So which pieces do you think best represent Sónia Tavares?
Hahaha, I think they all represent me because they are my voice. But I think this one represents me most (showing the vase "Sónia", named after this Interview). Because it's a strong piece, I'm strong with my voice you know, and this represents everything that I do with my voice, with my life, with my body. I think they are beautiful. This one is such elegance (showing "Grace"). So incredible. These ones are my lowest feelings (showing "Magnificat"). But this is the one, "Sónia" that best represents me.
"Sónia", was actually the most spontaneous one that we did as well. Because it's the first one, done at the factory immediately after the recording we did here.
I'm very spontaneous. I can't think one thing and then represent it, no. I have to be spontaneous. Otherwise, I can't do it.
There seems to be a strong connection between music, Alcobaça and creativity. Is this true?
Yes, it is. There are a lot of great musicians here, international musicians. And yes, it's a city of arts. Alcobaça tries to push all the artists here. And because we have always had great schools of music in Alcobaça. In the 90s there was a great music festival here in a club. It's funny in a small town like this to have so many kinds of art expression, Alcobaça is incredible. Alcobaça is made of music.
Do you think there is a connection with the monastery?
Oh, everything's connected. We work with Brian Eno, the producer. He was here in Alobaça for a few months. And he told us, of course you see music. you see it every day. It inspires you to make huge things. The Monastery was always a big inspiration for me and my friends. And for everyone that lives here. And when we were kids, we used to explore the Monastery. It was a second home. We played outside all our lives. In the stairs, and in the gardens that were surrounding this beautiful thing .I can't live without this monastery and I've toured all over the world. I have been everywhere. And this is my favorite place.
This represents everything that I do with my voice, with my body, with my life.
Lead Singer, The Gift
I spoke with Sónia Tavares this morning, and I asked her about the influence of the Monastery and she says that it had always been part of her life and it had a big influence on the way she performs and on her culture. How do you see that reflected in these pieces?
Dra. Ana Pagará:
It's very simple. In these places, silence reigned because the monks had a vow of silence. But that silence was broken in the Church for the subversion of the offices and the way to reach God, to honour God is precisely through music, through prayer that is sung.
And hence the importance of music for a monument like this. And the importance of sound to break that silence that was, in essence, what dominated the daily life of the monks of this community. And that silence was broken in the Church, at the moment of prayer.
Let's say we look at this extraordinary architecture, of extraordinary quality, of extraordinary beauty but, if we have the opportunity to hear a craft, as we have celebrated here several times, naturally, with performances by artists and the recreation of the medieval craft, we understand that architecture because at the moment the music appears, the entire building assumes its maximum splendour. Because in essence it is the breaking of that silence.
When I first saw the pieces still as image, I was absolutely amazed because the pieces reflect that breaking of the silence that is the soul of the monastic community. But when I look at them, I see music in its splendour. I see the voice of the monks breaking that silence and therefore the pieces, for me, are like the representation of such means that is used by the monks to reach God.
There is a very interesting aesthetic aspect in these pieces that has to do not only with the form which is extremely simple, easily understandable. yet with all this dynamism... but the fact that they are white. This is part of the Cistercian aesthetic. This is a very interesting aspect because the Cistercians did not have rules for the construction of their buildings. They had a typical plan that was adapted in the places where they established themselves, but they did not dictate specific rules for that construction from an aesthetic point of view. However, there are two or three prohibitions that are present in the early documents of the order. For example, coloured and patterned stained glass windows are prohibited. Only colourless stained glass windows are allowed. Where the light should pass clean, pure, white. Because in essence it is that purity that transmits to the monk the presence of God. And it is through this purity, this white light that the monks exercise their most fundamental activity, which is prayer to God.
So when I look at the pieces, I see that prayer of the Cistercian monks to God in their daily life in the Church. And in fact, as I was talking about the question of prohibitions, in addition to that, they prohibit everything that distracts the monk from his main activity, which is prayer. And if we look at the church or here in this magnificent refectory, we see the capitals, for example, with vegetal or phytomorphic elements, that is, elements of nature. We do not have anthropomorphic or zoomorphic representations because the idea is that the monk also feels in this nature that is the great creation of God and that is part of all the Cistercian ideal. And in fact, when we look at the architecture of a Cistercian church or any regular place, as is the case with this refectory, If we know a little about Cistercian spirituality, we can immediately identify it as a Cistercian site, because in reality, without rules, the Cistercians, through their spirituality, end up dictating an aesthetic that is present in architecture, and I find that fascinating. And that's what happened with these pieces. I must say that it surprised me a lot because I don't know if its creator had this notion, if they knew the Cistercian aesthetic, if they knew Cistercian spirituality. But what is certain is that the creator was able to translate into a material that is ceramics, what Cistercian spirituality is. And I find that extraordinary, because it's very difficult to get to simplicity, isn't it?
And today we live in a complex world of noise, colour, requests, inputs. And in fact, it's very difficult to weigh the importance of silence, to weigh the importance of feeling that purity, that truth, that austerity that is present in the architecture of this moment and to weigh beauty in its greatest purity, which is what the Cistercians pursue. So, I think we couldn't have a greater representation in ceramics of what Cistercian spirituality is. Let's say that these pieces merged with the monument as one, and that's extraordinary.
When I look at them, I see music in its splendour. The pieces are like the representation of such means that is used by the monks to reach God.
Dra. Ana Pagará
Director, Alcobaça Monastery