Each Adiemus album is a collection of song-length pieces featuring harmonised vocal melody against an orchestra background. There are no lyrics as such, instead the vocalists sing syllablesand ‘words’ invented by Jenkins. However, rather than creating musical interest from patterns of phonemes (as in scat singing, or in numerous classical and crossover compositions), the language of Adiemus is carefully stylised so as not to distract the listener’s attention from the pitch and timbre of the voice. Syllables rarely end in consonants, for example. In this respect it is similar to Japanese and several other languages. The core concept of Adiemus is that the voice should be allowed to function as nothing more than an instrument, an approach that has become something of a trend in recent choral writing (compare, for example Vangelis‘s score for the film 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), or “Dogora”, a symphonic suite by French composer Étienne Perruchon). The word Adiemus itself resembles the Latin word ‘adeamus’ meaning ‘let us approach’ (or “let us submit a cause to a referee”). Jenkins has said he was unaware of this. Perhaps even more appropriately, the song title also resembles two forms of the Latin verb ‘audire’ (to hear), i.e. ‘audiemus’ (we shall hear) and ‘audiamus’ (let us hear).
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