Of things I’d rather keep in silence I must sing

I’m currently preparing a teaching session for MA Poetics of Imagination at Dartington Arts School on the troubadours and trobairitz, which put me in mind of a wonderful writing residency I had a few years ago in the beautiful medieval village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in France.

In 2016, I collaborated with artist Tania Candiani on an art project in the Lot Valley in France for the opening night of the Exoplanet Lot exhibition. The exhibition envisaged the Lot Valley as an exoplanet, an alternative human habitation. I wrote a song based on a lyric by the Occitan female troubadour (or trobairitz), Comtesse de Dia. My adaptation replaced the two lovers in Dia’s song with Earth’s lament to the human species. My lyrics were recorded by a local Occitan singer in one of the nearby medieval churches.

Tania Candiani, Landscape Sound Amplifier, Site specific installation, Exoplanet Lot, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, France, 2016. Photo: Yohann Gozard. Courtesy of the artist. Exoplanet Lot was organised by Maison des Arts Georges et Claude Pompidou, Cajarc.

Candiani installed the amplification sculpture pictured here to enable people to listen from the clifftop at Saint-Cirq-Lapopie to the song resonating in the Lot Valley below. You can listen to it here.

Chant Trobairitz, made for Tania Candiani, Landscape Sound Amplifier, 2016. Lyrics by Tracey Warr, adapted from a song by the Comtesse de Dia.

My lyrics were:

Earth’s Lament

Of things I’d rather keep in silence I must sing

so bitter do I feel toward you

whom I love more than anything.

You left me for another planet

my forests silent, my seas emptied.

Come home now. I have healed the scars you graved.

It’s not right another celestial body takes you away from me.

Remember how it was with us in the beginning!

Come home. We could still have much time together

Before the death throes of the sun begin.

I send you there, on your exoplanet,

this song as messenger and delegate.

Come home my lovers, my humans.

My song lyrics are published in English in my book The Water Age and Other Fictions, which is available from bookshop.org and other outlets.

The Comtesse de Dia’s original song ‘A chantar m’er…’ is the only trobairitz poem to survive with its music intact. You can find an English translation here and see Meg Bogin’s book The Women Troubadours (W.W. Norton, 1980).

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