Isle of Majesty is an album of original music composed and devised by Emily Lau and her chamber music ensemble, The Broken Consort. This album features Julie Bosworth (soprano), Peter Lim (piano, oboe, recorders), Jessica Korotkin (cello), Joel Nesvadba (bass-baritone), Emily Lau (voice), with guest appearance of Nick Hogle (bass-baritone) and Justin Persichetti (percussion) . The album follows Lau's method of residential project-making: the artists live, cook, play, and explore as a cohesive unit for the entire duration of the project. This album features a version of Lau's popular "Seven Dickinson Songs", and songs set to original poems by Lau and Chinese poet Xu Zhimo.

 

Isle of Majesty was recorded at Dead Aunt Thelma's studio in Portland, OR in June 2019 with audio engineer Sacha Muller, and co-produced by the entire artistic team. The album is officially released on November 15, 2019.

 

 

Track 1: Isle of Majesty

Peter Lim, recorder quartet

Music by Emily Lau

I originally composed this piece for four women voices based on the prayer of St Francis Assisi. While I love the musical materials, I have been wrestling with the text and its religious context for the last three years. Peter Lim came to the rescue by making this into an elegant piece for recorder quartet, where he improvises and ornaments as a virtuosic baroque recorder player, adding personal flavors and styles to the music. 

 

Track 2: By chance

Julie Bosworth & Emily Lau, voices

Peter Lim, oboe

Jessica Korotkin, cello

Justin Persichetti, marimba

Music by Emily Lau

Poetry by Xu Zhimo

I wrote this piece in 2014 as commissioned by 20Summer and Arneis Quartet on a concert themed with ocean imageries and sounds. It was originally scored for harp, lute, string quartet, and two voices. It fuses influence of traditional Chinese music, rhetorical ideas from baroque Europe, visual ideas from mandarin films from the 60s, and contemporary techniques. The piece brings out the magic and mystery of the night ocean, a chance meeting of two lovers, and a thrilling and dangerous end with a soprano and oboe doubling at high intensity. This version features two voices, marimba, two oboes, viola, and cello.  

偶然

我是天空里的一片云,

偶尔投影在你的波心——

你不必讶异,

更无须欢喜——

在转瞬间消灭了踪影。

你我相逢在黑夜的海上,

你有你的,我有我的,方向;

你记得也好,

最好你忘掉,

在这交会时互放的光亮!

By Chance

I am a cloud in the sky,

By chance casting a shadow on the ripples of your heart!

Don’t be surprised,

Nor should you be overjoyed.

I will soon vanish without a trace.

You and I met in the dark sea;

You have your direction, and I have mine.

Remember if you will,

Better yet if you forget

The bright spark we exchanged in our encounter!

Track 3: I meditated on your death today

Emily Lau, voice

Peter Lim, piano

Jessica Korotkin, cello

Justin Persichetti, marimba

Music and Poetry by Emily Lau 

 

This poem (and song), I meditated on your death today, was originally performed at a performance art show, Sing Me, Naked! I created in 2016. It was a love poem dedicated to Benji Smith. Since I was a little kid, whenever I start feeling love or attachment to someone, be it a person or an animal, I meditate on their death. While it is a morbid and unusual idea to meditate on the death of a living person, it is not an unusual practice in the East. It brings me understanding and peace to the inevitability of life and death, and make me cherish my relationship with them. My amazing musical team devised the accompaniment to my song, breathing life and meaning to those words. Thank you so much for being a part of this meditation with me! 

First, it was very slow.

Nothing but brown.

A few sighs 

 

Pain drained

along with moisture.

Pigments dissipated.

Goodbye, face!

 

Those birds on your arm

flew south,

guided by the pale moon.

Horses in Oaxaca.

 

Your eyes, flew north

chasing lights within lights.

Aurora Borealis.

 

You grew wings.

Not much later, 

a yellow beetle

perched on a tea leaf.

A field in Yunnan.

Your hair, leaves;

Your arms, trunks;

Your teeth, unexpected hails;

Your tattoos, bedtime stories. 

 

The remaining parts,

such as your smile,

that gentle way you look at me, 

those bitter and fragrant memories --

they grew roots,

hoping to see Spring again.

Track 4-10: Seven Dickinson Songs

Music by Emily Lau

Poetry by Emily Dickinson

The Dickinson Songs were originally inspired and premiered by Sonja Tengbled and her colleagues at GRAMMYs-winning ensemble, Conspirare, as part of their Modern Dickinson project. The original version, with 5 songs, were mostly a cappella. In my mind, Emily Dickinson was a lonely girl, sitting in a lonely house, imagining a world full of possibilities. Her poetry was not meant to be shared, but rather, for her own amusement (or maybe for a few of her closest relations). Hence the bare and innocent setting of the a cappella pieces. Later, mezzo-soprano Maren Brehm further commissioned me to write harp and violin accompaniments to these movements, along with "His feel is shod with gauze" for a commercial album. In the process of developing this extended version, a magical sound world started to emerge. Over the next year or so, I have added "I Can Wade Grief" as commissioned by Gloria Bangiola, and completed the cycle.

