At Mortlake

Image1aWhen I started writing this album, my thought was to make each song an observation of some element of belief in, or mystery concerning, an aspect of religion or of the supernatural – that is, of a phenomenon beyond the tangible limits of our world.

About half way through the writing process, I discovered a recently published biography of the 16th century doctor/scientist/astronomer/astrologer/intellectual –

John Dee. This fascinating book – ‘The Queen’s Conjuror’ by Benjamin Woolley – traces Dee’s extraordinary life which was largely devoted to a quest to broaden the boundaries of knowledge, and ultimately to discover the secrets of the universe.

When not travelling in Europe, Dee lived in a house inherited from his mother at Mortlake in London where he built and stocked an extensive library – seemingly one of the finest outside religious and academic institutions in England, possibly in Europe. Visitors came from far and wide to consult Dee on a whole range of matters, and even Queen Elizabeth I of England was an occasional visitor to the house at Mortlake.

This suggested to me a context which I could apply to my album which would draw together the disparate parts into a coherent whole – a musical equivalent of entering Dee’s library, selecting random ‘mysteries’ and investigating them.

Dee wrote a series of works which became known as the Liber Mysteriorum (Book(s) of Mysteries). I have called my album ‘Enter the Mysterium’ – mysterium being the Latin for mystery, usually in a religious context (singular form), but also a word which in English suggests an ‘emporium of mystery’, a place of discovery. Lyrically, the opening song on the album presents the idea of being invited into Dee’s library at Mortlake to explore the mysteries and consult the wise man, and thus becomes an allegory for being invited into my album (though NOT for claiming a role of latter day wise man for myself!).

This first song leads directly into the second which focuses on a specific part of Dee’s life and of his quest to discover the ultimate cosmic secrets.

At Mortlake features as the opening track on disc 2 of a compilation called Unquiet Grave Vol.4 released on the Cleopatra label in November 2003.  A soundbite is available on the website at the following link:Sample


© Peter Ulrich 2005