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THE SCREEN BEHIND THE MIRROR

The Title

The title of the album “The Screen Behind The Mirror” symbolizes the truth hidden beneath a fake surface. When we look into a mirror, we see our reflection – but we only see what’s on the outside; the inside, the feelings, are invisible. So if the “mirror” featured in the title symbolizes our reflection, then the “screen” is a metaphor of what’s inside, of the truth hidden beneath the deceptive surface. Behind the mirror we can also find our secret urges and desires. There are a lot of ways in which this title can be interpreted; however, the explanation above was given by Michael Cretu himself in one of the interviews, which makes it seem the most valid one.

 

The Cover

One of the most characteristic elements of the front cover of Enigma’s fourth album is the peculiar font, often eagerly sought by Enigma’s fans. The font is called Kells Square Regular and is, unfortunately, unavailable for free. Another commercial font used in the cover’s design – precisely in the title “The Screen Behind The Mirror” –  is Cezanne. On the front cover we can also see a masked woman’s head. Inside the cover we can find beautiful old photographs by the German photographer Steffen Jagenburg .

Push the Limits

In “Push The Limits”, precisely at 01:37, we can hear an ethnic motive, very similar to the one in the single “My Kingdom” (cover on the left) from Future Sound Of London’s album “Dead Cities”. It is worth adding that the founders of the British band, Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain, seemed more interested in the processes of ageing and decay than in life and energy – even though they were only in their thirties. They focused on the ruins rather than fundaments. In 1996, a very limited edition of “We Have Explosive”, a 12-inch vinyl record published under the pseudonym Semtex, was released. The album came and went without much response from the audience. Later that year the single “My Kingdom” was released (an astonishing 30-minute-long suite consisting of 5 interconnected parts). The single was available in every shop and the music video promoting it was played on the TV. A full length album, “Dead Cities” was also published. The album featured 13 tracks, the titles of which are shrouded in mystery to this day due to the ambiguous track listing on the back cover of the CD (the limited edition of “Dead Cities” was sold together with a 196-pages-long book containing a peculiar story and a lot of private photos and collages).

A skilled listener might be able to notice that “Push The Limits” borrowed certain phrases from Enigma’s previous albums. For example, the strikes we can hear are similar to the ones in “Beyond The Invisible” (Enigma 3 – “Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!”). Furthermore, the sounds of tabla in “Push The Limits” (start at 02:26) were actually taken from “I Love You… I’ll Kill You” (Enigma’s second album – “The CROSS Of Changes”).

In the middle section of “Push The Limits” (approximately at 02:40), we can hear a guitar imitating human voice. A very similar measure can be observed in “Lotus Flower”, a track from Phobos’ self-titled album (1999). At 5:11, a drum part reminiscent of that in Enigma’s “Mea Culpa (Orthodox Version)” is played backwards.

Gravity of Love

The drum part in “Gravity Of Love” is similar to that in “Return To Innocence” (E2). The same beat can also be spotted in the piece “When The Leeve Breaks” by the legendary Led Zeppelin. “When The Leeve Breaks” is featured on their album “Led Zeppelin IV” (1971). Led Zeppelin was founded in 1968 in London. The band members were: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. It was started by Jimmy Page, whose musical debut was in the band called “The Crusaders” in 1959. In July 1968, Page started a new band called The New Yardbirds. The name was later changed to LED ZEPPELIN. The group published their first album “Led Zeppelin I” in 1969. When this album was in the making, all the members were going through a phase of enthrallment by the music of Jimi Hendrix and The Cream. Led Zeppelin’s debut album quickly became a revelation and other hard rock bands soon started to follow their example. Songs such as “Good Times Bad Times” or “Communication Breakdown” can be found on this CD. Their next album, “Led Zeppelin II”, was composed during the USA concert tour and recorded that very same year. “Whole Lotta Love”, arguably the most famous song in rock music history, can be found on that album. In October 1970, their third album, “Led Zeppelin III”, was recorded. It was not similar to the previous albums at all and it conquered the world with the novelty of the sound. It contains a lot of songs and ballads inspired by folk music. However, it did not receive good reviews from the critics. Their next album, the fourth one, was their greatest artistic achievement up to date. It featured the ballad “Stairway to Heaven” written by Robert Plant. The fans loved it, and so it set the bar very high for other artists. The song starts off simple and slowly branches off into a complex, dynamic, hard rock masterpiece. The following albums, however, were neither that ambitious nor interesting. “Houses Of The Holy”, their fifth album, was published in March 1973. There was a strong musical and thematic disparity between the individual tracks on this album. The next album, “Physical Graffiti”, was published in 1975. It was harshly criticised for repeating mainstream patterns and denounced as cliché and unworthy of Led Zeppelin. Of course some gems could be found there too, such as “Kashmir” – a dynamic composition enriched with oriental orchestra sound. In March 1976, the album “Presence” was released. It was recorded in Munich and reminded the fans of the initial sound of Led Zeppelin’s music. It contained magnificent blues and hard rock songs, which gave the group a chance to get back to their glory days. The cover featured a mysterious little figure, which was supposed to act on the imagination of the audience. Their next album, “The Song Remains The Same” was published in October 1976 and contained the soundtrack of the film of the same title. This film was actually a recording of the group’s concert in Madison Square Garden in 1973. Their second-to-last CD, “In Through The Out Door” was published in 1979, after a very long break caused by some unexpected events, such as death of Robert Plant’s son. On 25th September 1980, John Bonham died from alcohol poisoning. Shortly after, the group disbanded. Nevertheless, another album was published in 1982. “CODA” contained pre-recorded pieces which had never been published. The album commemorated the deceased member of Led Zeppelin, famous drummer John Bonham.

