Instrumentation 3333 4231 timp perc(3) harp strings
Duration 10'00" Music player

The Inspiration for Veil began with Heinrich Isaac’s 1507 motet “Virgo prudentissima,” which I first encountered as an undergraduate singing in Stanford’s Early Music Ensemble.  As a graduate student, I made a thorough study of its formal structure as well as the extra-musical associations of the text.  I was especially interested in the contrast between sections built on contrapuntal pairings of voices and sections built on stately homophony surrounding the cantus firmus.  Musical quotations from Isaac’s motet appear throughout Veil with varying levels of distortion, and the cantus firmus appears as a ghostly sonic backdrop to the voice pairings, thereby transforming our perceptions of the original motet.
 My conception of the veil as a metaphor for transformation grew out of the extra-music associations of Isaac’s motet.  The cantus firmus belongs to the liturgy for the Feast of the Assumption (August 15), which commemorates the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven.  The Feast of the Assumption marks both her physical absence and her re-appearance in a new role as heavenly intercessor.  Renaissance depictions of the Assumption often show Mary enshrouded in a large veil as she ascends heavenward.  For me, the veil becomes a symbol of intervention and transformation.
 The text of the liturgical chant “virgo prudentissima” praises Mary for her prudence, which was the only classical virtue to be taken over and Christianized by the early church fathers.  Originally, prudence meant something like foresight, the ability to envision future events and take appropriate action to accommodate or alter them.  Taken in this light, the concept of prudence embodies a kind of transformation—the ability to see what might be (as opposed to what is) and the will to bring that vision into reality.