'Pie Jesu' - The story
David Singleton, producer and co-director of DGM
(Discipline Global Mobile) tells the story:
Partly because most of his instrumental compositions are in the rock genre (his desire to imagine Bartok played by Jimi Hendrix), Robert Fripp is rarely considered to be what he possibly is : one of the great living English composers. As well as his work with King Crimson, Fripp has pioneered ambient “soundscapes” – beginning with his seminal work “No Pussyfooting” with Brian Eno in 1972. More recently, he has performed live improvisations in many of the great British cathedrals – St Paul’s, Salisbury, Exeter, Norwich, Worcester – as well as being the last musical performance at the World Financial Centre before 9/11. His music radiates a sense of hope, affirmation and resolution.
The piece “Pie Jesu” was performed as an improvisation on guitar in 1997 – and was included exactly as it was first played, on his 1998 album “The Gates of Paradise”. Since then, it has embarked on a fascinating journey involving the intersection between the latest in current music technology and the best of traditional music. A piece in search of an orchestra.
Robert's improvised piece 'Pie Jesu' can be heard here:
First, the piece needed to find a transcriber (Bert Lams), then an orchestrator (Andrew Keeling), then finally an orchestra (The Metropole Orchestra from Amsterdam) – and even then, while wonderful in live performance, the recorded orchestral piece lacked some of the effortless joy and wonder of the original. The answer was a return to where it started – the electronic “looping” technique by which it was played. The orchestra were looped back on themselves – and the album “The Wine of Silence” was born; the title based on the Fripp aphorism “Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence”.
'Pie Jesu' as performed by The Metropole Orkest can be heard here:
As with any living piece of music, 'Pie Jesu' has now moved on again, and has been re-arranged by Andrew Keeling for voices - specifically, the SSSAA voices of Excelsa Voces.
EV's keyboard player Chris Long takes up the story:
We were honoured to have Robert Fripp attend our first Excelsa Voces performance - 'Towards The Within' - at Pershore Abbey in 2016. He was interested in the 'immersive' way that we presented the music, as well as in the programme itself - juxtaposing the plainchant of the 12thC abbess Hildegard of Bingen with the 20thC minimalism of Meredith Monk; alongside music by Arvo Part, Josquin de Prez, modal improvisations and more...
Robert attended several of our subsequent performances, bringing along David from DGM, and it was on 1st January 2018 this year that the plan was revealed - to invite long-term King Crimson collaborator Andrew Keeling to take 'Pie Jesu' on the next stage of its journey...
We were privileged to introduce listeners to this beautiful piece on September 22nd 2018, and the evening was an exciting, reflective and unforgettable experience. 'Pie Jesu' was framed with music by composers spanning nearly 1000 years, and the performances were beautifully lit by PF Productions (who worked with us on both the TTW concerts). And all of this in the glorious natural acoustics of Tewkesbury Abbey, which made the experience even more timeless.