Current work

Cipriano de Rore



Cypriot Vespers

Messe de Nostre Dame

Trabe dich Thierlein!




Future projects


La blessure




Ars Difformiter Difformis / Cesena

DragonMass /Ockeghem' Missa Caput

La Magdalene

La vie dans les plis

Le don des larmes

Muntagna Nera


Palermo 1140



Portrait of the artist as a starved dog

This program is a portrait of Cipriano de Rore as excentric ‘divino furioso’, starting from the verses of ‘divino’ Ariosto, to his later, radical madrigals which form an atlas of musical pathosformulas. A well-known engraving by the 16th century German artist Albrecht Dürer, “Melencolia I”, represents a woman with a concentrated gaze and wings, and a starved dog. These are not, as Panofsky claimed, the features of a lethargic melancholy, known to us today, but rather, as Frances Yates proved, the interiorized, manic madness or ‘furor divinus’ which the renaissance artist possessed according to the magical theory of Ficino and Agrippa von Nettesheim. The portrait that Hans Mielich made of the composer Cipriano de Rore, fits in this tradition. Even more, no artist portrait seems to meet the physiognomic criteria of the ‘divine artist’ so clearly: the bald forehead, the eccentric hair of whiskers, moustache and goatee, the starved, ascetic face of a skinny dog, the wide veins, the red bloody skin, the furrowed brows and the open gaze of the angel are the striking features of the inspired melancholy according to Agrippa. The portrait is not so much a naturalistic, lifelike or psychological portrait (compare for example with the anonymous, more banal portrait of De Rore in Vienna, stripped of all extravagance), but rather an artistic, emblematic portrait that expresses the inner, inspired trance of the composer and his art. Representing Cipriano De Rore as ‘furioso’ is of course also a reference to his long career at the court of Ferrara, where Ariosto created the immortal epos ‘Orlando Furioso’ and of which De Rore arranged some crucial stanze into music. The implications of De Rore’s portrait give an important key how we should read his compositions, and more specifically his madrigals: they are almost like magical diagrams which provide the poetry of an infinitely fine-grained, melancholic pathos in the same intense state as the portrait, balancing between outburst, furor, and collapse, pianto. To revive a madrigal is in this sense comparable with magical divination that tries to capture rhetorically the rapidly alternating and opposite forces and emotions in an inner polarity of intensities. Suddenly the written letter of the poet becomes living material and full of affective resonance that transforms the madrigal in something inhuman, capable to give the most abject feelings astral dimensions.

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Se ben il duol - Cipriano De Rore (live)

Mentre lumi maggior - Cipriano De Rore (live)

L'inconstantia seco han - Cipriano De Rore (live)

O morte eterno fin - Cipriano De Rore (live)

Queste non son piu lagrime - Non son non son -
Philippe Verdelot (live)

live concert recording in 2015 with Ann-Kathryn Olsen, Razek-François Bitar, Adrian Sîrbu, Albert Riera, Tomàs Maxé, Marius Peterson, Floris de Rycker (lute, renaissance guitar, ceterone), Luis Coll i Trulls (cornetto)




Singing on different spots, the singers of graindelavoix guide the audience through the church. Belgian photographer Koen Broos designed a special lighting: a unique opportunity to experience this space like never before and to follow the singers from very up-close. At the same time this program reveals how much polyphony is a spatial art, creating a specific time-space relation, a chronotope as Mikhael Bahktin called it, loading a text with unseen visual and sensitive images...The repertoire is written around 1500, by Franco-Flemisch polyfonists such as Pierre de La Rue, Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin Desprez, Loyset Compère and Jacob Obrecht, for the devotion of brotherhoods. Devotion stands for ‘to be devoted’ and used to be a physical practice moving the body from both inside and outside, which could lead to an ecstatic state, not far from the project of still existing mediterranean brotherhoods. With the singers of graindelavoix, the performance of polyphony becomes a bodily, affective experience that you will not soon forget.

