Testimonium Songs collects the song cycle composed by Joan of Arc (Tim Kinsella, Bobby Burg, and Theo Katsaounis) to be performed live in Testimonium, a work of performance by well-respected experimental theater ensemble Every House Has a Door.
Testimonium responds -- both in substance and in style --to Charles Reznikoff’s monumental work Testimony, a translation into poetry of courtroom transcripts of witness and victim testimonies in criminal cases and cases of workplace negligence, in the US, spanning the years 1885 to 1915.
Performances of Testimonium incorporate modern dance, theater, and original songs written and played by Joan of Arc.
In a departure for the band, these highly structured compositions, developed over a two-year rehearsal period, emulate Reznikoff’s poetics by shaping themselves according to a mosaic method – rotating a fixed set of musical units in warping permutations.
The lyrics re-invent the strategies of Objectivist poetry, by turns surreal, ordinary, testimonial, and explosive, releasing the undercurrent of emotion in the poems while (almost) never quoting them directly.
Beyond collecting the Testimonium Songs, the record has a life of its own, with the contributions of stellar musicians David Grubbs, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang, and Jim Baker, additional vocals by Melina Ausikaitis, and musical material not included in the performance.
The cover art was made by renowned Chicago artist Jason Lazarus.
A concept this involved might be too arty or pretentious in the hands of a different band, but Kinsella has never shied away from the obtuse or the complicated, and Testimonium Songs takes Joan of Arc's trademarks of melodic repetition and surreal lyricism and intertwines them with more involved compositional arrangements than anything heard by the band before.