Now, I’m not a big fan of classical music or music patterned after that kind of sound. In fact, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I made the effort to locate composer Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light only after a short but haunting snippet of Pater Noster was featured in the opening episode of the TV series American Horror Story: Asylum, in that scene where Jessica Lange’s character, a nun, sensually releases her hair to straddle the Monsignor.
The whole nine minute plus Pater Noster turns out to be n experience of sheer aural majesty, and it’s a good representative of the type of music one would find here. The tracks on this album are inspired by the silent movie The Passion of Joan of Arc, which was released back in 1928. In fact, this album could be considered the soundtrack of sorts for that movie. The music here, featuring haunting aria and lots of strings, has minimal vocals, and when they do show up, the libretto comprises excerpts from the Medieval Christian female mystics (including Joan of Arc, of course).
Now, it is easy to consider this work as another collection of lovely tunes best suited for elevators, but seriously, just listen – listen – to Pater Noster and Torture.
In Pater Noster, we have voices, both male and female, blending in near-sacrilegious sensual harmony as they repeat the refrain, “Et postquam ego colcavi me in te, modo colca te tu in me.” Considering that the refrain translates into English as “And after I have laid myself in you, now lay yourself in me”, the whole thing suddenly turns into something more profane, even sensual. There’s a very good reason why some smart fellow chose this song to be played in the background of Sister Jude’s illicit fantasy – it’s sexy in a toe-curling manner. The strings surging forth in an orgasmic crescendo only make the whole thing more of an, er, divine rapture.
Torture manages to turn Joan of Arc’s wounds and debasement at the hands of her torturers into a disturbingly sensual experience. A disturbingly chirpy soprano sounds liberated, free, as she sings about a perforated heart that issues forth rays of the sun while the chorus chants in ecstasy “Glorioses playes!” (“Glorious wounds!”) again and again. The whole thing climaxes in a thunderous fast-paced chant about how “It is not fair to wish to taste only of my honey, and not of the gall. If you wish to be perfectly united with me, contemplate deeply the mockery, insults, whippings, death and torments I endured for you!” before winding down as if everyone has had so much fun that it’s time to lay back, take a deep breath, and reach for a cigarette.
The rest of the tracks here are of the same vein. I don’t know which is more sexy here – classical music, strings in overload, Jesus, torture porn and glorious wounds, martyrdom in the name of god – but this whole thing is one disquieting sensual musical experience. The fact that it shouldn’t be sexy only makes this even more of an enjoyable listen. I’m going to get struck by lightning for saying all this, am I not?