regards sur l’infini

about the project

 

At the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, Katharine Dain and Sam Armstrong, longtime friends and collaborators, decided to quarantine together. They spent the quiet months in unusually deep and slow exploration of repertoire for voice and piano. Eventually this work coalesced into a song program centered around Messiaen’s extraordinary Poèmes pour Mi, composed in the early years of his marriage to Claire Delbos. The album also includes Debussy’s complete Proses lyriques as well as infrequently-performed but mesmerizing songs by Delbos (also a composer), Henri Dutilleux and Kaija Saariaho.

 

All the songs on the disc are deeply personal responses to text and to moments of pivotal change in the composers’ or poets’ lives. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has caused incalculable loss, it has also forced us to to pause, to try to stay present in an uncomfortable reality, to trust ourselves and our processes. Regards sur l’Infini is a collection of deeply personal stories that together tell a larger story about the restless human gaze, a personal document of an unprecedented time.

“A memorable, effortlessly polished album”

—Erica Jeal, The Guardian

 

“Regards sur l’Infini is impressively elegant and thoughtful”

—Geoff Brown, The Times

 

“Dain provides many of the translations herself and her booklet essay is sensitively penned, honest and thoughtful. Dain’s soprano has a slender, pure quality, fearless at altitude such as in Kaija Saariaho’s ‘Il pleut’, where her instrument is beautifully controlled over the droplets of rain falling from Armstrong’s piano accompaniment. His playing of the Debussy songs, in particular, has wonderful clarity. … Dutilleux’s ‘Regards sur l’infini’ is possibly the most exquisite track on the album, melancholy, confessional.”

—Mark Pullinger, Gramophone

“A memorable, effortlessly polished album”

—Erica Jeal, The Guardian

 

“Regards sur l’Infini is impressively elegant and thoughtful”

—Geoff Brown, The Times

 

“Dain provides many of the translations herself and her booklet essay is sensitively penned, honest and thoughtful. Dain’s soprano has a slender, pure quality, fearless at altitude such as in Kaija Saariaho’s ‘Il pleut’, where her instrument is beautifully controlled over the droplets of rain falling from Armstrong’s piano accompaniment. His playing of the Debussy songs, in particular, has wonderful clarity. … Dutilleux’s ‘Regards sur l’infini’ is possibly the most exquisite track on the album, melancholy, confessional.”

—Mark Pullinger, Gramophone

read more

 

Katharine wrote a piece for Gramophone magazine on the genesis of the album: That Time I Decided to Quarantine With a Pianist

“…what Sam and I discovered (or re-learned) this year, however, is that there really is no substitute for time and trust. Our best work needs slowness, space to ask questions and wait for answers, and patience with our brains and bodies as they adapt to new information. We needed every bit of the time we spent tracing and re-tracing Messiaen’s rhythms and voicings and rhetorical gestures before the music spoke clearly. I spent months singing the same phrases before prosody, breath, physicality, shadings of vowels, and imagination aligned.”

… and a personal blog post going further into the history and process: Regards sur l’Infini — Back Story