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MCMXC a.D. - the title

The title of the album MCMXC a.D. stands for the date AD 1990, which marks the publication of Enigma’s debut album – it came out on 10th December. The abbreviation „a.D.” is derived from the Latin term Anno Domini, which literally means “in the year of the Lord” and is interchangeable with the terms “Common era” or “Current era”.  There are two accepted forms of abbreviating Anno Domini, the first one being “a.D.” and the second one – “A.D.”. The lowercase “a” was most probably supposed to express humbleness when addressing God, but was later substituted  with a capital letter to make the abbreviation more uniform. The expression was most commonly used in dating medieval sources. The quote featured on the inside cover of the album:

THE PATH of excess leads to the tower of wisdom

(William Blake)

William Blake

The presence of a William Blake’s quote in the first album shows that Michael Cretu was interested in this poet’s work from the very beginning of the Enigma project. Its use in the debut album brings to mind the deeds of Marquis de Sade and, arguably, loosely refers to the mistakes made by people in general.  As such, it conveys a message that all mistakes we make are in fact valuable lessons from which we can draw useful conclusions.  A similar idea is expressed in a popular English proverb, every cloud has a silver lining, or in a piece of general advice to learn from one’s mistakes. There is a Latin expression with a similar meaning too: Per aspera ad astra – “through hardship to the stars”. Later on, William Blake’s quote earned its honorary place in Gravity of Love.  More about the author and the quote itself can be found in the section about the inspirations behind the fourth album.

Sigmund Freud

The pleasure of satisfying a savage instinct, undomesticated by the ego, is incomparably much more intense than the one of satisfying a tamed instinct. (…) The reason is becoming the enemy that prevents us from a lot of possibilities of pleasure.

The words of Sigmund Freud quoted above touch upon the subject of human addiction to instincts. However, placing them in this album most probably refers specifically to the sexuality issues represented by Marquis de Sade’s case, which are confronted in some of the pieces (especially “Sadeness”). These pieces have a religious feel of a Gregorian chant, which in turn relates them to the negative opinion on sexuality of the Church.

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Freiberg, a city located  in the north of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Having graduated from university, he started his work as a doctor in a hospital in Vienna, particularly interested in mental and neurological disorders. He learned how to use hypnosis in his clinical work. He was the first one to notice the part that the unconscious plays in both the development of mental disorders and everyday life. He formulated his own theory of human psyche (personality), called the psychoanalysis, which became the basis of his therapeutic practice. He was of the opinion that there is an element of the unconscious present in the psyche which has an influence on the consciousness. He also claimed that conflicts can occur between different dispositions. He stressed the importance of children’s incomplete awareness of differences between the sexes, which he considered a key factor in mental development. He postulated a controversial theory that the origin of psychoneuroses was sexual. He also introduced the concept of what is now called the Freudian slips, according to which any mistakes made in everyday life (errors in speech, memory, or physical action) are interpreted as occurring due to the interference of an unconscious subdued wish or internal train of thought, rather than a coincidence. He also went as far as formulating a theory about the purpose and contents of dreams, which interpreted the dynamics of the dreams and the symbols making an appearance in them. He claimed that there always is a tension between a person and their surroundings, which arises due to the conflict between human needs and demands of the environment. He believed that human behaviour is not always driven by the brain, that often our thoughts, dreams and actions can be determined by irrational impulses which reflect our deeply hidden desires and cravings. Freud proved that such basic needs can “be disguised” or “shift shapes” and thus direct our actions even though we are unaware of that. According to Freud, there is also a third “instance” present in human psyche. Since birth we are surrounded with the morality principles of our parents and the society. Even as adults we are accompanied by the echo of these demands and prejudices. This is what Freud named the “super-ego” (in addition to the previously defined “id” and “ego”). When we are born, we express our physical and mental needs openly, with no shame whatsoever. This force that motivates the tendency to seek gratification of impulses – the “pleasure principle”  – was named “id”, meaning “it”. As the years go by, we learn how to control our desires and adapt to the environment.

