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Nicholas Lens
1957 -
Picture Picture
N. Lens
Nicholas Lens (14/11/1957), a Belgium composer, born in Ypres. After studying trumpet and double bass at the Brussels Conservatory and gaining some practical experience as a bassist with the Belgian National Orchestra, he concentrated on composing, having already written music for the theatre, film and television when he was still a student.
Flamma Flamma - The fire requiem
Composed in:1994
Musical form:free
Text/libretto:Herman Portocarero
In memory of:the composer's sister Shanti Karleen
Label(s):BMG 74321 697172
Mixing elements of rock, world music and Western classical music, Lens' score pulsates with the primitive energy and driving intensity that audiences have found so appealing in Carl Orff's scenic cantata Carmina Burana. Yet Flamma Flamma (The Fire Requiem) is a wildly original work, boldly synthesizing the Western spiritual concept of a requiem mass for the dead with death rituals and ceremonies from non-Western cultures. The unifying element in Flamma Flamma is, obviously, fire -- fire as a tool of life, fire as a metaphor for passion, fire as the most potent agent of transformation in nature. The mystique of fire captured Lens' imagination as he personally reached an important philosophical conclusion about life and death.
"To me, the one thing that makes life bearable is the knowledge that it will come to an end," Lens has said, "because accepting this is the only way to unconditionally and freely enjoy life. It has taken many long journeys, both physically and mentally, to reach this obvious insight."
The marriage of pagan ritual with the sound and the appearance of Christian sacrament might seem impossible, but Flamma Flamma is completely a study in contrasts, from its structure and inspiration to the forces Lens asks for in performance.
Flamma Flamma features six soloists with trained voices, operatic in nature, as well as three singers with striking, ethnically distinctive voices recruited from the Bulgarian womens' choir that created such a sensation with the bestselling recording Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. The six trained voices speak for the "gods," the higher consciousness of man, and they virtually obsess over the meaning of death in the continuum of life. The trio of ethnic voices represents a more primitive view: death is to be scoffed at and ridiculed, especially because the "gods" take its meaning so seriously in their "sublime state." An anonymous mixed choir parrots the musings of the "gods." The dramatic contrasts of Flamma Flamma are further defined in the instrumentation, which calls for an ensemble of traditional orchestral instruments as well as a diverse selection of electronic and ethnic instruments. Its original Latin text, written by Herman Portocarero (1952), a Belgian ambassador and writer , offers Western audiences a way into the mystical atmosphere that sounds familiar and, for the performers, is comfortably "singable."
The tension between all these elements gives Flamma Flamma its wild and unique profile. Everything moves toward the moment of release, of what Lens calls "cosmic transition," in which human emotions are "independent -- and therefore respectful -- of any known philosophy."
H. Portocarero