Col Tuo Lume

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Col Tuo Lume means ‘with your light’ in Italian. The sung text is from the first canto of Dante’s Paradiso. The words describe Dante’s entrance into the first sphere of heaven and his first encounter with Beatrice, his guide. The preternatural revelations he experiences are related in ecstatic prose. My piece is also searching for a certain ecstasis, a certain revelation. Through its declamations, repetitions and elisions the music is ever-turning, ever-sifting, ever-trying to soar. The madrigals of Monteverdi and Gesualdo were ringing in my ears somewhat as I composed, particularly the suave fourth book of the former (1603) and the eccentric fifth book of the latter (1611). For me, the declamatory nature of this music often takes on a rather ritualistic atmosphere. It’s something I feel very close to.

The Italian text set to music is taken from the first canto of the Paradiso, the third part of La Divina Commedia by Medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321). The sung text is as follows:

S’i’ era sol di me quel che creasti novellamente, amor che ‘l ciel governi, tu ‘l sai, che col tuo lume mi levasti.
Quando la rota che tu sempiterni desiderato, a sé mi fece atteso con l’armonia che temperi e discerni,
parvemi tanto allor del cielo acceso de la fiamma del sol, che pioggia o fiume lago non fece alcun tanto disteso.
La novità del suono e ‘l grande lume di lor cagion m’accesero un disio mai non sentito di cotanto acume.
Ond’ella, che vedea me sì com’io, a quietarmi l’animo commosso, pria ch’io a dimandar, la bocca aprio,
e cominciò: «Tu stesso ti fai grosso col falso imaginar, sì che non vedi ciò che vedresti se l’avessi scosso.»

Here is an English translation by A. S. Kline:

Love, who rules the Heavens, you know, who lifted me upwards, with your light, whether I was only that which you created, new, in me.
When the sphere, which you make eternal through the world’s longing, drew my mind towards itself with that harmony which you tune and modulate, so much of the Heavens seemed to me then lit by the sun’s flame, that no rainfall or river’s flow ever made so wide an expanse of lake. The novelty of the sound, and the great light, lit a greater longing in me than I had ever felt, desiring to know their cause. So that She, who saw me as I see myself, opened her lips, to still my troubled mind, before I could open mine to ask, and said: ‘You make yourself stupid with false imaginings, and so you do not see, what you would see, if you discarded them.’
Subtitle: A Madrigal for Exaudi
Instrumentation: six-voice vocal ensemble (soprano, mezzo-soprano, counter-tenor, tenor 1, tenor 2, bass)
Duration: circa 7′
Date of composition: 2014
Commissioned by Exaudi.
First performance: EXAUDI (directed by James Weeks), Exposure2014, Bishopsgate Institute, London, October 2014.
Score: Please email to obtain the latest score.