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Summer 2014 graindelavoix created MAASTRICHT CRYPTONOMIES, a program / soundinstallation with singers, two impro-musicians and a sound engineer, in the crypt of the Servatius-basilica of Maastricht. Every new adaptation will start from an underground spot in the city, preferably a crypt and from the oldest local repertoire. A crypt is a place that tries to seal, to mark a body of a saint, that is in reality always on the move: a wandering body. The crypt is like a resonance box: even when the body is absent, the grave empty, the crypt functions as a vibratory center.
Some medieval legends around Saint Servatius tell how the body of the saint didn't stop escaping from the crypt to appear somewhere else, performing miracles. How the inhabitants of Maastricht again and again tried to tame down the relics of Servatius and to seal them in their crypt. In vain, but knowingly...For medieval man the crypt was a mysterious place that appropriated the body of a saint without being there. A body that didn't stop wandering and spreading its miraculous radiance. Graindelavoix sees a parallel between a crypt and a loudspeaker or resonance box: a hollow chamber that exudes maximum resonances. Four singers and two improvisors work a week long to create a sound installation and try to activate the original function of the crypt. The oldest local repertoires are the starting point for a new collective composition.

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with chant of other Cypriot traditions

The obscure and previous unknown Jean Hanelle, singer at Cambrai cathedral, probably teacher of Guillaume Dufay and chapelmaster of the French court of Lusignan in Nicosia, Cyprus, is according to musicologist Karl Kuegle the author of one of the biggest collections of ars subtilior repertoire, the Turin Manuscript J.II.9. Graindelavoix selected the cycle of Magnificat-antiphons, the so called O-antiphons and perform them in the context of other chant traditions on Cyprus, Maronite and Greek-Byzantine. According to Kuegle the manuscript was fabricated in the Veneto and presented in an imaginary way the real liturgy of Jerusalem, with Cyprus emanating its radiance, in the same way as the pseudo-Byzantine icon venerated at the same time in Cambrai, was seen as originally painted by Saint Luke. The late provenance of the manuscript counters also the idea of ars subtilior as a outdated style in the middle of the 15th century and challenges the idea of evolutions of style. Hanelles motets are of an incredible beauty and melodical movement, stressed by the interpretation that gives back to the music the necessary 'musica colorata'. This program is also an attempt to redefine the 'hyphos' or style of the late gothic flamboyant motets with the help of a continuous tradition of Byzantine 'hyphos'.

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Hodie puer nascitur - Codex Torino




Guillaume de Machaut wrote his mass, the 'monstre sacré' of the late middle ages, for the the saturday service at the altar of the Rouelle at the cathedral of Reims. At the same time Machaut arranged that the mass would be sung every saturday after his death to commemorate himself and his brother. In this way the performance of the mass is like an affective recollection of Machaut himself, bringing him back for a moment, via the vocal activation of a musical diagram. This diagram reveals even today an unheard texture and vocal possibilities. The singers of graindelavoix try to embody this texture and electrify it again, in order to transform the inner configuration of the listener, as the 14th century French thinker Nicole Oresme would call it.
Next to the mass Graindelavoix performs the additional plainchant in an ornamental style and the three motets/prayers that invoke the help of the Virgin Mary, strongly associated with the composition of the Messe de Nostre Dame.



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Starting point for this scenic performance of polyphonic repertory is a mass written by the German composer Heinrich Finck, unjustly unknown today and as often in these cases, a minor artist in the shadow of the canonic masters of polyphony. The work was composed for the marriage of Ulrich von Württemberg in 1511, a local despot almost unwillingly driven into crime and terror, but also known for his refined musical taste, himself being a composer of legendary hunting songs.
The physical experience of the performance brackets language and music, making it possible to sense the ecstatic polyphony of Heinrich Finck's almost never performed masterpiece. Graindelavoix develops a kaleidoscope of themes, including Protestantism, the German Peasants' War and the political and social upheavals around 1500, as well as the ambivalent references to these in the period of Romanticism and the 20th century. What would happen if you strip a play of Heinrich von Kleist of its words and actors and inject it with elements of a Grimm fairytale, keeping only a performative climate in which the strange line between ecstasy and cruelty is folded and unfolded?
The performance was created for Kunstfest Weimar and premiered in a space at the Schloss Belvedere...The adaptation of the piece includes this unique but not unambiguous venue, as we look together with the old Goethe from the orangerie of the palace into the valley and his beloved 'Ettersberg' on the other side, meditating on German

concept & artistic direction; Björn Schmelzer

film & montage; Koen Broos, Björn Schmelzer, Margarida Garcia, Hospital of Undersized Gestures