All the tracks on “The Screen Behind The Mirror” have the chant “O Fortuna” worked into them. “O Fortuna” is the opening movement of the scenic cantata “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff, a great German composer. “Gravity Of Love” features a fragment of that composition as well, precisely the words: “O Fortuna, velut Luna”…

“Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff

If one was to look for a 20th-century piece which could compete for popularity with Ravel’s Bolero, the only possible choice would be Carl Orff’s scenic cantata “Carmina Burana”. This piece, filled with joyful praise of life and love (in its most erotic and sensual form), is the only composition of the German artist that made it to the “standard repertoire”, i.e. since its premiere, it never left the theatre stages around the world. The elements which make this piece stand out the most are the temperamental rhythm, which can be regarded as borderline Dionysian ecstatic, and the extravagant sexuality, which makes the cantata classifiable as hedonistic. Carmina Burana was the first great success of the composer from Munich, achieved relatively late in his life, at the age of 42 (Orff was born in 1885).
Orff came from a military family; he learned to play the piano, organ and viola in his home town. An important moment of his life was co-founding a very original and extraordinary school (Günterschule) with Dorothee Günther. The main classes in this school were music, dance, and gymnastics. All the classes were individually picked for each child and conducted in a suitable way. Orff’s pedagogical experience helped him design a special, methodical, integrated program of musical education, in which the emphasis was mostly laid on learning how to play percussion instruments (such as drums, rattles or triangle), followed by special eurhythmic and dance classes. Orff’s educational system has many supporters to this day.

The work which seemed to have particularly strongly influenced the Bavarian artist was Igor Stravinsky’s vital, energetic ballet “Les noces” (English: “The Wedding”). In this piece strong vocals were accompanied by an extended percussion section and a virtuoso four piano part. The model developed by Stravinsky was undoubtedly the starting point for Orff’s musical experiments. To be honest though, many musicologists are of the opinion that Orff went too far in his trivialisation, or even vulgarisation, of music. Some even went one step further with their criticism and dared to call “Carmina Burana” (as this was the first piece that manifested Orff’s new style) “The Rite of Spring” for the simpletons, or even an oratorical disco cantata. None of these insults stood in the way of Orff’s piece – on the contrary, year 1937 marked the show’s stage debut in Frankfurt and thereby the beginning of its tour around the greatest theatres around the world.

Nevertheless, to consider Orff’s piece only as an outcome of fascination with Stravinsky’s ballet and nothing more would be quite an oversimplification. The composer, a connoisseur of antiquity, drew inspiration from the Greek theatre, where singing, dancing, acting and poetry were combined together to form an indissoluble whole. Orff also borrowed some elements from early Baroque operas, especially the traditional pieces by Monteverdi, whose works he happened to transcribe from time to time. Another source of inspiration for Orff was Bavarian folklore, characterised by dance parades and simple tunes of aesthetics similar to nursery rhymes or joyful songs hummed in pubs while drinking beer (or sometimes a stronger spirit).

