S ingers in brown or black, in an austere chamber, cold beyond the capacity of their clothing to keep them warm.
F aded Renaissance landscape with fields now harvested and frost well on the pumpkin...
[50-sec clip, Paul Hillier & Hilliard Ensemble, Josquin Desprez, ‘Mille regretz’, 1.6MB MP3]
T he singers’ gestures are Brueghel-like—some threading their way in the foreground and others in the distance. Denuded woods; hunting; dogs; countertenor; pensive magpies.
V alley of ponds, river meandering through it abjectly. Steeply-roofed houses and steepled churches—unremitting sharpness, pointiness.
H ills upon hills, ruthlessly sharp mountain crags, desolate gray sky. Down below, there’s the mill with its wheel iced-in...
M any people skating, so many as to render us inconsequential, anonymous. We could die! We could vanish and they surely would not notice or miss us. They would forget us.
T he aesthetic ‘continuity’ of Brueghel (and of Josquin?) is, I think, not “reassuring” in the way that poet-aestheticist Eli Siegel once claimed. The continuity is instead terrifyingly indifferent to our existence and passing. Ghosts cannot bear dwindling...
|Mille regretz de vous abandonner||A thousand regrets at deserting you|
|Et d'eslonger votre fache amoureuse.||and leaving behind your loving face.|
|J'ai si grand dueil et peine douloureuse||I feel so much sadness and such painful distress|
|Qu'on me verra bref mes jours définer.||that it seems to me my days must soon dwindle away.|
T he singers continue, plying their musical craft... classical singers evoke a monkish existence, lives governed by the demands of Art.
O r is it instead a ghostly one, this singing existence? Mille regretz, singing their own future epitaphs?
T o me, ‘aesthetic realism’ and ‘documentary genre’ are inherently scary. In painting or in music or in film, they are able to conjure a special kind of existential horror, perfect for Halloween. Horror of being skeletonized, forgotten.
D on’t miss the wonderful new book on Josquin, by David Fallows, just released this month...
- Paul Hillier website
- Hilliard Ensemble website
- Hillier P & Hilliard Ensemble. Josquin Desprez: Motets & Chansons. (EMI, 1995.)
- Edward Green (Prof Composition, Manhattan School of Music) on Aesthetic Realism
- David Fallows page at Univ Manchester
- Fallows D. Josquin. Brepols, 2009.
- Fallows D. Who composed Mille regretz?, in Barbara Haggh, ed., Essays on Music and Culture in Honor of Herbert Kellman. Paris, 2001, pp. 214-52.
- Duffin R, Hillier P, eds. A Josquin Anthology. Oxford Univ, 2000.
- Sherr R, ed. The Josquin Companion. Oxford Univ, 2001.
- Siegel E. Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism. Definition, 1981.
- Siegel E, Reiss E. The Modern Quarterly Beginnings of Aesthetic Realism, 1922-1923: The Equality of Man, the Scientific Criticism, and Other Essays. 2e. Definition, 1997.
- Countertenor page at Spiritus Temporis
- Aesthetic Realism Foundation website
- Josquin scores at Werner Icking Music Archive
- Josquin Desprez page at Wikipedia
- Eli Siegel page at Wikipedia