In the depths of the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, Belgian composer Nicholas Lens cycled through the empty streets of Brussels. The city’s almost sacred silence reminded him of a visit to Buddhist temples in Japan’s eastern Kanagawa Prefecture, where he originally had his idea for L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S. Composed in lockdown to a new libretto by Nick Cave, it’s a powerful suite of movements, each with music that feels suspended in time, echoing our own stasis and introspection. Cave’s extraordinary, haunting text explores the trajectory of human life—from birth to spiritual rebirth—his snatched, chant-like phrases seemingly floating, like a dream, within Lens’ spare, unsettling music. Here, with four mesmerizing vocalists and a chamber ensemble, Lens and Cave have created an atmosphere of almost stifling closeness.

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