Process: Springboarding from Tradition into Modern Imagination

It should be stated from the start that Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom: Ladino Songs Renewed does not aim for ethno-musicological authenticity.

My creative process with Ladino song begins with ethno-musicological field recordings, followed by research into the songs’ traditional function and context. Most of these songs were sung primarily by women, in the home or community events like weddings, unaccompanied except perhaps for a drum. The themes may be dark, but the songs were normally sung in a familiar way, without being taken overly seriously and certainly lacking much of the theatricality in which they are commonly presented today.

My next steps often lead me away from tradition, knowingly and deliberately. I ask compositional questions: 

“What can I imagine the mood of the story, or the emotions of some of the characters, to be, despite the traditional ways the song would have been sung?
Was I to create a soundtrack for this story, how would I use the musical tools available to me, and the expertise of the Ensemble members, to bring these tales, moods and emotions to life in a way that will feel personally real, and that will give audiences a powerful emotional experience?”

My hope is that the resulting arrangements bring the stories to life in a way that will be vivid and fresh for you and for me. It is risky to recast such old, rich material this way. We leap from tradition into modern imagination.

Obviously whatever flaws you will find in this project are mine — not the tradition or the songs themselves, songs that, after all, have been around for quite some time and will, I trust, endure.  
—Guy Mendilow

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