Kyrie Kristmanson is a young Canadian singer songwriter born in Ottawa and now based in Paris. The musician has released two self-produced albums to date followed by Origins of Stars, her first international release on the NØ FORMAT! label in 2010. Also a trumpet and a classical guitar player, singing in English and in French, Kyrie Kristmanson’s stripped-down songs fuse a modern folk music with jazz and classical elements.

Her own research into the forgotten world of Occitan women troubadours of the 12th & 13th century and visits to their residential ruined castles in the south of France sowed the seeds for her new album Modern Ruin, released on Naïve records in February 2015 last.

Kyrie Kristmanson & Quatuor Voce - Modern Ruin (2015)
Kyrie Kristmanson & Quatuor Voce – Modern Ruin (2015)

Remembered as the first known female composers of western secular music singing about profane love, the trobairitz were poets and singers performing for the courts. But unlike their male counterparts whose lives and repertoires have been better documented, very few songs complete with musical notation have survived from the trobairitz.

Modern Ruin is a fantastical extrapolation on the lost songs of the women troubadours” explains Kyrie Kristmanson. The musician based her approach to the album on fragments of songs or on stories and legends surrounding the mediaeval songstresses while also drawing from classical literature, the writings of Virginia Woolf or Tennyson.

At the end of the tour for my last album “Origin of Stars”, I undertook some sort of pilgrimage in the south of France and visited the ruins of the castles where the troubadours and trobaïritz lived. Shortly afterwards, I started attending mediaeval music classes in the Sorbonne and ended up working on a thesis on the lost melodies of the trobaïritz, the first known female composers in the history of music…I could see a direct link between the popular music of 800 years ago and today’s. I wanted to bring to life these historical fragments with the urgency, uncertainty and emotion of the present.

In other words, instead of trying to recreate an instrumental and singing style based on surviving scores or historical musicology, Kyrie Kristmanson joined forces with an innovative string quartet open to musical cross-pollination and experimentation. Formed in 2004, the Quatuor Voce has been exploring the string quartet repertoire and recording works of Schubert and Beethoven while also working on new commissions from modern composers. Initially written on the guitar, all songs were arranged for strings by Clément Ducol.

As a result, Modern Ruin is a fantastic hybrid of neo-folk singing and modern classical music with compelling arrangements providing a dynamic counterpoint to Kyrie Kristmanson’s texts. Entirely recorded in the Cistercian surroundings of the Abbaye de Noirlac in central France, this is timeless music with an ultra-contemporary edge.