The Carmina Burana manuscript dates back to late 13th century and is now housed in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. The text presents life as an enormous theatre in which fate is determined by the unsteady wheel of Fortune. The medieval manuscript does contain songs of morals and mourning of the dead, but mainly it is a joyful praise of life – excellent wine, dance, and birth of new love every spring. The text is by-and-large an anonymous work and it appears to have been created by travelling scholars, singers, musicians and students. Nevertheless, there are parts of it which were undoubtedly written by excellent secular poets. The manuscripts were only found in 1803 in the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuern, which was opened as a result of a vote to dispossess territorial claims by ecclesiastical princes.
The name under which the text is known nowadays – Carmina Burana – was first proposed in 1847 by Johann Andreas Schmeller, who made the Benedictine collection popular. Carl Orff arranged 25 songs from this large collection and created a play in which – similarly to ancient Greek or medieval mystery plays – solo and group singing, dancing, and acting were combined together to form an indissoluble whole. It is not an opera by any chance – there is no traditional libretto here or conflicts arising from it, it is also hard to spot any psychological issues or development of dramatic characters. What we have here are only three acting vocalists and a choir. The spectacular orchestra part accentuates the timbre of the two pianos and the extensive percussion section, which provides rhythmic continuity throughout the piece.
A characteristic feature of this cantata is an unusual simplification of the music and working with short, often repeated motives – which in some way set the trends for future American minimal music composers.The piece, similarly to the Benedictine manuscript it was based on, begins with an invocation to Fortuna, a goddess which governs the circle of the four stages of life – the Wheel of Fortune.

Part I “Primo vere” is comprised of joyful songs and dance parades associated with the arrival of spring and the awakening of nature. Young girls rouge their cheeks to go and flirt with the men. The cheerfulness billows into a surge of fierce youthful passion.
Part II “In taberna” takes place in a tavern. One drunkard gives the giggly crowd a clear demonstration of his rage at the misery and deprivation of the world; another one grieves over the roast swan which is about to be consumed. A third voice performs a litany to all the earthly pleasures, humorously miming a Gregorian chant. The climax of this part is the vital, rhythmical and powerful choir of drunkards, which brings to mind the bacchanalian orgies, Roman festivals of Bacchus.

Part III “Cour d’amours” depicts a celebration of love, similar to the rituals presented in part I. It begins with a description of the blissful torture which is the suffering of a restless heart. Later on, we can observe the successive phases of foreplay illustrated by a young man’s advances: he is delicate at first but suddenly becomes more and more aggressive. When he overcomes his initial embarrassment and shyness , the girl billows into the powerful and full of sensual beauty goddess of love Venus. But even she has to step down in the face of inexorable fate, governed by the one on which everything depends – the Fortune.

Carl Orff - a biographical overview

Carl Orff (born 10 July 1895 in Munich, died 29 March 1982 in Munich) attended the Munich Academy of Music and later received private tuition from Heinrich Kaminski. He was a known composer, conductor, and co-founder of a dance and eurhythmics school in Munich. In early days of his career Orff focused on chamber and symphony music, but in 1935, aged 40, he scratched all the pieces composed up to that point and devoted himself completely to vocal compositions with instrumental accompaniment. And it was musical theatre that earned him the worldwide recognition. Judged against other composers of his time, Orff’s works are an extremely interesting and original phenomenon. He resurrected old medieval folk theatre forms with the use of his characteristic synthesis of music, singing, poetry, dancing and acting. His pieces strongly emphasized the archaic elements and raw primitiveness; nevertheless, they still came across as thoroughly modern thanks to the unusual orchestration and intricate rhythm (despite the frequent repetition of certain motives). Rhythm played a key role in many of his compositions. It was usually made with the help of various percussion instruments, but sometimes also using unconventional noises such as clapping, stomping or whipping. The purposefully primitive melodies created an effect of humorous archaism, whereas the certain roughness of music served the purpose of exaggerating the peasant primitiveness.

"The path of excess leads to the Tower of Wisdom"

William Blake’s philosophy left a visible mark on Enigma’s fourth album. Blake is the author of the quote “The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom”, featured in the song “The Gravity Of Love”. This very same quote can be also spotted on the covers of both the fourth album and the joint album, LSD. Furthermore, these covers have been designed to resemble William Blake’s intaglio engravings (designs incised onto a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it, which provide a printing plate for images on paper as prints or illustrations). The aforementioned quote can be found in William Blake’s book “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, precisely the chapter “Proverbs of Hell”, page 37. There is also another version of this quote, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. Both versions, however, have the exact same meaning.

References to “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” can also be found in Aldous Huxley’s famous essay “The Doors Of Perception”, the name of the band “The Doors” as well as their music, or Jim Jarmusch’s film “Dead Man”.

