Adiemus is the name given to a musical project by its creator Karl Jenkins, a well-known composer of “applied music”. The project’s beginnings go back to the early 1990s when Jenkins was busy composing music to accompany advertisements. Delta Airlines had contracted with his company, Jenkins Ratledge, to create suitable theme music for an upcoming television commercial. Jenkins submitted a composition he’d been kicking around, and the airline loved the demo tape from the first time they heard it.
Jenkins took that successful composition and began to build upon it, with the idea of turning a commercial spot into a complete musical project. A chance meeting with Helen Hodkinson, an artists’ manager at the time, led to a recording contract when she heard Jenkins’ work-in-progress and fell in love with it.
That contract led to the four main Adiemus albums currently in existence:
Songs of Sanctuary (1995), featuring the original Delta spot, and songs with hints of High Church music.
Cantata Mundi (1996), with definite choral and classical influences and themes.
Dances of Time (1998), the most tribal-flavored Adiemus disc, with songs emphasizing dance and movement.
The Eternal Knot (2001), an album of Celtic sounds, with incredible vocal arrangements on many of the tracks.
The music itself is an interesting mix of New Age, jazz, world music, and pop sounds with a bit of classical themes thrown in. It’s a bit hard to categorize, since the flavor of the music changes just about the time you think you’ve got a handle on it. The Adiemus sound can go from Celtic to opera to tribal, almost in the space of one song, and Jenkins manages to mix all those musical styles without becoming redundant or predictable. Some have compared the music to groups such as Enigma or Dead Can Dance.
A large part of the success of Adiemus is doubtless due to the interesting mix of performers that appear on the albums. The London Philharmonic Orchestra performs the music on the first three albums, and for the last two Jenkins assembled his own “Adiemus Orchestra”. What strikes most listeners, though, are the amazing vocals of Miriam Stockley (who’d been part of Jenkins’ original company) and Mary Carewe. In addition to their solo parts, on many of the tracks Jenkins has dubbed the vocals many times over, creating the impression of a large choir. The effect is stunning and stays with you long after the songs have ended. Finnish singers Annamari Kähärä, Mia Simanainen, and Hanna-Riikka Siitonen also appear on the albums.
The lyrics they sing are not in any particular language, but are instead a “sound-language” invented by Jenkins for the project. His aim was to make the vocal sounds act as one of the instruments used on the recordings, and minimize the distraction that comprehensible words might cause. The idea works brilliantly, causing the listener to focus on the music itself, while satisfying any aural need for vocal accompaniment.
Adiemus Unofficial Home Page
. <http://www.adiemus.f2s.com/> (March 2004)
Jenkins, Karl. Karl Jenkins
. <http://www.karljenkins.com/> (March 2004)