Currently, Freudianism covers the theory of development, recognition and treatment of mental disorders, the theory of the structure and functions of human psyche, as well as the philosophical and sociological concept of a man of culture. It identifies the sexual drive and its suppression as the main source of human behaviour and the subconscious.

Similar to Michael Cretu, Sigmunt Freud was a heavy smoker. When he was in his old age, the doctors advised him to quit smoking. He obeyed, though very reluctantly, thinking that would gain him more years. However, he died soon after and the only thing he regretted on his deathbed  was  having deprived himself of the pleasure of smoking in the last few days of his life, seeming as the end had been near anyway.

S. Freud is remembered as a great neurologist and psychotherapist. He died in 1939. His works include The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Totem and Taboo (1913) and The Ego and the Id (1923).

The fragment of the painting on the cover of the single “The Principles of Lust”

The cover of “The Principles of Lust” features a fragment of “An Allegory with Venus and Cupid” (also called “Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time” and “A Triumph of Venus”) by Agnolo Bronzino, also known as Agnolo Tori or Agnolo Allori. The Italian artist, born in 1503, was a Florentine Mannerist painter. As the official court painter of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, he had the opportunity to spend his time with scholars and highly educated humanists. He wrote poetry too – in fact, “An Allegory with Venus and Cupid” might reflect the painter’s interest in Francesco Petrarca’s poems. This oil painting, sized 144×115 cm, was created in either 1545 or 1546. It may have been commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici to be presented by him as a gift to Francis I of France from of the House of Valois of the Capetian dynasty, who reigned during the period 1515-1547. The earliest mentions of the painting can be found in one of the chapters of the 1568 edition of “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects”, a series of biographies by Giorgio Vasari. Nowadays, the painting is exhibited in the National Gallery in London.

“An Allegory with Venus and Cupid” is one of the most famous Mannerist paintings. Typically for the Mannerism period, its meaning is expressed via complex symbolism and allegory. Therefore, its interpretation requires extraordinary erudition and ability to “connect the dots”. In the picture we can see a bearded, bald figure who draws aside a curtain to reveal the incestuous transgressions of Venus and the adolescent Cupid. The figure can be identified as Chronos, the personification of Time, in view of the hourglass behind him. Venus, the goddess of love and beauty holds the golden apple given to her by Paris, the son of the king of Troy. In her right hand she holds one of the Cupid’s arrows, drawn by her doves. At her feet, masks, perhaps the symbols of sensual nymph and satyr, seem to gaze up at the lovers. The other figures probably symbolise Pleasure, Folly, Fraud and Jealousy. The aforementioned Italian painter and architect, Giorgio Vasari, in his works identified the figures on the left as Pleasure and Play with other Loves, and the ones on the right as Fraud, Jealousy, and other passions of love. The piece has been further analysed by other art researchers. Foolish Pleasure/Folly/Jest, the laughing child, throws rose petals at the couple, heedless of the thorn piercing his right foot. Behind him Pleasure/Fraud can be identified by her two-facedness:  fair of face, but foul of body, proffers a sweet honeycomb in one hand, concealing the sting in her tail with the other. The howling dark figure on the left is usually interpreted as Jealousy or Despair, but it was also recently identified as the possible personification of Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease probably introduced to Europe from the New World by the Indians, which reached epidemic proportions by 1500. The figure on the upper left – not clearly identified yet, but believed to represent Fraud/Oblivion – attempts to draw a veil over all, but is prevented by Father Time, possibly alluding to the characteristic for this disease delayed effects of syphilis. The way allegories and numerous erotic symbols are combined together in this piece suggests that Time, to which even love surrenders, shows the truth about passion and physical love: it is only a temporary pleasure which in fact blinds people with temptation and leads them to the sin of jealousy. The pleasure of physical love may seem good on the surface, but essentially it is one of the main strings pulled by the demons in order to destroy a man. Real love should be noble and spiritual, rather than physical, deceptive and harmful to the soul.