William Blake - a biographical overview

William Blake was born in 1757 in England. He was a Romantic poet, philosopher, painter, and printmaker. His works combined enthusiasm for social revolution with support for the ideas of religious mysticism, all according to his deeply entrenched beliefs (influenced by Christian morality, J. Boehme’s and E. Swedenborg’s mysticism, and the French revolution). Most of his literature could be classified as visionary, symbolic lyric poetry (1789: “Songs of Innocence”, 1794: “Songs of Experience” ) or prose poetry.  He also did amazing intaglio engravings, watercolour paintings and book illustrations. In his works text and illustrations formed an indissoluble whole and they could not be viewed or analysed separately. Blake considered illuminated printing to be the best means of expressing his ideas. Some of his works created during the period from 1787 to 1795 used an original method of etching both the text and the illustrations on one plate. Apart from engravings accompanying his own pieces, Blake’s artistic work included sketches of the gothic images on the tombstones in Westminster Abbey (1772), as well as illustrations of the Bible (such as the famous “Illustrations of the Book of Job”, 1823-1825) or literature by other well-known authors, such as E. Young, G. Chaucer, J. Milton, or Dante. His favourite techniques were tempera, watercolour, and hand-coloured copper engraving. The Pre-Raphaelites were the first ones to fully appreciate Blake’s works. Later on, his illustrations had a great influence on contemporary English art. Blake died in 1827. His literary works include prose (1790: “Marriage of Heaven and Hell”), poems – also called the prophetic books (1789: “Tiriel”, 1793 – “Visions of the Daughters of Albion” and other), the “Lambeth Books” cycle (1794: “The First Book of Urizen”, 1795: “The Book of Los” and other), lyric poetry (1789: “Songs of Innocence”, 1794: “Songs of Experience” ), as well as “Milton” (1804-1808) and “Jerusalem” (1804-1820).

Smell Of Desire

In “Smell Of Desire”, from approximately 00:30 until the end of the song, we can hear short, synthetic noises. These sounds refer to the piece entitled “Beautiful Day” by a very niche composer performing under the ambiguous stage name “Hypertrophy”.

In “Smell Of Desire” Cretu also used fragments of music from Enigma’s previous albums. At the end of the track we can hear a drum part being played backwards, which was borrowed from “Mea Culpa (Orhtodox Version). It was also used in another track on this album, “Push The Limits”, which had already been discussed before. In the background of “Smell Of Desire” we can also hear Sandra quoting the words “Je ne dors, je suis a toi…” – a fragment of “Mea Culpa” (E1). What is more, the song in question features a Gregorian chant played backwards as well, precisely the words “In nomine Christi, Amen”. This extract can be also found in Enigma’s debut album, MCMXC a.D., in the song entitled “Sadeness (reprise)”. Finally, the horse whinny sounds have been taken from the piece “Find Love”.

Modern Crusaders

In “Modern Crusaders”, the voice of Enigma’s lead singer was weaved into the song “O Fortuna” from the previously described and analysed “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff. The only thing left to do here is to quote the major part of the  lyrics to “O Fortuna”, along with their English translation:

 

O Fortuna, velut luna
statu variabilis, semper crescis, aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat, et tunc curat, ludo mentis aciem,
egestatem, potestatem
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis, et inanis,
rota tu volubilis, status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
obumbrata, et velata
michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris


O Fortune, like the moon
you are changeable, ever waxing, and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses, and then soothes as fancy takes it;
poverty and power
it melts them like ice.

Fate – monstrous and empty,
you whirling wheel, you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy

Toccata and fugue in “Modern Crusaders”

The final phrase of “Modern Crusaders” has been borrowed from Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece, “Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565”. This organ composition is one of Bach’s most fascinating and impressive pieces. Therefore, it seems kind of counterintuitive that its origins are associated with quite an infamous period of Bach’s life. In November 1706, the young composer and organist at the New Church in Arnstadt went to visit the great Dutch organist Dieterich Buxtehude and his Abendmusiken at St. Mary’s Church in the northern city of Lübeck. (Abendmusiken was a series of church concerts on the five Sundays preceding Christmas). “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” was kind of a spontaneous expression of Bach’s amazement at Buxtehude’s performance. Bach came back to Arnstadt in February 1707, having extended his stay in Lübeck by nearly a month, which meant that he had missed all the local Christmas and New Year services. His unauthorised absence upset his employer so much that Bach had to quickly find another job. “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” is one of Bach’s most famous organ compositions. The toccata begins with a dramatic phrase, followed by short passages demanding excellent manual and pedal technique from the performer. Fugue, one of the most beautiful music forms that emerged in Baroque, is built on a theme which is introduced at the beginning and recurs frequently in the course of the composition. The whole piece resembles a spontaneous musical improvisation of sorts, similar to those Bach indulged in so frequently during services or other official ceremonies.