a performance by; Koen Broos, David Hernandez, Margarida Garcia, Philippe Genet and Björn Schmelzer

a coproduction with; Kunstfest Weimar, Espaço Alkantara Lisbon

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Infinite Mourning

From his death in 1506 in Burgos until his ultimate funeral in Granada in 1525, the Burgundian duke and future king of Spain, Philip the Fair, didn't rest. His catafalque was continuously on the move. Joan of Castile travelled some years with her husband's body in Spain, accompanied with daily funeral services and memorial rituals. The coffin was even regularly opened to check if the husband, as a second Lazarus, would not raise from death. But even after the imprisonment of Joan of Castile, the body kept on going, from place to place. For the daily commemorations, the Franco-Flemish polyphonists, members of the court chapel, wrote some of their breathtaking motets. Performing the most important of these laments, graindelavoix reveals something of the pathos of the commemoration rituals and the intensity of an ongoing weeping...
The program articulates also the synesthetic experience of singing, sound and eyes, 'Augenmusik', subject of the cd CECUS: an affirmed blindness not only by tears, but also by darkness as well as overexposure, as a 'raison d'être'.
Music by Pierre de la Rue, Nicolas Champion, Alexander Agricola, Josquin Desprez,...

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Fortuna desperata - Alexander Agricola

L'eure est venue - Alexander Agricola (live)



Graindelavoix performs Ars Subtilior


"Far too long the music of the late middle ages has been the subject of strange questions like: “should you perform it with voices only or accompanied with instruments?”, “which voices and which instruments should you use in order not to be anachronistic?”, “how can we convince the public that this music is primarily about mathematics and about achieving a high level of correctly performing the complex notations of the manuscript, and not so much about sound experience?”

As always, complexity - mannerism at first sight - is not more than a starting point, a superficial symptom, even in the style which has been called ars subtilior by post-war-musicologists to describe a sort of strange but intriguing ‘aberration' of the rules of the 14th century ars nova. It is more an instrument, an impetus if you wish, which lifts you up to another level. In the case of ars subtilior : the level of hyper-sensuality and hyper-sensivity. The level where naturalism and artifice find their point of indiscernibility. It is the same point which the famous French art historian Henri Focillon is speaking about when he says concerning late gothic mentality: la mode et l'art métamorphosent l'homme en bête.

read the rest of Björn Schmelzer's statement here

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Johannes Ockeghem's Dragonmass

Ockeghem's mass is a mystic interpretation of popular exorcism rituals, like public dragon battles, still performed for example in may in the Belgian city of Mons, the native environment of Ockeghem. To realize Ockeghem's poor theatre version of the dragon combattimento, the singers perform the music completely by heart. According to new musicological research, Björn Schmelzer is convinced that this music was almost never sung with scores or from manuscripts, but studied and performed by heart. 

 This is not a concert but a complete physical performance experience. The singers, not armed with or hidden behind scores, but standing in a closed circle while making strange memory signs to each other, are not interpreting, but recreating the polyphony out of the blue: as a listener you are a direct witness of the inner kitchen of this music, the process of the making itself, the almost improvised play of intertwining ornamental lines. The mass is accompanied by dragonsongs and by the five-voice motet Intemerata Dei Mater.

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The Cult of Mary Magdalene in the early 16th century


"In the early 16th century, the humanist Jacques Lefèvre boldly proposed that Mary Magadelene was a fictitious amalgamation of three women who appear in the Gospels. The result was lively controversy, persecution through exile and execution, and much art, including the music sung here. The beautifully balanced, positively projected 11 voices of Graindelavoix lavish on the Franco-Flemish Champion's Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena — an ingenious and rich-textured commentary on Lefèvre's treatise, based on seven plainchant antiphons — some stunning decoration. This bold approach, justified by careful reading of contemporaneous sources, gives the music a singularly dramatic lift", wrote Stephen Pettitt six years ago in the Sunday Times about the cd and program La Magdalene.
The program consists of two chapters: the first presents Nicolas Champion's mass with additional proprium; in the second chapter, contemporary chansons for the Magdalene complete the hype around Mary Magdalene, not only present in visual art, but also in music.

