7 to 8:30 pm ET

Americas Society
680 Park Avenue
New York


Alyssa Regent

Alyssa Regent. (Image courtesy of Yarn/Wire)

Alyssa Regent: "Mors osculi" Premiere

We premiere the Guadeloupean composer's new work, commissioned by Americas Society.

7 to 8:30 pm ET

Americas Society
680 Park Avenue
New York


Alyssa Regent

Alyssa Regent. (Image courtesy of Yarn/Wire)


On February 29, we will host this concert in person, and tickets are free. 

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Alyssa Regent was born in Guadeloupe and studied at Hunter College in New York, where she obtained a bachelor of arts in composition, working with David Fulmer and Shafer Mahoney. Her music has been performed by Talea Ensemble, Connor Hanick, Emi Fergusson, and NMK Ensemble, among others. Since 2020, she has served as the assistant conductor of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra. Regent's music, which explores the spectrum of human emotion, draws inspiration from folklore and art as a practice/approach to seeing the world. 

Her new song cycle, Mors osculi, for soprano and ensemble, was commissioned by Americas Society. 


Alyssa Regent: Mors osculi (2024), for soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, bass, percussion, harp, guitar, and electronics. 

Charlotte Mundy: voice
Yoshi Weinberg: flute
Madison Greenhouse: clarinet
Pala Garcia: violin
Thea Mesirow: cello
Tristan Kasten Krause: double bass
Russell Greenberg: percussion
Alec Goldfarb: guitar
Kathryn Sloat: harp

Program Notes

Mors Osculi is a song cycle based on six sonnets by Louise Labé:

I. “O beaus yeus bruns, o regars destournez”, (tr: “O, stunning brown eyes, o, sidelong gaze”) 
II. “Depuis qu’Amour cruel empoisonna”, (tr: “Since cruel Love first poisoned me”) 
III. “Je vis, je meurs: je me brule et me noye”, (tr: “I live, I die, I burn and drown”) 
----- interlude ----- 
IV. “O dous regars, o yeus pleins de beaute”, (tr: “O, sweet glances, o, eyes with beauty filled”) 
V. “Oh si j’estois en ce beau sein ravie”, (tr: Oh, were I clasped in that fine embrace”) 
VI. “Baise m’encor, rebaise moy et baise” (tr: “Kiss me, kiss me again, and then kiss;”) 

“Mors osculi” is an Old Testament doctrine associating death with a kiss. It also implies deliverance from death through the carnal act. The term is translated to “the death kiss” and has become a known poetic motif used throughout the Renaissance in Europe. I approach this theme through the stanza in sonnet XIII (here used as sonnet V): “Lors que souef plus il me baiseroit, Et mon esprit sur ses lèvres fuiroit, bien je mourrois, plus que vivante, eureuse.” [Tr: “If he thirsted to kiss me instead, so that on his lips my spirit fled, I’d rather die, more than alive, joyful.”] The idea for the song cycle aligns with my musical exploration of human emotions, emphasizing my return to the concept of music moving “the passions,” or more commonly known as the Doctrine of the Affections which emerged in the Baroque era. My goal is not to focus on an inherent power that exudes from sound itself but on the overall synthesis of melody, harmony, performance, and performer sharing music opening a liminal space where both performer and audience meet and where music is as much given as it is received. I have chosen the song cycle because of its emphasis on storytelling. French culture and French music places special importance on text, be it in their grand operatic tradition, folk songs, or even the more popular “chanson française” of the 20th and 21st centuries. As a French-born Guadeloupean woman, I grew up in that culture and I have always longed to come back to spoken/sung word in my composition career. Instrumental music does not always “carry meaning” but it can carry emotional power to venture into the realm of storytelling and infuse a directed and focused meaning in the text I will be setting. For this song cycle I would like to use 12 performers, reenacting an intimate chamber setting. 

My proposed instrumentation is as follows: mezzo soprano, flute, clarinet, bassoon, harp, guitar, two violins, viola, cello, double bass, and percussion. After an instrumental overture, the sonnets will start in the order stated above. The piece will be divided into two sections, songs 1 and 2 work in tandem as the budding of a new love, where the poetess describes her lover in detail and mentions their effect on her (physically and mentally), while song 3 slowly introduces the concept of a paradoxical temporality in which love exists, as well as a shift into the elegiac style. Songs 4, 5, and 6 answer the previous three as the poetess shifts toward equating pain from love to death of the spirit and the body, the mors osculi, signaling the end of the new temporality. Regarding musical stylistic traits, I’d like to have the harp and guitar be a central element of this composition. The guitar and the harp are both extremely codified instruments. The guitar is the instrument of masculine romance, historically used by men to woo women, while the harp is reminiscent of female essence due to its historical usage by women in the domestic sphere and evokes its ancestor the lyre, which was used in chamber music from the late Renaissance. Louise Labé was known for being adept at many disciplines, often with strongly gendered rules, such as riding on horseback and lute playing. Therefore, having both the guitar and harp being the embodiment of the spirit of the poetess is important to me. Each song will have its distinctive musical identity yet will be unified by thematic elements and a recurring refrain (similar to a ritornello). These will be reiterated in all songs and modified each time around mimicking how the main character is transforming through the lyrics and the advancement of her desire, approaching the climax in the last song “Baise m’encor, rebaise moy et baise.” The structure of the entire cycle is a straight line constantly “going forward and going up without ever falling back,” constantly building on what came before until the apex of the last song. 