The Mannerism expressed here in the complex interpretation of the meaning is additionally accentuated by the complication of forms. The painting’s composition does not have any clear axes defined – they have been replaced by a whimsical cacophony of polygonal chains. The space is not clearly defined either – it is difficult to tell where exactly the characters came from. Their postures are not straight at all and the gnarled limbs add to the chaotic character of the scenery. The gesture of Chronos who holds the blue fabric with his right hand is not so unambiguous either. On one hand, he could have just caught the lovers in the act, which would symbolise the revealing of the truth about physical love. On the other hand, the possibility of him trying to do the exact opposite cannot be ruled out. It would make a plausible explanation too – him, about to bring the curtain down on the lovers in order to hide their act from everyone else and, by ignoring the whole incident, stress how labile, unreliable and unstable physical love is. The typical mannerist ambiguity is expressed in the colour scheme too. The sensual body figures have a smooth porcelain skin, but their complexion is pale and cold. The colours are strong, intensive and vibrant, but at the same time cold and made of meticulously selected shades in order to achieve perfect contrast (pink, grey, turquoise, malachite, ultramarine, emerald green). The sensuality of the painting provocatively clashes with the morality of its message.

Relating it back to the symbolic message on the cover of “The Principles of Lust”, the part of physical love was definitely accentuated here by focusing on the entangled bodies of the lovers. It is as if we are looking on the painting through magnifying glass, so that the only part of the picture in sight is its main characters. It needs to be mentioned here that in the original painting the couple is not located directly in the middle but to the left of the geometrical centre of the picture. The composition again incorporates the mannerist feature of no symmetry. Two more allegories can be found inside the circle – Jealousy/Despair/Syphilis on the left, and probably the head of the woman symbolising Pleasure/Fraud on the right. The musical variation of “The Principles of Lust” refers particularly to male-female relationships, taking into account their emotional instability and the lust which takes over the souls.

Sadeness (part I)

Sadeness, a piece from Enigma’s debut album has been very popular for a long time now. The alternative spelling of the title is deliberate, as the song is about the famous and controversial Marquis de Sade from France. “Sadeness” is meant to be a play on the English word “sadness”, a neologism referring to the writer whose work incorporates the ideas of the “philosophy of despair”.

Music: In “Sadeness”, Cretu used samples from a Gregorian chant entitled “Procedamus In Pace!” , the second track on the album “Paschale Mysterium” by Capella Antiqua from Munich. That earned him a trial in court, as the chanting parts had been at first used without permission; a lawsuit followed in 1994 and was settled by compensation. Also, not a coincidence that certain phrases in French can be heard in “Sadeness”  – they are responsible for creating the unique vibe and linking the piece to Marquis de Sade, whose mother tongue was of course French.

Sadeness - The Video and the classic groove beats

Another thing worth noting about “Sadeness” is the audible inspiration by the music of a British group Soul II Soul . It is most evident in the drum grooves part of the track, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the single “Keep On Movin’” (1989) by the aforementioned group.

The music video to “Sadeness”  starts with upbeat music, skipping the two introductory lines of the Gregorian chant: “Procedamus in pace, In nomine Christi, Amen”, which were featured in the original album version of the track. These lines are cut from the end of the song too. The main character in the music video is a young man sitting down at a desk, scribbling something on a piece of paper. He falls asleep and starts dreaming. It is believed that Marquis de Sade wrote one of his first works when he was 42 (“Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man”, 1782), so his age at that time and the age of the main character in the music video do not quite match. However, Marquis must have taken some notes before he published his first works, or written letters to his friends, lovers or wife – so in that context he could be identified with the man from the video. The moment when the main character visits a temple can also be related to the life of de Sade, who lived with his uncle, an abbot, for a few years and later stayed in a Jesuit college with a priest as his guardian. However, that was during the period of time when he was 6 to 14 years old, which does not match the music video either. The speculation about this short footage could go on forever, but everyone can have their own interpretation – there is no need to generalise here. After all, “there are as many opinions as there are men” (“Quot homines, tot sententiae”, a Latin proverb).

