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.
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...]
With only their third CD Björn Schmelzer and Graindelavoix have just secured two of the awards at this year’s Klara-Muziekprijzen ceremony, held at the start of November in the group’s native Belgium.
Poissance d’amours – released by Glossa – was selected by the awards jury of the classical music radio station Klara for the best Flemish production of the year and also by the station’s listeners for the Public prize for 2008.[read more...]
“Making these old, broken stones sing is a wonderful experience”
Following Caput and Joye you are now turning to another area of the medieval musical world. What has inspired you to consider 13th-century Brabant?
After trying to show two important 15th-century composers in a different musical light, I thought it would be interesting to do a programme which is more geographical yet at the same time more “virtual”: one based only on musical remnants, traces and ruins. In this way we might try and create the sound world of an entire region: rather than producing portraits one would be able to paint full landscapes of scenes hitherto lost and in need of being invented anew. [read more...]