Motet- tota pulchra es (2000)

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Premiered by Fountain Chamber Society, Yonah Zur dir. on November 6, 2001 at the 3rd Street Music School Settlement in New York, NY.


An interesting characteristic of the large repertoire of settings of verses from the Song of Solomon is its lack of a common and standardized short version culled from the longer complete text. In fact, very few pieces in this lineage, from medieval and renaissance motets to contemporary works, utilize the same text, though they all draw on the same source. There is thus a fascinating openness and freedom to this text's poetic structure as it has been read and reread by composers over the past seven centuries.

I was interested in finding ways to explore this openness by devising my own assemblage of lines and then setting it against and within a more diachronous contrapuntal ensemble that combined discrete strands of texture. The effect was not meant to be that of discontinuity or simple superimposition of heterogeneous materials. Instead, I was interested in maintaining a balance between the refrain structure that derives from the text's form, and the ecstatic character of the elisions or enjambments that result from the non-synchronous character of the ensemble's large-scale counterpoint.

My primary sources for the text, besides the Vulgate, were John Dunstable'sQuam Pulchra Es , Heinrich Isaac's Tota Pulchra Es , and Guillaume Bouzignac's Tota Pulchra Es.

Tota Pulchra es, amica mea;
Favus distillans labia tua;
Mel et lac sub lingua tua; 
Odor unguentorum tuorum 
Super omnia aromata.

Ecce tu pulcheres, dilecte mi; 
Ecce tu pulchra es, amica mea.

Iam enim hiems transiit; 
Imber abiit et recessit:
Flores apparuerunt;
Vineae florentes odorem dederunt.
Surge, propera, formosa mea;
Surge, propera, dilecte mi; 
Surge, propera, et veni:

Veni coronaberis.