The graphics from the "Sadeness" cover

The theme shown below in the picture (on the left) has been used in the creation of the cover of the single “Sadeness part I”. The right picture can be found on the front cover, behind the monk. It was created by Nicolas Le Rouge (Troyes, 1496) and was a part of the collection Le Grant Kalendrier Des Bergiers. It shows the punishment in Hell for commitment of the seven deadly sins, where the sinners are dismembered alive for commitment of the fifth sin – wrath. The lower picture was also created by Nicolas De Rouge. The picture can be found on the back cover, behind the letter E, and depicts the punishment for commitment of the seven deadly sins too. Here we can see people full of greed (the second sin) being boiled in a cauldron filled with oil.

Donatien Alphonse François de Sade

Donatien Alphonse François de Sade was born in 1740 in France. He will always be remembered as a scandalous, lascivious writer who developed his talent only once he found himself in jail. His works were controversial – and very bold, considering the outrage and disgust of society. From what we know nowadays, it would seem that the sexual fantasies he described were in fact widely practiced by the rich French aristocracy. Sade’s works are an attempt at the psychoanalysis of sexual deviation – which is where the term sadism comes from. The plot of Sade’s novels and short stories was usually focused on extreme sexual experiences. His works present the world seen through the prism of a pessimistic, nihilistic philosophy – a “philosophy of despair” – which is characterised by rejecting the existence of God and accepting the nature as it is, with its anomalies and unpunished evil. Sade was imprisoned multiple times for sex scandals. Because of his abundant love life he used a Spanish fly preparation (Lytta vesicatoria) in order to increase his sexual potency. De Sade died in 1814. He wrote multiple psychological novels and short stories about sexual deviations, which usually contained philosophical reflections:

Justine (1791)

The Misfortunes of Virtue (1930)

The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinism (1931 – 1935)

The Crimes of Love (1800)

Sade’s works adapted as theatre scripts and erotic film screenplays:

On 25th April 2003, an article was published in a Polish newspaper “Rzeczpospolita” (“The Republic”) about a controversial two-hour-long  play which was supposed to be performed in the Riverside Studios theatre in London for the four following weeks. The play was loosely based on Marquis de Sade’s novel “Philosophy in the Bedroom”, but was given the enigmatic title “XXX” instead. The actors from a Spanish theatrical group La Fura Dels Baus were not only performing naked, but they even had sex on stage. The audience was encouraged to actively participate in the play in order to experience all the sensations more intensively and get a better feel of the story. It has been the case for quite some time that the theatres have tried to overcome the barriers between the audience and the on-stage performers. Another example of overcoming such barriers are modern museums in which the visitors are not only allowed, but even encouraged to touch some of the exhibits instead of admiring them from behind a glass wall. This supposedly leads to a better perception of the art and better recollection of the objects seen afterwards.

According to Jacek Kopciński, a theatrologist, the play in question was not a revelation at all, as this subject had been covered before in ancient Roman theatre, which was all about promiscuity, not the ritual. Kopciński believed modern culture was also to blame in that case, as it demanded exhibitionism and satisfaction of human curiosity by showing everything there was to show. The trend of breaking sex taboos emerged in early 90s in European and American theatres.

Another theatrologist ,Tomasz Kubikowski, was of a different opinion. He claimed that ever since the emergence of a Greek tragedy the theatre has been about violation of both the aesthetic and social norms. He admitted, however,  that this rule was widely abused by addressing the basic drives of the audience under the label of an experiment.  Even though Kubikowski was alarmed by the mentions of on-stage sex, he believed that La Fura Dels Baus were a serious, trustworthy and experienced avant-garde group, as they even performed in operas during the Salzburger Festspiele festival. He concluded by saying that usually there is a reason behind everything they do and it would not be wise to make snap judgements about the whole thing.

