The piece begins and ends with the sound of sap rising through an ash tree recorded by Alex Metcalf. One by one, the choir members sing melodic fragments from ‘O Frondens Virga’ , a chant by composer, philosopher and polymath Hildegard von Bingen written in the 11th Century; a time when ash trees were plentiful. Each singer chants at their own tempo – stretching, distorting, layering and re-shaping tiny fragments of the piece until it becomes un-recognisable – sometimes beautiful and mystical, sometimes colliding violently. Viritidas or “greenness” is an earthly expression of divine nature. It is a meditation intended to overcome the apparent dualisms of life and death, light and dark, intimacy and expanse. This greenness or ‘power of life’ appears frequently in Hildegard’s works.
Of the 955 different species that use ash trees, Viritditas contains archive recordings of 28 mammals and 12 species birds the calls of which have been carefully manipulated into over 100 individual layers. Tapestries of microbeats have been created using the natural rhythms of bat calls giving the piece it’s tempo. Later on in the piece distress calls of animals are introduced, distorted and manipulated in time evoking a growing sense of loss and urgency.