Composers Amir Amiri, Jim Hiscott, Andrew Balfour (Karine Beaudette)
"Chant to me is a very ancient, primal form of music. I feel it is one of humanity's oldest and most revered forms of expression, whether it is for worshipping gods or worshipping nature and the elements."
—Andrew Balfour, composer and founder of Camerata Nova
The literal meaning of chant - Zekr - is remembrance, specifically remembrance of the Beloved, God. Zekr harmonizes the human instrument to the tune of God's remembrance. If done correctly, Zekr frees the seeker from daily distractions, thoughts, fears and worries by uniting every aspect of his/her being. This practice activates the energy centers in the body, beginning the process of purification of the heart.
While composing Nafas (Breath) I was constantly reminded of the delicate relationship between the idea of breath and the sound of breathing. I wanted to use breathing as a moment in music and to do it in a way that stayed true to the zekr practice of the Sufi tradition.
Chant to me is a very ancient, primal form of music. I feel it is one of humanity's oldest and most revered forms of expression, whether it is for worshipping gods or worshipping nature and the elements. Every culture seems to have developed some type of chant. I am absorbed by all forms of it.
The power of chant is its ability to build intensity through repetition and variance. Chant connects to breath, heartbeat and intent. When a group of people chant together, they tap into a power that can change the world.
What has most impressed me about Corsican polyphonic chant is the profound human and social aspect of it. Singing together, responding to the resonance of sound and the expression of the voices of others, is a metaphor for deep interpersonal relations in this culture. This has also made me think back to the wonderful recordings of Gregorian chant I
heard back in the 70s, by communities of monks or nuns. Chant can produce a psychological and emotional experience that touches on the deepest human values.
'Chant' for me means long-lined, elegant (sometimes interweaving) melodies from an ancient culture (my own Ukrainian culture) sung by a group (preferably of village women) with incredible power, balance of voices, and perfect taste, with an intensity that brings tears to your eyes....
Mantras (chants) are powerful sounds and when chanted with devotion produce enormous effects. As the mind concentrates more and more on the mantra and its meaning, it conditions the mind, taking it to higher states, forming the path to salvation - the eternal bliss.
Chanting bestows blessings and nourishes the seeds of enlightenment that are within oneself. These virtuous seeds help one to develop love, kindness, compassion and wisdom which eventually lead to enlightenment or Buddhahood.
Growing up Mennonite, 4-part harmony was all-important, a tradition we still take great pride in. However, as an adult, I had the opportunity to travel to other parts of the world and hear how others expressed their lives and faith through song - some through harmony, but many with single, powerful lines.
I have come to appreciate the surprising complexity of the chant, the comfort in repetition and the transcendent power of the mantra. What I love about our Chant! concert is that it takes some of the best the world has to offer, brings it all together, and blends it into a creation that becomes uniquely all of ours.
Watch this preview of Chant!:
Camerata Nova Chant! preview (Conrad Sweatman)