Inspired by the works and life of de Sade, Luc Damiano wrote and directed an erotic film entitled “Marquis de Sade”. In one of the interviews he said:

The legendary Marquis de Sade and his diaries – full of eroticism, perversion and sexual experiments – are an extraordinarily popular and intriguing topic at this moment. Our version of the story is not as censored as the other films on this subject. It will most definitely help you find out if you really know what the term “sadism” means.

Eroticism vs Marquis de Sade

In the July 2003 edition of “Plus Minus”, an addition to the “Rzeczpospolita” newspaper, I found an essay about a film which was just making its big screen entrance at the time, “Baise-moi” (“Fuck me”).  I found a few thoughts on Sade and eroticism there, which undoubtedly are matters often touched upon by Enigma.

Marquis de Sade was acclaimed the patron of sexual freedom by surrealists. They identified such freedom with extreme experiences and overcoming all the cultural barriers, sometimes even borderline violence. De Sade was a personification of all that. Eroticism was an individual experience for him, where the partner was used as merely an object. The culture strives to suppress and domesticate this wild ecstatic passion, subordinate it to the moral order, release empathy and compassion. But this kills the eroticism. De Sade therefore postulated total sexual freedom  and so breaking all taboos. It was not enough for him to witness the highly sophisticated excruciation of the victims of his sexual experiments – he wanted them to torture and kill each other. This also resembles the case of Prometheus – a man who wants to be as great as God, but is unable to equal Him in ability to create, therefore he tries to compete against him in ability to destroy. Destroy exactly what He created (the mankind), and not only in the physical way but also morally, on all the levels. That is why the thing that was the most exciting for Sade’s characters was forcing a mother to torture her child, forcing a father to rape and kill his daughter, etc.

The words below are a quote from the “Christian Science Monitor” and concern Marylin Manson’s and Neil Strauss’s book entitled “The Long Hard Road Out of Hell”:

If Marquis de Sade had a son in a hard-rock band who wrote a book, this would be the book.

Find Love

In this instalment of the “Principles Of Lust” trilogy Cretu used samples from progressive rock band Aphrodite’s Child (Vangelis, Demis Roussos, Loukas Sideras, Silver Koulouris) and their album “666” (1971), precisely the fifth track from the second CD of the album. The title of this track is quite unusual: the infinity’s symbol, ∞.

Sadeness (Reprise) vs the trilogy concept

The piece entitled “Sadeness (Reprise)” is the last one in the “Principles Of Lust” trilogy, which is indicated by the information in brackets, i.e. reprise. In music, reprise is the repetition of the opening material later in a composition as occurs in the recapitulation (the third section) of sonata form.

The structure of a sonata form  – the first movement of a sonata, a symphony or a concerto – was where the idea of grouping these three tracks together under one name was taken from. A sonata is a piece intended to be played by a soloist or a small ensemble, in most cases only instrumental, and usually split into the following movements:

1) A fast movement  – an Allegro, usually written in sonata form

2) A slow movement – an Andante, an Adagio or a Largo, usually written in the theme and variations form

3) A minuet or scherzo

4) A finale in faster tempo, often in a sonata–rondo form.

The sonata form found in the first movement of a sonata was fully developed in the Classical period and is split into three sections:

a) Exposition

b) Development

c) Recapitulation

In Exposition, the first and second subject groups are joint together by a modulating transition. The last sub-section of exposition is codetta, the purpose of which is to bring the exposition section to a close with a perfect cadence in the same key as the second group. These elements are the driving force of a sonata. The section called development consists of one or more themes from the exposition altered and on occasion juxtaposed. Alterations include taking material through distant keys, rhythmic instability or unexpected modulations. Development then re-transitions back to the recapitulation section where the thematic material returns in the tonic key and altered exposition is repeated. Sonata form may also begin with an introduction and conclude with a coda, in addition to the three basic movements described above.