*** Sonnets (English translation by A. S. Kline with modifications by the composer). 

I. ‘O beaus yeus bruns, ô regars destournez,’ 

O clear brown eyes, O sidelong gaze, 
O burning sighs, O shed tears, 
O dark nights, in vain waited on, 
O brighter days idly renewed. 
O sad complaints, O obstinate desire, 
O lost time, O contingent suffering, 
O thousand deaths a thousand snares bring, 
O sullen ills intended upon me. 
O smile, O brow, O hair, arms, hands, and fingers, 
O plaintive lute, O viol, bow and see, 
many flames to burn a woman! 
Of you I complain, of all these fires, 
that touch my heart so often, with desire, 
without one single spark scorching you. 

II. ‘Depuis qu’Amour cruel empoisonna’ 

Since cruel Love first poisoned me, 
setting his primal fire in my breast, 
forever scorched by his divine fury, 
that not a single day brings me rest. 
Whatever concern enough he brings me, 
whatever impending ruin or menace, 
whatever thought of all-conquering death, 
with none of that is my heart distraught. 
The fiercer Love assails us, and at length, 
the more he’d have us renew our strength, 
We’re refreshed within its fight: 
never because he favors those who long, 
but merely to seem stronger among the strong, 
it being one who scorns both gods and men. 

III. ‘Je vis, je meurs: je me brule et me noye.’ 

I live, I die, I burn and drown. 
I’m searing hot, suffering from cold. 
Life’s too soft for me and too hard to mold: 
I feel great pain intertwine the joy I’ve found. 
All at once, I smile, and I lament, 
In pleasures full of grief, I endure: 
my joy stays yet flees evermore: 
This instant I fade and am verdant. 
So Love leads me on, so changeably, 
that when I think I feel a greater pain, 
without a thought, he sets me free; 
yet, when I think my joy has come to me, 
At the summit of my heart’s ecstasy, 
It pulls me back to my first agony. 

IV. ‘O dous regars, o yeus pleins de beauté,’ 

O sweet glances, O eyes with beauty filled, 
little gardens stocked with amorous flowers, 
where Love’s dangerous spikes inhabit, 
seeing you my gaze is stilled! 
O vile heart, O harsh cruelty, 
you hold me in such a hardened fashion, 
many the languid tears I’ve shed in passion, 
feeling the heart tormented within me! 
Thus do my eyes obtain such pleasure, 
thus, from his eyes receive such measure: 
yet you, my heart, the greater joy you adhere, 
the more you languish, greater the pain also: 
do you think me the more at ease though? 
feeling my eye and heart so contrary. 

V. ‘Oh si j’estois en ce beau sein ravie’ 

Oh, were I clasped in that fine embrace, 
by that one for whom I seem to die, 
to be there with him, there to lie, 
all my brief days, free of envy’s face. 
If holding me, he’d only say: 
‘Dear friend, with each other let us be content, 
certain no tempest, wind, and ocean blent, 
while life lasts, our union shall ne’er end. 
If I could hold him tight, and cling, 
like the ivy round the tree, encircling, 
let death come then, envious of my ease 
If it thirsted to kiss me instead, 
so that on his lips my spirit fled, 
I’d rather die, more than alive, joyful. 

VI. ‘Baise m’encor, rebaise moy et baise’ 

Kiss me, kiss me again, and then kiss; 
grant me one of your most glorious, 
grant me one of your most amorous: 
I’ll return you four as this as live ember. 
Alas! Do you complain? So, let me ease the pain 
with ten more and more sweetly; 
then, mingling our kisses, happily, 
let us enjoy each other, as we please. 
A dual life to each the hour shall give, 
each in the self and in the lover live. 
Let my Love some madness contemplate: 
I’m ever in pain, living so discreetly, 
never shall I be content completely, 
unless from out myself I can escape.


The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation. 

The Spring 2024 Music program is also supported, in part, by the Howard Gilman Foundation, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and by The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, by the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and by the Mex-Am Cultural Foundation. 

The commission of Mors osculi is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Additional support for new music concerts comes from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, The Amphion Foundation, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.