 

As always, the musicians of The Broken Consort understand the sounds I heard in my head, and gave everything they had so that everyone can hear it too.  Each musician added new texture, ideas, and harmonies in the recording process. I have used melodies, harmonies and ideas that reflect the historical backdrop in which these poems were conceived, and try to honor Dickinson's poems by preserving all of her poetic meters in the music. If Dickinson was to roll out of her grave right now and hear this music, I sure hope she'd approve!

Track 4: I never saw a moor

I NEVER saw a moor,

I never saw the sea;

Yet know I how the heather looks,

And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,        

Nor visited in heaven;

Yet certain am I of the spot

As if the chart were given.

Julie Bosworth, voice

Peter Lim, recorder

Jessica Korotkin, cello

Justin Persichetti, marimba

Track 5: The moon is distant from the sea

The Moon is distant from the Sea –

And yet, with Amber Hands –

She leads Him – docile as a Boy –

Along appointed Sands –

 

He never misses a Degree –

Obedient to Her eye –

He comes just so far – toward the Town –

Just so far – goes away –

 

Oh, Signor, Thine, the Amber Hand –

And mine – the distant Sea –

Obedient to the least command

Thine eye impose on me –

Emily Lau & Joel Nesvadba, voices

Jessica Korotkin, cello

Justin Persichetti, marimba

Track 6: His Feet are Shod with Gauze

His Feet are shod with Gauze —
His Helmet, is of Gold,
His Breast, a Single Onyx
With Chrysoprase, inlaid.

His Labor is a Chant —
His Idleness — a Tune —
Oh, for a Bee's experience
Of Clovers, and of Noon!

Emily Lau, voice

Track 7: I can wade grief

I CAN wade grief,

Whole pools of it,—

I ’m used to that.

But the least push of joy

Breaks up my feet,        

And I tip—drunken.

Let no pebble smile,

’T was the new liquor,—

That was all!

  

Power is only pain,        

Stranded, through discipline,

Till weights will hang.

Give balm to giants,

And they ’ll wilt, like men.

Give Himmaleh,—        

They ’ll carry him!

Julie Bosworth, voice

Peter Lim, piano

Jessica Korotkin, cello

Justin Persichetti, marimba & glockenspiel

Track 8: The grave my little cottage is 

THE GRAVE my little cottage is,

Where, keeping house for thee,

I make my parlor orderly,

And lay the marble tea,

  

For two divided, briefly,        

A cycle, it may be,

Till everlasting life unite

In strong society.

 

Julie Bosworth, voice

Peter Lim, piano & recorders

Jessica Korotkin, cello

Justin Persichetti, marimba & bells

Track 9: That it will never come again

That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.
Believing what we don't believe
Does not exhilarate.

That if it be, it be at best
An ablative estate --
This instigates an appetite
Precisely opposite.

Julie Bosworth & Emily Lau, voices

Track 10: I shall keep singing

I shall keep singing!
Birds will pass me
On their way to Yellower Climes –
Each – with a Robin's expectation –
I – with my Redbreast –
And my Rhymes --

Late – when I take my place in summer –
But – I shall bring a fuller tune –
Vespers – are sweeter than Matins – Signor –
Morning – only the seed of Noon –

Julie Bosworth, Emily Lau, Joel Nesvadba, Nick Hogle, voices

Peter Lim, piano, 

Jessica Korotkin, cello

Justin Persichetti, marimba

Production Team:

Recording Engineer: Sacha Muller 

Mixing Engineer: Sacha Muller

Editor: Emily Lau

Mastering Engineer: Dana White

Photographer: Espen Swanson

Producers: Emily Lau, Joel Nesvadba, Jessica Korotkin, Julie Bosworth, Peter Lim

Associate Producer: Eiji Miki

*************************

This project is made possible by the generosity of the following donors:

Associate Producer: 

Eiji Miki

Community Producer:

Laurie Monahan, Barb/Mark Bosworth, Suzanne Smith

The Broken Consort Family:

Susan Kevorkian, Tobin Anderson, Roy Niederhoffer, Scott Mason, Laurie Camm, 

Dana Marsh, Christy Mason, Sarah Bruno

Creative Supporters:

Matt, Tesia, and Hannah Kuharic, Rebecca Miller, Christopher Preston Thompson, 

Jesse Blumberg, Nell Snaidas, David Stutz, Donathan Chang, Matt Gagan, Mark Husey

And a long list of wonderful people supporting us along the way.

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Isle of MajestyPeter Lim, recorders
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