Incipit Vita Nova (1989)

Incipit Vita Nova is for male alto and string trio and sets those short phrases that appear in Latin rather than Italian in Dante's La Vita Nuova. It was written in February 1989 to celebrate the birth of Vita, the first child of my friends Erica and Robert Hewison.

I wrote the piece at the same time as I was writing Cadman Requiem and, like that piece, it represents a personal response to a life. Both were written for members of the Hilliard Ensemble with whom I had developed a close working relationship.

Although I had decided to write the piece long before the birth I did not start the piece until after the baby was born, waiting until I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl, and wanting to know the baby's name - Vita.

I originally looked for all uses of the word "Vita" (life) among Pico della Mirandola's Conclusiones (I had set Pico for Glorious Hill, my earlier piece for the Hilliard) and eventually added one of these sentences ("Omnis vita est immortalis") as the penultimate line of the text while working on La Vita Nuova ("The New Life") as the main source.

The first performance was given by David James at St. Mary de Castro Church, Leicester, on April 1st 1989, and shortly afterwards along with the first performances of Cadman Requiem in Lyon and Marseilles.

The piece is dedicated to Vita, Erica and Robert Hewison.

Gavin Bryars.


Incipit Vita Nova

Ecce deus fortior me

qui veniens dominabitur mihi.

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra

Vide cor tuum

Tempus est ut praetermictantur

simulacra nostra..

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum

Hosanna in excelcis.

Bella mihi, video,

bella parantur.

(vita) qui est per omnia secula

benedicta, benedicta.

Omnis vita est immortalis.

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum

A new life is beginning

Behold a God more powerful than I

who comes to rule over me

Your source of joy has now appeared

Behold your heart

It is time for false images

to be put aside

Names are the consequences of things

Hosanna in the highest

Things beautiful to me, I see

beautiful things are being prepared.

(a life) which is for all times

blessed, blessed.

All life is immortal.

Names are the consequences of things.