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Joyssance vous donneray - Claudin de Sermisy










Bach and the folded line of Musica Reservata and Ars Subtilior


The oeuvre of Bach has often been regarded as a sort of fremdkörper in its own time. Most of Bach's contemporaries rejected his composition style not as genial and innovative, but as conservative and old-fashioned.
It's only much later that the modernity and originality of his language and expression has been recognized as extraordinary and exceptional. So there is an interesting paradox here, almost an anachronistic paradox, which forms the starting pojnt of graindelavoix's programme. To this we add the fact that Bach has been an intensive reader of the philosophy of Leibniz, and that for example his De arte combinatoria was found next to Bachs bed at his death.
What does it mean to be at the same time old fashioned and so radically modern? And how is this connected to one of the most important features of Bachs music: the inner complexity or involution of his work, his dense composition style with an almost intrinsic rhetorics and expression, linking it to Leibniz's 'petites perceptions' and the baroque expressivity in folds....
These elements construct a programme which connects Bachs 'motets' - the most old-fashioned genre and used mostly for funeral occasions - to the tradition of the late medieval Ars subtilior (Philippot de Caserta, Solage, anonymous composers) and renaissance Musica Reservata (Agricola, Brumel, De Rore, Lassus). Next to 9 singers an ensembe of 'old fashioned' instruments - lutes, viols, harp, cornetto - accompany the vocalists and play instrumental works in a style which gives total credibility to the secret musical line starting in the late 14th century to which Bach also belongs.
The programme reveals the profound knowledge by Bach of a tradition which in the early 18th century has been totally obsolete and forgotten. The fremdkörper appears to be part of a vast and almost continuous practice and style which has a strong parallel in philosophy of which Leibniz is one of the last protagonists, going from late scholastics and Ramon Lull to Nicolas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno.

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Plaintes and larmoyant Polyphony of the Franco-Flemish Tradition

Michelet – rightly - designated the latter part of the gothic period as ‘larmoyant’, not just because the abundant use of the ajour in gothic church window tracery gave it a tearstained look, but because it seems like the whole of the 15th century’s artistic production was devoted to the art of crying. From the 15th century on, image and sound no longer served to transmit content, or a message, as was the modest intention of all works of art in preceding centuries. A dramatic revolution in perception led to a generation of artists sensing a connection between impression and expression, the form of expression, the affect and the inner experience – and effectively forging this connection. The mystical and affective-religious tradition in the North undoubtedly inspired (mainly) artists from the Netherlands, who fashioned their artistic production to match this new perception. From the 15th century on, mystical notions such as ‘imitatio’, ‘compassio’ and ‘affectio’ formed the conceptual frame for their work, thus ensuring that perception was exalted. In Van Eyck’s oeuvre, ‘the gaze’ is central, immersing oneself in the intimate entanglement of the visible and the invisible world. Van der Weyden paints an image of affective, inward-looking dramatics. The great French rhetoricians seem to have only one concern: whipping language into a frenzy, letting it run wild, allowing it to stutter and neigh. Content and meaning fade into the background, while the material quality of language (sound, colour, rhythm) has an immediate, unfettered impact on the listener.

read the rest of Björn Schmelzer's statement here

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Rise, fall and rise of the Italo-Belgian Music Club



Who doesn't remember the famous Italo-Belgian Music Club Muntagna Nera? In the late 70's and early 80' the sons and daughters of Italian miners performed their traditional tearjerkers in the most renowned venues in Europe. With Muntagna Nera the coalmine-blues of Limburg became legendary.

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The Cambrai Connection: offices, confraternities, motets



All we know about Villard de Honnecourt is that he was the author of a small portfolio, a so-called carnet , containing sketches for a thirteenth-century architectural venture in Picardy, northern France. Recent research has disproved the persistent myth that Villard was himself a master builder and the architect of several major Gothic cathedrals. He was most likely a man of diverse interests, an artist in the broadest sense of the word, who was instructed, undoubtedly by a patron - the bishop or chapter of the Cambrai Cathedral, perhaps - to keep a logbook. It was a kind of 'carnet du désir', a technical counterpart, in a way, to the poetic 'book of desires' in the French troubadour tradition. The hymns and other works on this programme are associated with thirteenth-century Cambrai or with Villard's experiences and travels. They are linked to Villard not only historically and biographically, but technically as well. Once can draw many parallels between the thirteenth-century sculptors, cathedral builders and singers. These techniques are intrinsic to the importance of oral transmission, the specific use of writing as 'ars memorativa', the organizational process, working without a matrix, and the relationship between structure and ornament.
This program has different performance possibilities, and exists also as a ciné-concert accompanying images fom the movie Ossuaires which is currently in postproduction.