According to the information above, “Sadeness”, as the first part of the trilogy, is equivalent to exposition in classical music. Its purpose is to introduce the main theme of the piece. In exposition the primary thematic material is presented in the tonic key. Afterwards the second subject group is proposed in a different key.

The second part is “Find Love” which represents the development section of a sonata form. Its purpose is to explore the harmonic and textural possibilities of the thematic material.

The final part is the aforementioned “Sadeness (Reprise)” which repeats the opening material, but also includes the first and second subject groups, both in the home key.

The “Principles Of Lust” trilogy cannot be compared to a sonata itself, but a sonata form of some kind (one of the movements in a sonata). Furthermore, sonatas are instrumental pieces, not vocal, which is what Cretu composed. The term “sonata” (from Latin and Italian: sonare, “to sound”) was introduced in late 16th century and literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, “to sing”), a piece sung. The comparison of “Principles Of Lust” to sonata form was mainly supposed to make it seem more complete and also help understand the concept of a reprise.

Callas Went Away

The piece dedicated to the famous soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977) is meant as kind of a remembrance of her opera career and turbulent personal life. That is why the piece is entitled “Callas Went Away”. In the background of this song we can hear fragments of her air from “Werther! Qui m’aurait dit… Des cris joyeux”. There was another female voice used in this track; it refers to the topic of Callas going away, which you can explore in the lyrics section.

Soprano – Maria Callas. Opera aria from „Werther! Qui m’aurait dit… Des cris joyeux”.

Presented below are Maria Callas’ lyrics which have been used in Enigma’s piece, both in French and translated:

Ah! je les relis sans cesse…
Je devrais les detruire…
Ces lettres ! Ces lettres !
Ces lettres ! Ces lettres !

Ah! i read them constantly…
I ought to destroy them.
These letters! these letters!

Enigma only used certain fragments of this air. These fragments are originally sung in a different order and also a different context.

Birds singing, the sound of flowing water and a slightly distorted baby cry can be heard in the background of “Callas Went Away”. The first two of these elements can also be spotted in a song by Mike & The Mechanics, “Par Avion” (1985), from the album entitled “Mike & The Mechanics”. There is a high probability that this was the piece which inspired Cretu during his works on “Callas Went Away”.

Maria Callas – a biography

Maria Callas-Meneghini (actually Anna Maria Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos) – a Greek-American soprano, born on 3rd December 1923 in New York. She lived in New York as a child and later moved back to Athens with her family when she turned 13. Her mother enrolled her there at the local conservatoire. Aged 15, Callas debuted in a student production of “Cavalleria rusticana”. Her teacher was Elvira de Hidalgo. Having graduated from the conservatoire as an opera singer, she landed her first professional part as Tosca at the age of 19. In 1947 Callas made her opera debut as the main soprano in “La Gioconda” at the Arena di Verona. The conductor, Tullio Serafin, amazed at her voice, provided her with an opportunity to boost her career and become a real star – which was what she was born for.

Maria Callas became especially famous for her bel canto (Italian for “beautiful song”) opera repertoire.  Her intensive, dramatic performances made it to history of vocal music. “Not all the lyrics we sing are quality poetry” – she used to say. “In order to make the most dramatic impression on both the audience and myself, sometimes I have to make ugly sounds. I do not care whether they are horrible, if they are authentic.” Her skills were unusually universal – she conquered the audience not only with her voice, but more importantly with her dramatic power and acting skills. When she first started performing, she would go for the dramatic parts, only to switch to lighter coloratura pieces later on. She was the one for whom long forgotten opera pieces were refurbished (e.g. “Medea” by L. Cherubini). Her signature performance was in “Norma” by V. Bellini.

