurasiske kontinentet. De kan spores hele 15.000 år tilbake i tid. Blant ordene finner vi de mest slitesterke pronomenene, men også ord som ‘bark’ (fra treet), ‘worm’ og verbet ‘to spit’, ord som ikke brukes ofte nå. Hva kan ordene fortelle om oss og vår sivilisasjon? Aasne Linnestå og Maja S. K. Ratkje fletter ordene inn i nye toner og dikt, og ønsker med verket Revelations (This Early Song) å løfte ordene inn i vår tid.

The nine parts that constitute Revelations (This Early Song):

1. What is

2. Worm

3. Mother

I hear
mother

My mama said
life is a gift
My mama said lift
Be home before dome!
Alone!

Don’t ride that crazy horse!

You can be rich – or poor!
And leave those boys alone!

Love is all the matters
Love is what she says

4. Ashes

Ashes to ashes to ashes

5. The Tree Song

The tree is a perennial plant
The elongated stem
Supporting branches and leaves
and it’s long-lived too
If we allow

The toon tree
The tree crown

Acacia, the apple tree, baobab and the birch
Cypress and the dragon tree
Elm and eucalyptus, the Franklin tree
And ginkgo (oh, the half-moon shaped leaves!)
The handkerchief tree (Davidia Involucrata!) and ivory palm
The Judas tree (blush of shame!)
Kotukutuku

Linden, magnolia, mangroves, Nepalese alder
Oak and pine and the queen palm
The raisin tree, the sacred tree, the tree of heaven

Virola (The glossy dark green leaves
And its clusters of tiny, yellow flowers)
Weeping willow, ximenia, yucca
Ziziphus, with all the visible nerves

This old tree

6. Fire

7. Black

Our purest eyes and the strongest hands
I love the ground on where we stand

Black is the colour of the blue despair
When the ground is soft and the end too near

Black is the colour of a love affair
Love of lovers, cause well they know
Yes, well they know the grounds to love
And still is hope
And time will come when we must be as one

Black is the colour of a love affair
And the priests come near
Black is what they wear
Black is the colour of the sleeping air
In a night of fear
Black is a colour of a word

8. If I Became

If I became a word
And if I was the first word you ever heard
And if I let more words enter you, and you let more words enter me
What would we like them to be?

If I said ‘grass’ and you said ‘storm’
And I said ‘child’ and you said ‘worm’
What is a word if you say ‘we’ and I say ‘me’?

What are the words to us when nothing comes to and end
And it’s hard to spell ‘friend’?
What are the words to us?
What becomes a word in the end?

9. Journey of Words

Nasty woman

Or love or birth and fragrance
or wilderness or music
or heaven or hate

Or mistress

One single scream
or a whisper, or a prayer, or a song
The song of songs from a choir made by birds
Made by leaves in the wind in the forest and of hearts
In all beloved

The smell of death and life and others
And the pain, and the revenge

mother – this – I – flow – fire
this – mother – hand – that – hear
thou – that – pull – bark

The guns and the lips and the mountains and the fiords and the flowers and the forests and the ground

hear – what – thou – give – who – spit –fire
hear – what – thou – who – give
fire – that – pull

who – what – hear
hear – thou
we – hear

The mind of the prisoner, the mind of the poet
The nasty mind of the demagog, of the priest, of the mullah
Of a musician and a nurse and a plumber and a farmer

The earth and the moon and the stars
and of hell and the sky and the nasty darkness and the light

 

RevelationsTreeSong

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