Johann Sebastian Bach – a biography

Johann Sebastian Bach (born 21 March 1685 in Eisenach, died 28 July 1750 in Leipzig) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period.  He had seven older siblings. His mother, Maria Elisabeth Lämmerhirt, died when he was nine; his father, Johann Ambrosius, the director of the town musicians, passed away eight months later. It was Bach’s father who taught him the basics of music theory. When the little Sebastian lost both his parents in the span of one year, his oldest brother, Johann Christoph, took care of him and the rest of the children. Bach played clavier and violin, but it was his organ virtuosity that made him famous. He was a court musician in Weimar, and later served as a composer and Kappelmeister in Köthen. He spent most of his time in Leipzig though, where he was appointed Thomaskantor (Cantor of the Thomasschule) at the Thomaskirche in 1723. He held that position until his death. He published pieces in almost every genre of his time except opera. He was a great master of harmony and counterpoint – he got the fugue form down to a fine art (Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, Kunst der Fuge). He spent most of his life as a cantor and main organist at the main church in Leipzig, for which he wrote over 200 church cantatas. He was known for his broad joke, frequent attendance at parties and drinking significant amounts of wine. He had twenty legitimate children. His devoutness was reflected in his preference of church music over secular, as he thought that church music gave more praise to the Lord. Johann Sebastian Bach composed over a thousand pieces that we know of – and a lot may have been lost too, as at the end of his life the composer’s music style was considered anachronistic and his works were not valued so highly anymore. Bach’s last years of life mainly constituted a fight against his progressive blindness. His large and talented family helped him throughout these difficult times. His four sons were soon to become well-known, independent musicians and composers. Bach died on 28th July 1750. Him and his music were completely forgotten for the next 80 years. A few composers, such as Mozart or Beethoven, remembered him dearly, but it wasn’t until Mendelssohn’s crusade for resurrection of Bach’s music in 1829 that he got properly appreciated. From that point on, finally recognised by the connoisseurs from around the world, he was never viewed as a modest organist from Thuringia anymore, but one of the greatest musicians and prolific composers of all time. Johann Sebastian Bach composed many pieces in various subject areas. His greatest works include “Brandenburg concertos”, “Cello Suite No.3 in C major”, “Magnificat in D major”, “St John Passion”, “Christmas Oratorio”, “Prelude and Fugue in A minor”, “Goldberg Variations”, “Prelude and Fugue in E major”, “Six sonatas for solo violin”, “Six sonatas for flute and piano”, and a collection of Preludes and Fugues “The Well-Tempered Clavier”.

Traces (Light And Weight)

If we listen to the song “Traces (Light And Weight)” carefully enough, we will be able to notice the two alternating sounds: a match being lit and a raindrop falling onto a surface… So the title matches the music really well: the lit match represents the Light and the raindrop falling with a great speed symbolises the Weight…

Another interesting question is: what exactly do the words at the end of the song (03:56) mean? Well, what we can hear is “E – nig – ma”… If you do not believe me, listen carefully and you will realise that I am right.

The Screen Behind The Mirror

At the beginning of “The Screen Behind The Mirror” (precisely at 00:36) we can hear male ethnic vocals singing the words “Hey Yeled!”, which mean as much as “Hey child!”. The groove beat in “The Screen Behind The Mirror” is almost the same as in “Sadeness Part One” and “The Rivers Of Belief” (pieces from Enigma’s debut album “MCMXC s.D.”), just with a little bit more of an electronic vibe to it. At the end of the track we can hear the deformed words “Nunc obdurat et tunc curat”, sampled from the aforementioned song “O Fortuna” by Carl Orff.

Camera Obscura

The main part of the song “Camera Obscura” is the track “Modern Crusaders” played backwards. The term camera obscura  comes from Latin and means “dark room”. Camera obscura is an optical device consisting of a box or room with a hole in one side. Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside, where it is reproduced, inverted (thus upside-down), but with colour and perspective preserved. This explanation makes the connection between “Modern Crusaders” being  played backwards and the track’s title quite obvious. A very similar idea was implemented in “Temple King”, a track from Phobos’ self-titled album. “Temple King” is a short piece, comprised of fragments of the band’s previous songs played backwards and combined together. In “Camera Obscura” we can also hear Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna’ once again.

Between Mind & Heart

The African ethnic vocals heard in “Between Mind & Heart” were most probably borrowed from Mike Oldfield’s piece “Sunlight Shining Through Clouds”.

 

© Credits:

Adrian Rode (author)
Marcin Papke (translation, images and review)