Maria Callas’ electrifying presence on stage went in line with her turbulent personal life. The shocking news of her consecutive affairs (e.g. with the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis) and arguments with the opera impresarios would continuously make it to the front pages of newspapers and as such become legendary. Nicolas Slonimski claimed she was the “incarnation of carnality”. It was not uncommon for her to leave the stage in fury because of some misunderstanding (once in Rome she left the stage right before the end of the first act of “Norma”, even though the President of Italy was sitting in the audience) or sometimes not show up to her scheduled performances.  She even went as far as to cancel her first contract with Metropolitan Opera, which in turn forced her to postpone all the following performances – all because she did not like the conductor who was supposed to accompany her on stage in her debut. Another time she kept postponing signing of the contract for a series of “La traviata” performances for ten weeks – only to cancel it in the end, having found out that the part has been offered to another singer. When such behaviour became a habit of hers, she got fired. The director of Metropolitan Opera at the time, Rudolf Bing, was outraged and concluded the whole situation by saying: “Madame Callas is unable to abide by the rules of any organisation which is not tailored to her personality”. Callas was more direct in her words about his version of “Traviata”, which she judged to be “poor, very poor”. Luckily they all made amends after some time. Callas came back to Metropolitan Opera, gaining even more publicity and a greater audience than before.

A reporter asked her once about her American roots, Greek upbringing and Italian residency, wanting to know which language she felt most comfortable speaking. She replied: “I count [money] in English”.

After performing as Tosca for the last time in 1965, Callas retired as an immortal legend which will always live in regularly published recordings, videos and biographies. Her figure also appears as the main character in “Master Class”, a play by Terrance Rattigan loosely based on Maria Callas’ diaries from 1971-1972 about Julliard School postgraduate classes.

Callas passed away on 16th September 1977 (“Callas Went Away”) in her house in Paris. Her death was most probably caused by a heart attack.


The Latin phrase Mea Culpa means “my fault”. The expression is frequently used in a prayer of confession of sinfulness in Christian liturgy, where the words “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” (“Through my fault, through my most grievous fault”) are accompanied by beating the breast.

In “Mea Culpa” Cretu used samples of a Gregorian chant recorded by Capella Antiqua from Munich. The particular hymn featured on the track is “Kyrie XI” from the album “Die Gregorianischen Gesänge”.

The acclamation “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison” (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy), which can be heard in “Mea Culpa” is always sung by the whole congregation in Christian liturgy. It has two dimensions, a double meaning. The first one is respect for The Great Plan of Salvation and The Secret of God’s Presence. The other one is articulation of the awareness of how imperfect, sinful and little the mankind is in comparison to the Lord. On one hand we pray “O Lord, have mercy on us, as you are the greatest”, but on the other we beg “O Lord, have mercy on us, as we are who we are”.

The roots of this incantation are not Christian, not even Jewish. The exclamation “Kyrie eleison” was used by the ancient worshippers of the sun when addressing the deity at dawn. As the eastern customs slowly made their way into the Roman society, this exclamation became widely used by the citizens when the Roman army would enter the city having won a battle. This was how the Romans greeted the victorious leaders who lead their armies into the Eternal City. Later on, that exclamation of respect and admiration gradually became intended only for the emperor, especially after his enthronement. Its underlying meaning was “long live the emperor, glory to the emperor”. It was an act of respect but also submission, affirmation of the emperor’s power and request for the emperor to take care of his people. The Roman emperor was seen more and more as not only a victorious military leader or an autarch, but also the Sun god and the highest of priests (pontifex maximus).

This was the reality of Rome when the Christianity arrived there.

The Jews knew the call for God’s mercy. The psalmist begs: “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.” (Psalms 57:1), “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.” (Psalms 86:3),  “I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.” (Psalms 119:58), “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.” (Psalms 123:3).

Prophet Isaiah calls out: “O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” (Isaiah 33:2).

Plenty of similar lines can be found in the whole of Old Testament.