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Chants from the Normans in Sicily

People entering the palace chapel of Sicily's Norman Kings in Palermo are almost blinded by the splendour of gold shining byzantine mosaics, but above them is an Arabian sky with rich, elaborate woodcarvings. Given its location as geographical focal point, Sicily saw many different rulers and became a much fought for melting pot and meeting point of cultures. King Roger II made the coexistence of religions the theme in his royal chapel and created a house of prayer that was home to both the Latin and Byzantine rites as well as to the Islam of the Fatimids and Tunisian Sufi. This is Graindelavoix's unique attempt to regain the lost tonal and psycho-acoustic world of the Capella Palatina from 1140!

read the rest of Björn Schmelzer's statement here

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Kyrie igapisa, Italo-Greek chant, solo by Razek François Bitar (live)



Lecture performance


The songs of Heinric van Veldeke (c.1200) are in direct resonance and dialogue with the poetry of his famous French and Occitan contemporaries: Conon de Béthune, Chrétien de Troyes, Bernard de Ventadorn, Jaufré Rudel and Raimon Jordan. To their long and elaborate royal songs, Veldeke mostly adds a short and sharp, ironic verse that turns the original meaning upside down...Graindelavoix performs the songs of Veldeke and relates them back to the international network of songs that were all in a strong dialogue with each other. The singers of graindelavoix, with their expertise of still existing songtraditions, offer new ways to make this repertoire expressive again...



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The Wunderkammer of Roman Polyphony


The early music movement created as much authenticity as inauthenticity, it created myths as much as it deconstructed them: the most flagrant example is for sure the mystification of the music of Palestrina and the Roman polyphony of that period in general. This reveals how much the early music movement should be located in a historical foundation of aesthetical preferences that in fact continue to be the unspoken reference. Presenting another image of Palestrina, a more complex and layered one, based on historical sources as well as on a tradition that continued to exist into the 20th century, is like opening Pandora's box, or like the return of the repressed...The positive image of this box is probably the 16th century curiosity cabinet or Wunderkammer, of which the managers were called virtuosi, exactly as the Roman singers who wanted to overwhelm the visitors with vocal meraviglie. Graindelavoix sings Missa Papae Marcelli, plainchant, motets and vespers in a unheard and vital way, reconnecting with different timelayers and with a repertoire that never really disappeared in later music history and cannot but thought with all its transformations and this way graindelavoix performs Palestrina against himself, or at least against the overall, static image of a frigid repertoire of pure and transparant counterpoint.

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Agnus dei (Missa Papae Marcelli) - Giovanni Palestrina (live)

Haec dies instrumental - Giovanni Palestrina (live)

Sanctus (Missa Papae Marcelli) - Giovanni Palestrina (live)

live amateur recordings of Utrecht Early Music Festival concert, august 2011 with Olalla Alemán, Els Van Laethem, Albert Riera, Yves Van Handenhove, Marius Peterson, Paul De Troyer, Adrian Sîrbu, Arnout Malfliet, Toni Fajardo, Lluis Coll i Trulls, Jan Van Outryve, Regina Albanez, Floris De Rycker & Björn Schmelzer



Lamentations of David for Jonathan & Absalon
from both sides of The Channel

This programme is a unique gathering of a rather unknown type of lamentation, that of the biblical king David for two perished soldiers, his son Absalon and his friend Jonathan.
Another unique aspect is the fact that the lamentation of David became a short hype in the 16th century exactly on both sides of The Channel, in West Flanders and in England. As if composers were aware of the future of the region, lamenting already the dead still to come. As if the lamentation preexists the dead and weeping anticipates wounds that yet have to be inflicted. Or as the French poet Joë Bousquet would say: My wound existed before me, I'm born to incarnate it. At the same time this programme is the lamentation of a region, an earth that weeps, soaked by death bodies from the 16th century on, culminating in World War I, and as such a climatology of lament and death.
Compositions by Pierre de la Rue, Josquin Desprez, Clemens non Papa, Nicolas Gombert, Thomas Tomkins, Thomas Weelkes, Richard Dering, Robert Ramsey a.o.

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