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Nox Aurumque

Nox Aurumque (Night and Gold) was written as a sort of ‘companion piece’ to my Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold). I used themes (textual and musical) taken from both Lux Aurumque, and my work for music theater, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings.

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By my count this is my seventh collaboration with poet Charles Anthony Silvestri (Sleep, Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, etc.) and it was by far our most challenging. Here is a summation of our process together, recalled by the poet himself:

Notes on the Text

by Charles Anthony Silvestri

The task of the lyricist is to provide for the composer a text which, on the one hand, gives the composer the material he or she needs to complete the piece, according to unique specifications; while on the other hand, could stand alone as a poem in its own right.  Writing the Latin text for Nox Aurumque was a singular challenge.

First, Eric had already composed much of the musical material; several distinct melodic motifs were already formed and essential to the structure of the piece.  Any text I composed had to fit within the parameters of that structure.  Eric was very specific about the number of syllables in this line, the necessary word-painting in that line, etc.

Second, Eric had strong ideas about the meaning of the text.  He communicated impressionistic images of an angel, the emotions of that angel, and other evocative images, darker than usual for him.  My text had to speak to those images in a meaningful way, consistent with Eric’s intentions for the piece.  It has a distinctly different sound than earlier works, and I wanted my text to be darker, and as different.

Third (and most challenging), the text had to flow effectively in Latin.  The Latin had to communicate accurately the images Eric wished to evoke about this angel, all within the already-established framework of the piece.  Latin affected the English, and English affected Latin, in a tug of war between meaning and grammar.  It had to be singable, and employ the kind of vowels and consonants Eric likes to set.  (We joked that not every word could end in the lovely and mysterious –um sound Eric likes so much—Latin grammar just doesn’t work that way, although I became intimately familiar with the many uses of the genitive plural!)  And the Latin had to be correct—it had to conform to the rules of Latin grammar—to satisfy my need as a scholar.  I had to settle at times for some Latin that strayed from what Cicero might have written, but which stayed certainly within the somewhat looser realm of Medieval usage.  From my perspective as a poet, the Latin language is living, vibrant and malleable; I’m certainly not the first poet to take liberties with canonical rules.  No doubt there will be quibblers who will question the choices I have made.  I humbly ask these critics to consider the nodus triplex with which I was presented, and see this poem for what it is—lyrics to a choral work, not a sequel to the Aeneid.

Nox Aurumque

Aurum,
Infuscatum et obscurum,
Canens noctis,
Canens mortis,
Acquiescens canendo…

Et angelum somnit aurorarum et bellorum,
Saeculorum aurorum fundit lacrimas,
Lacrimas rerum bellorum.
O arma!
O lamina aurata!
Gestu graves nimium,
Graves nimium volatu.

Aurum,
Infuscatum et torpidum
Suscita!
Dilabere ex armis in alam!
Volemus iterum,
Alte supra murum;
Angeli renascentes et exultantes as alas
Aurararum,
Aurorum,
Somniorum.

Aurum,
Canens alarum,
Canens umbrarum.

Gold,
Tarnished and dark,
Singing of night,
Singing of death,
Singing itself to sleep.
And an angel dreams of sunrise,
And war.

Tears of the ages.
O shield!
O gilded blade!
You are too heavy to carry,
Too heavy for flight.

Gold,
Tarnished and weary,
Awaken!
Melt from weapon to wing!
Let us soar again,
High above this wall;
Angels reborn and rejoicing with wings made
Of dawn,
Of gold,
Of dream.

Gold,
Singing of wings,
Singing of shadows.

Charles Anthony Silvestri, 1965-present

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