So we can see that Christianity, as in many similar cases (take the date of New Year or Christmas – which actually happened in late September or early October – for example), adopted a pagan custom and adjusted it to its needs. On the remnants of an old tradition, a new, nonsecular one was created. Jesus Christ became the New Sun, The Light of The Light, the source of the Divine Energies (a concept introduced much later by Gregory Palamas).

Neither the so-called Apostolic Fathers nor the Greek Fathers mention anything about this acclamation. It makes its first appearance in the Apostolic Constitutions, a pseudo-apostolic collection of treatises on moral conduct, liturgy and Church organization, created in the 4th century. Around year 500 “Kyrie eleison” was officially accepted in Rome, which was reflected in the results of the Third Synod of Vasio (Vaison in Provance)  in 529 – it said that “Kyrie” had become so important in Rome and Italy that it should be spread further. The western liturgies (roman, gallican and others) accepted the litany coming from the Christian east. The long prayer consisted of various adjurations to which the congregation always responded with the same words. The Pope Gregory the Great waived the long litany, sparing only the repeated response of “Kyrie eleison”. Since the 8th century, the order goes as follows: “Kyrie eleison” sung three times, followed by “Christe eleison” sung three times, and again “Kyrie eleison” three times. Nowadays “Kyrie” is sung in the official language of the country, e.g. “Lord have mercy” twice, “Christ have mercy” twice, “Lord have mercy” twice.

Other acclamations in Christian liturgy include: Amen, Alleluia, Thanks be to god, It is right to give thanks and praise (used in the preface dialogue), Hosanna (Holy, Holy, Holy), Maranatha (Come, O Lord!), and others. There used to be many more acclamations used in church, but as fewer and fewer people knew Latin in the communities, the number of acclamations used also had to decrease because people were unable to understand the liturgy. As the congregation could not reply to the priest, the altar boys had to take on that responsibility. The liturgy reforms of the “Post Conciliar Church” (after the Second Vatican Council) reintroduced the use of native languages in liturgy, and so acclamations could be used again in the original, intended way.

“Kyrie eleison” also became a constant element of litanies, hymns and even poetry.

The Voice & The Snake

In this short track, which is kind of a bridge between two parts of the album, Cretu used samples of music from Vangelis’ album “Aphrodite’s Child 666” (1971) again, particularly the eight track entitled “Seven Bowls”. On the cover of Vangelis’ album we can see a quotation taken from The Book of Revelation:

Anyone who has intelligence may interpret the number of beast. It is a man’s number. This number is 666.

In contrast to some misleading and false information being spread on internet, Frank Peterson didn’t write the lyrics to that song and it remains a mystery until these days why he’s been credited as writer of this song on Enigma’s MCMXC a.D.

Knocking On Forbidden Doors

This piece features fragments of the hymn “Salve Regina”, one of four Marian antiphons. It is said to have been written and composed by Hermannus Contractus (1013 – 1054).  This antiphony can currently be sung to two different melodies: the solemn tone and the simple tone. “Salve Regina” lyrics quickly became popular and its melody was often arranged for vocals or organ. These lyrics can be found below, along with the translation:

Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae
vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eja ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb,Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

The Rivers of belief

In “The Rivers of Belief” Cretu used samples from “Aphrodite’s Child 666” yet again – it is the third track on “MCMXC a.D.” where he used music from Vangelis’ album. This time it was the sixth track from that CD – “The Seventh Seal”.

The quote featured in the radio version of the song :

If you believe in the light, it’s because of obscurity,

if you believe in happiness, it’s because of unhappiness,

if you believe in God, then you have to believe in the devil.

The signature of the exorcist Father X from Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris below that quote (printed in the album’s inlay cover) might be enough to point to Michael Cretu’s source of inspiration, and because it is impossible to identify Father X, all we can do is respect his anonymity.


© Credits:

Marcin Klebba, Adrian Rode (authors)
Marcin Papke (translation, images and review)