Graindelavoix is much less an early music ensemble and much more an art collective experimenting between the fields of performance and creation, comprising singers and instrumentalists led by Björn Schmelzer. Taking its name from an essay by Roland Barthes (“le grain, c’est le corps dans la voix qui chante, dans la main qui écrit, dans le membre qui exécute...”), where Barthes was looking for what constitutes the gritty essence of a voice, Graindelavoix experiments with what one does with the “grain”, the physical and spiritual reflection of the voice.
Formed in 1999 by Schmelzer and based in Antwerp in Belgium, the collective works with material as diverse as Ockeghem’s polyphony, the plainte, machicotage, Mediterranean practices, late scholastic dynamics and kinematics, the affective body, gesture and image culture... What is preoccupying Graindelavoix in early music is the bond between notation and what eludes it: the higher consciousness and savoir-faire that the performer brings to a piece (ornamentation, improvisation, gestures...). Schmelzer works with singers and instrumentalists who embrace diversity, heterogeneity, ornamentation and improvisation in their music-making. In many ways, an ethno-musicological approach to early music.
Graindelavoix is a “special guest” at the Muziekcentrum De Bijloke in Ghent and has an artistic partnership with the Cultuurcentrum in the further Belgian city of Genk.
In Poissance d’amours Schmelzer – an ethnomusicologist by training – explores the music and writings of mystics, monks and minstrels active in 13th century Brabant for Glossa. This release and the recordings of music composed by Johannes Ockeghem (Caput) and Gilles Binchois (Joye) are allied to performances – in concert and music theatre formats – that are the accumulated fragments of a wider work and research process. Graindelavoix is offering a challenging new insight into the performances of music from the past.
For his latest Glossa CD with Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer takes his lead from the funeral rites for the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens in 1640 – which might well have encompassed the Requiem Mass by Orazio Vecchi as recorded here – to demonstrate the coexistence in Baroque Antwerp of two apparently contradictory, but interconnected facets. One of these facets was the continuing presence of prima prattica polyphony; the city was a major centre for music printing and Vecchi’s Requiem was brought out there – as were works by other composers represented on this disc: George de La Hèle, Duarte Lobo and Pedro Ruimonte (the recording ends with three successive Agnus Deis!). [read more...]
Much-awaited has been the new recording of the Machaut Messe de Nostre Dame from Björn Schmelzer and Graindelavoix, one of Glossa’s long-standing artistic “family” members. The work, described as a medieval monstre sacré, is performed by an all-male ensemble from Graindelavoix featuring both sharp high tenors and very low basses. [read more...]
The collective artistic endeavours of Glossa have recently been recognized with an award of Label of the Year for 2014 by a Europe-wide panel of classical music media organizations – print and online magazines, as well as radio broadcasters – who form the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) jury. This is to be presented at the Award Ceremony and Gala Concert in the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw in April 2014. The Glossa adventure began back in 1992, led by two pioneering Spanish instrumentalists – brothers José Miguel Moreno and Emilio Moreno – who set about creating a treasure trove of recorded excellence, notably in the ever-developing field of “early music”. To this day, the label remains focused on its artists, supporting their musical journeys and inclinations, with the artistic direction entrusted to Carlos Céster. With a small team around him Céster operates from San Lorenzo de El Escorial, surrounded by the abundant natural riches of the mountains around Madrid and with an austere Monasterio in sight to ever encourage him in the rigour of his work. [read more...]
Björn Schmelzer, who animates and sings in Graindelavoix, is not your typical director of an early music ensemble. Nor is the highly articulate sound world of Graindelavoix, now deployed on the newly-released Ossuaires album from Glossa, reminiscent of typical recordings of medieval music. Over the last decade or so, the Belgian group has created programmes which, whilst embracing the music of known musicians from the 12th century onwards (Johannes Ockeghem, Gilles Binchois and composers from the Ars subtilior period among them), seek new pathways for the comprehension of that art for today. Nowhere is this more evident than on Ossuaires, the first of three ambitious recordings created around the travels and shadowy biography of a certain Villard de Honnecourt, a 13th century draughtsman, whose carnet or portfolio is still in existence. [read more...]
In what is set to be a career-defining opportunity for Graindelavoix, Glossa’s Antwerp-based ensemble, along with its director Björn Schmelzer, is joining forces with choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and her company Rosas for a new music and dance production Cesena which will have its world première performance at this year’s Festival d’Avignon in France. On July 16 the medieval Cour d’honneur of the Palais des Papes – the meeting point of the Old and New Papal Palaces – will provide the setting at the time of 4.30am for an interpretation in sound and movement of the rhythmically and harmonically complex 14th century musical repertory known as the Ars subtilior (strongly associated with the Papal Court in Avignon). [read more...]
For the ensemble Graindelavoix’s fifth recording for Glossa, Cecus, Björn Schmelzer has gathered together musicians from Spain, Estonia, the UK, France and Belgium to complete a triptych of recordings presenting an alternative view of performance practice from across a century of Franco-Flemish polyphony. After Joye and La Magdalene, Cecus focuses on music by Alexander Agricola and his contemporaries and concerns itself with music associated with blind players (notably two fiddlers from Bruges) and memory and commemoration (laments on the deaths of Agricola and Johannes Ockeghem) coming from the chapel of Philippe le Beau and Juana of Castile. [read more...]