Ayelet Rose Gottlieb: 13 Lunar Meditations – Summoning the Witches
With every recording she has produced Ayelet Rose Gottlieb has always given notice that she is an artist of the first order. However, with this 2020 recording, 13 Lunar Meditations – Summoning the Witches, she has outdone herself, harvesting a sweeping cultural biosphere in a manner that has grown her soundworld to contain earth’s only natural satellite – the moon. With repertoire contained in two long-playing vinyls, Ayelet Rose Gottlieb has crafted some of her most enthralling and seductive music ever. For this the composer and vocalist has worked with poetry by legendary 12th century Turkish Sufi-poet Sems-i-Tebrizi, the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, as well as with a galaxy of lyricist-friends and musicians [some of whom also make guest appearances on this recording too]
Conceived on an epic scale, the music begins by taking its inspiration – it may seem – from the astrological world of Ptolemy, but also reaches far back into the Abrahamic world, before making a necessary and profound detour into the Sepher Yetzirah of Akiba Ben Joseph. What emerges is a series of 13 provocative reflections; lofty – at times prescient – meditations made by the composer in the “character” [justifiably so] of Selene – a sort of eminently poetic ‘Cynthia’ meditating on the existential attraction [of Selene] on the earth. Each song is like the selenographic melody emanating from within the über-fluidic sensuality of a human body in the thrall of the moon. Together these thirteen songs make for an epic vocalastic showpiece, 13 Lunar Meditations – Summoning the Witches, taking its title from the Selenic metaphor.
The songs – like 13 layers – make for the shifting mystical and magical strata that define relationships which evoke the massive and inexorable, natural force that the moon exerts on the earth – itself once a marine wonderland from whence all life appeared – and the physiology of the human bodies on it. Each song – each dreamy melody, gloriously harmonised by Ayelet Rose Gottlieb and the incomparable Jay Clayton, together with guest vocalists and instrumentalists fully attuned to the composer’s artistry and beating to the rhythm of the moon unfolds with exquisitely diaphanous tone-texture. Each song opens up a new atmospheric tributary between the earth and its seductive satellite, but always there is a sense of returning to the same point only to discover that the view has changed in the interim.
On top of all these seismic musical processes, Ayelet Rose Gottlieb creates a virtuoso orchestral superstructure whose vibrant details suggest the teeming life on earth, in all its protean variety, seduced The great Jay Clayton, the vocal group Choeur Luna conducted with sublime finesse by DB Boyko, a ‘lunar’ quartet and stellar guest vocalists harmonise, sing and play with idiomatic brilliance throughout. The music [on each side of each long-playing disc] rises to eminence, like a lunar-influenced wave, on [or with] a particular song. On Side A of Disc One it is “Yare’ah” with words by Nathan Alterman, chosen [we are told] by Rachel Gottlieb and translated by Ayelet Rose Gottlieb. On Side B of Disc One the music crests with the song “Patience” featuring an almost supernatural recitative based on the Sufi creation of Sems-i Tebrizi, rendered in English from the Turkish by Nihan Devecioglu.
Meanwhile on Side C [Disc Two] that song is “Moon Over Gaza”, an exquisite medley that flows from one song into another, beginning with one featuring the poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye, flowing into “I Come From There and I Remember”, a poem by the [great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The album ends in wave of tidal intensity – all of which takes place on Side D of Disc Two. It begins with the ethereal “Tsuki” with words by Kyoko Kitamura, flows through “Traveler Woman” with lyrical words by the Canadian, Gem Salsberg and then comes tumbling down in the rhythmic cascade of “Desert Moon” with words by the Israeli writer Shelly Mehari and featuring the voice of Andrea Superstein. Meanwhile celebrated vocalists such as Sofía Rei, Malika Zarra, Bes Davies, DB Boyko, Kyoko Kitamura, Aram Bajakian, Eylem Basaldi, Choeur Luna, the Levavi girls – Yasmin, Maor and Maia – together with Miss Clayton, bring to life the grandest structures of Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s music with engaging immediacy on a double vinyl set superbly engineered Padraig Buttner-Schnirer, with mastering by Chris Gestrin.
Track list – Disc One – Side A – “Even an ancient vision has its moment of birth” – 1: Lotte and the Moon; 2: Yare’ah; 3: Mond; 4: Venus and the Moon. Side B – “Imagine a mammoth growing pearl” – 1: Moon Story; 2: Patience; 3: Yasmoon’s Moon [L’Kamar]. Disc Two – Side C – “Dissapating Discus” 1: Dissapating Discus; 2: Luna; 3: Moon over Gaza. Side D – “However thin you might be, this night you illuminate” – 1: Tsuki; 2: Traveler Woman; 3: Desert Moon.
Personnel – Ayelet Rose Gottlieb: lead vocals; Jay Clayton: lead vocals; Choeur Luna [conducted by] DB Boyko: Damaris Baker, Christiane Charbonneau [featured tr. 8]; Seçkin Cinar [featured tr. 6], David Cronkite, Kathy Kennedy, Maya Kuroki [featured tr 8, 11], Cléo Palacio-Quintin, Stefani Recheshter, Vergil Sharkya’, Graham Webber. The Band – Eylem Basaldi: Turkish violin; Aram Bajakian: guitar; Stéphane Diamantakiou: contrabass; Ivan Bamford: drums; Guest Voices – Andrea Superstein [tr 3, 13]; Bes Davies [tr 4]; Eylem Basaldi [tr 6]; DB Boyko [tr 6, 8]; Malika Zarra [ tr 7]; Yasmin, Maor and Maia Levavi [tr 7], Sofía Rei [tr 9]; Aram Bajakian [tr 10]; Kyoko Kitamura [ tr 11]; Shelly Mehari [tr 13]
Released – 2020
Label – Orchard of Pomegranates
Runtime – not available