live | online | recorded
Leonie Curtin (violin, vielle, rebec), Ciara Taaffe (harps), Wolodymyr Smishkewych (voice, sinfonie, percussion), Steven Player (guitars, gittern)
Although we moderns prize ourselves on being of an age which values science and reason, we cannot claim ownership of knowledge by virtue of our times. The Medieval period—sometimes pejoratively called “The Dark Ages”—in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East and Asia was replete with mathematicians and philosopher-scientists who studied nature, the heavens, as well as the human mind. The more generously-named “Renaissance” did enjoy a flowering of the liberal arts and the continued study of the sciences, and although we often are reminded of the darker side of living in these centuries, it's just as true that we have barbarism in our own days playing out across the globe, and a vehement denial of science and the scientific method worryingly runs rampant in even the most so-called “developed” countries.
In every age, however, there have been guiding lights: in science, philosophy, the arts…and these enlightened persons have left us virtual and philosophical tools to guide us in our earthly journeys of personal as well as scientific discovery. Like the astrolabe of old, these tools are implements of discovery in a world full of chaos, a way to gauge the movements of the stars and of time. The ancient brass astrolabes found their longest-standing use with navigators, explorers who crossed seas and oceans and, having lost their original North Star, relied on science and technology to assist them in their travels.
In our Voyages with an Astrolabe, we invite you on a journey of exploration sailing the seas and rivers of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and finally across the Atlantic to the Americas. It is especially appropriate that we should take this voyage in Galway, at the gateway of Western Ireland, where a large majority of Spanish and Portuguese astrolabes have been recovered from shipwrecks! Our travels will take us from paths along the Silk Road, across the steppes of Ukraine and along the Black Sea through the Bosporus. Then, across the Mediterranean we sail, until we reach the Iberian Peninsula and the northern shores of Africa before we launch across the Atlantic Ocean to find out how the traditional dances of Africa became encapsulated in the dance collections of Spanish colonisers. We’ll hear the songs and dances of Oswald von Wolkenstein and Dmitri Cantemir, two musician-diplomats who travelled far and wide and described their travels (and sometimes, their wild high-jinks) in very musical terms.
From the sun’s dawning in the east, to the far west of the lands of Altramar, journey with us to explore the marriage of science, mysticism, travel, and poetry through music, in Voyages with an Astrolabe.