Balsam

— Titillating herbal lab (2017)

Zefiro Torna

“La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.
Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté…”
Ch. Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal IV

For a long time shamans, Chinese, Persian and Roman masters of (folk) medicine, Indian Ayurvedans, medieval monks, homoeopathists, alchemists and quacks have tried to fathom the healing powers of plants. Their findings and formulas for the galenic preparation of ointments, capsules and syrups were expressed in symbols or recorded in scientific reference books such as the ‘Liber compositae medicinae /Causae et curae’ (von Bingen) and in numerous ‘Kruydtboeken’ or ‘Herbals’. Herbs and plants with a medicinal effect, whose perfume becomes bottled emotion, that awaken desire, set in motion hallucinogenic transportations or poisonously lead to ruin have been portrayed in literature, visual arts and music.

The production Balsam sees the daylight following the elaborate concert tours and international acclaim of Les Tisserands, in the spirit of the Cathars en O, Monde Aveugle!, songs for the Apocalypse. The hybrid collective consists of musicians coming from a wide range of musical genres such as old, traditional, ethnic and jazz music. They find each other in their love for singular vocal and instrumental nuances, in their delicate musical preferences and in their engaging performance. The compositions from the program Balsam bear names such as Alchemilla/Lady’s mantle, les Roses de Saadi or Artemisia absinthium. They resound in the company of traditional songs from Portugal or Greece, Old Norse Edda songs about the Yggdrasil or tree of life, spiritual songs from Hildegard von Bingen and close-knit 15th-century music of Guillaume Dufay or the baroque splendour of Heinrich Schütz. They refer to texts of the Song of Songs or verses by Charles Baudelaire or Emile Verhaeren.

Balsam pulverizes, soaks, ferments and distils in an immeasurable search for the quintessence of mankind.

The programme was selected by REMA, the European Early Music Network.


ReZipe (creation spring 2019)
Theatric chef Peter De Bie creates imaginitive productions that are all about smelling, feeling, seeing, hearing and tasting. Together with companions Jo Roets and Michiel Soete of the internationally renowned Theatre of Senses – LAIKA – he conceived an immersive global concept built around herbalism. During the concert, the audience finds itself in an alchemical and mysterious laboratory where it can discover pills, elixirs, syrups and unguents. They are created live on stage by a cook-performer, and served by artists while the Balsam-music simmersand enchants.

  • Elly Aerden vocals
  • Philippe Laloy flutes, soprano saxophone, compositions
  • Jowan Merckx recorders, French bagpipes, flugelhorn, percussion, ukulele, vocals, compositions
  • Raphaël De Cock uilleann pipes, bawu, chatkan, kaval, Hardanger fiddle, harmonic flutes, Jew's harp, duduk, overtone singing, vocals
  • Christophe Morisset serpent, sackbut, bass tuba
  • Jurgen De bruyn lute, baroque guitar, chitarrone, vocals, artistic direction
  • Els Van Laethem composition, musical advice