Thursday, May 15, 2008
Mixing it is the way forward- Pierre Boulez did it in his Domaine Musical concerts in Paris in the 1950s when he played Bach, Machaut and Dufay alongside Stockhausen, Maderna and Cage, Stravinsky did it in 1960 when he recomposed three of Gesualdo's madrigals for instruments, David Munrow did it in 1975 with The Art of the Recorder which put music from the Middle Ages alongside Britten and Hindemith, the Hilliard Ensemble did it in 1993 when they added jazz saxophone to Morales' Officium defuntorum, while in 2000 Kent Nagano did it in Berlin by programming Mahler with Ockeghem, and confirmed that mixing it really is the way forward by selling the Philharmonie Hall out.
Now The Orlando Consort, Paul Hillier and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir are doing it with a new release that mixes choral music by Guillaume Dufay and Guillaume de Machaut with twenty-first century works by Tarik O'Regan and Gavin Bryars. The main juxtaposition is Tarik O'Regan's 2006 Scattered Rhymes which is followed by the fourteenth century masterpiece that inspired it, Machaut's Messe de Nostre Dame. And in the brave new world of the download even the performers mix it. Paul Hillier and his Estonian choir only perform for 16 minutes on a 61 minute CD. If you want Paul Hillier just pay to download the first track.
The marketing of this new Harmonia Mundi release also indulges in some gentle mixing, with the sleeve proudly proclaiming Production USA. Now I know my friends in Sequenza21 land are territorial but is Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland really in the U.S.A? Well I suppose the team of producer Robina G. Young and Soundmirror Inc engineer Brad Michel are from the States, and, as expected, they do a great job of delivering a credible soundstage enhanced by the church acoustics. When all is said and done Scattered Rhymes is an important new work (it reminded me of Joby Talbot's superb 2006 Path of Miracles, which cannot be bad) and 30 year old Tarik O'Regan is mixing it in all the right places with posts at Cambridge (England), Columbia (New York) and Harvard. And most importantly mixing it is a great way to reach new audiences.
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