Written for Franz Danksagmüller, organ; Birte Prüfert, Theresa Szorek & Iga Osowska, voice; Anne Michael, rehearsal conductor; and the extraordinary reverberation of Jakobikirche Lübeck.
For a different perspective, you can follow the singers as they circumnavigate St Jakobi during rehearsals earlier that afternoon (thanks to John Mantegna for capturing these clips!)
Here’s the audience in St Jakobi, studying the program notes prior to the start of the concert on September 26 2014 (Photo by Vlad Green):
And here is the program note they were reading (translated into German):
In organic life forms, it’s rare for new growth to completely supplant what already exists; usually, growth occurs as new layers are added to older ones, similar to the way polyphonic music or “organum” evolved as new layers and new intervals were added to the original monophonic chants. Reverberation functions in a similar manner, allowing you to add new layers as the older layers are still ringing in the air.
In fact, reverberation—a quasi-organic process of memory, feedback, and decay—is the “Fifth Element” in Conductus; there are three singers, an organist, and the reverberation of St Jakobi which is treated as a distinct personality and has its own “solos”. Kyma’s role is to process and reshape the reverberation by capturing the environment through two microphones, reacting to it, and responding according to the gene transcription regulation network of an E. coli cell (as described by Uri Alon in 2002).
To excite the reverberation, we will be “feeding” it an arrangement of one of the very first examples of polyphonic music from the Liber Sancti Jakobi (Codex Calixtinus) which is a kind of “tour-guide” for pilgrims following Die Jakobswege to St Jakobi’s shrine in Santiago de Compostela. So the music itself is a kind of echo or reverberation from medieval times and the processional is an echo of all the pilgrimages associated with St Jakobi.
By exciting the reverberation in St Jakobi, the hope was that we might be able to hear, not just this piece, but faint echoes and traces of all the music and words that have ever been spoken or played here over the years. And that we could add our own new layer of computer-processed sound to join those echoes.
This photo (taken by Vlad Green from the front of the church) shows the microphones placed in the center aisle; the composers and their Kyma systems where in the lighted balcony at the rear of the church and Franz Danksagmüller was in the organ loft above that balcony.
And this is the view from the balcony toward the front of the church as Arvid Gast, organist for St Jakobi, introduced the program to the audience: