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World Voices 1
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A superior compilation of world vocal music from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The songs come from ancient folk and sacred traditions, with richly contemporary sound and production. Including selections by VOX, SARBAND & THE BULGARIAN VOICES. Considering the vast array of music-making technology available today, the fact of humans themselves being musical instruments is all too easily overlooked. The sound-producing capacity of our vocal chords is perhaps our most direct conduit to melodic expressionan ability which we share with a substantial portion of the animal kingdom. The human voice, after all, is the most flexible of instruments, with immediate access to a near-infinite range of tone colorations and sound effects. In India, any classical music virtuoso on any instrument will have begun their career with extensive vocal training. The voice, with its infinitely subtle pitch variations, is the parent of melody, which defines to a great extent what we understand about music.
World Voices 1 celebrates the ubiquity and intrinsically musical aspect of this seminal instrument. This anthology of vocal techniques comprised of several of the worlds most unique and gifted singers, showcases music which draws equally upon ancient folk traditions and contemporary recording techniques. But rather than drawing lines between camps, separating pure song from that influenced by contemporary trends, World Voices 1 demonstrates that soulful, imaginative compositions and performances can arise at the intersection of traditional and technological cultures.
The Georgian people, from the South Caucasus region, have a highly developed tradition of multi-part singing, passed from generation to generation by oral transmission. The 13 vocalists of ENSEMBLE GEORGIKA perform a capella (without instrumentation), singing in a non-tempered, modal scale, articulating lyrics based on traditional folksongs and ornate poetry dating back to the Middle Ages and earlier. "Tsintsqaro" is a testament to the extensive ear training and composure required of each group member; the ensemble, founded in Tbilissi in 1989, performs without a conductor per centuries-old tradition.
Much of the approach of the group VOX can be summed in the phrase 'medieval electronic music.' A bass synthesizer drone opens "O Successores" and segues immediately into a melody for voice and flute from the cosmological repertoire of 7th Century German mystic composer Hildegard Von Bingen. Comparably, the old-meets-new vision of group leader Vladimir Ivanoff creates "Umzuj," in which late 20th century house rhythms are pitted against ornate melodies plucked from the Persian oud (a cousin to the lute) framing vocals that are equal parts European coloratura and Middle-Eastern classical. An array of diverse instrumentation, from digital synthesizers to baroque ecclesiastical instruments such as the shawm underscores the female soloists and choir at the heart of Vox.
The Armenian duduk flute which introduces "Akh Ti Notchenka" closely resembles a human voice, and is a perfect foil for the singing of BIELKA NEMIROVSKI. Her Russian heritage is immediately apparent in her phrasing and tonality; repeated encounters with Gypsy culture throughout her upbringing, culminating in her joining the Kazanski Classical Tzigane Choir in 1990, have done much to inform her style. The poignancy of this song is compounded by both the singers skillful multi-tracking of vocal lines and the swelling, cinematic string section which accompanies her.
Swathed in reverberations which seem to echo back through the centuries, SARBAND is the original expression of DR. VLADIMIR IVANOFF's vision, which thrives on creating hybrids from seemingly irreconcilable ingredients: baroque and contemporary; Oriental and Occidental; Christian and Arab; religious and secular. "Polorum Regina" is an example of Ivanoff's musical direction at its most historically rigorous pitch, with the unaccompanied choir creating an atmosphere of sepulchral stillness. The chiming tones of the cymbalom (the hammered dulcimer of Eastern Europe) delineate a glistening counterpart to the Bulgarian melody sung in "Cuncti Simus." The latter song is structured episodically for maximum dramatic effect, as rapid tempos and busy, forte instrumentation alternate with hushed interludes for choir and female soloist.
Shisui Enomoto's tortuous vocal delivery articulates "The Prayer," a vision of cross-cultural spirituality and musical innovation by FREDRICK ROUSSEAU. The composer has previously worked with celebrated film composer Vangelis as well as with synthesizer legend Jean-Michel Jarre. Inspired by the haiku poet Buson, this piece by Rousseau is drawn from his album Mo, which unites Japanese instrumentation, such as the plucked biwa, with state-of-the art electronics.
The technologically-abetted vocal delivery of the Italian trio TRINOVOX defies categorization, though an audition of "Shir Hashrim" might suggest a label on the order of ethno-ambient hi-tech slow-motion doo-wop. Founded in 1991, the group has since perfected a critical balance between their own formidable vocal abilities and the latticework of sampled vocals in which they are presented. With all the emotional impact inherent in classical polyphony, the group takes harmony singing into the next millennium.
Anyone who has heard the Tuvan throat singers of HUUN HUUR TU conjure a halo of whistling overtones from their low register vocal drones, is unlikely to forget the experience. They have collaborated with Ry Cooder, Frank Zappa and Johnny Guitar Watson, so it should come as no surprise that "Legend" pairs the Siberian natives with the celestial voices of ANGELITE, previously known as LES MYSTERE DES VOIX BULGARES. Another instrument which mimics the formants of the human voice, a chromatic harmonica, asserts itself during a solo turn, which leads to an ethereal coda sung by the Bulgarian choir. The close parallel harmonies which are their trademark were developed as a means to project across the expanses of the great outdoors. By the finale of "Legend," their voices alight next to the listeners soul.
IRN LOVSZ does her part to sustain yet another oral tradition by singing old Hungarian folksongs whose provenance dates back several centuries before the birth of Christ. "Hej Revesz, Revesz" is among the melodies which she collected as an adjunct to her duties as a professor of Anthropology and Ethnology during extended field trips to forbidding regions such as Transylvania, within contemporary Rumania. Her pure, keening tone is reminiscent of her fellow Hungarian, The English Patient's vocalist Marta Sebesteyn. The instrumental backings, a beatific amalgam of Indian tambura, synthesizer and clay udu drum, are crafted by collaborator LASZLO HORTOBAGYI.
The Tibetan Buddhist yogi and poet Milarepa served to inspire SVEN GRUNDBERG, an Estonian composer whose impassioned vocal delivery is joined at climactic moments by electronic and woodwind accompaniment. One of the few pioneers of synthesized music in the former USSR, Grunberg imbues both his singing and the sound design of his self-produced orchestrations for "Hermitage" with fervor and quixotic movement.
Also of Estonian extraction, KIRILE LOO was reared amidst the primordial splendors of her native countrys forest landscape. Her plain-spun vocalise owes much to the folk traditions - the regilaul or runic songs of this region - whose acquaintance she made via the teachings of her grandmother; these would later be augmented with studies at the Tallinn School of Music in the mid-80s. "Igatsus" is typical of her chosen mode of singing, which reconciles the childlike qualities of her distinct vocal timbre and the philosophical dualities (sexual versus spiritual) of the lyrics interpreted by her voice. Her work reflects beauty, mystery and the inexorably cyclic nature of life itself. A venerable Estonian instrument, the olepill, a straw whistle with mock-vocal allure, can be heard as well on this track.
Rounding out this collection of World Voices 1 is a subtle study in electronics and overdubbed vocals, "The Appeal of Cosmic Cathedrals," by Quebecois composer PATRICK BERNHARDT. An outgrowth of his study of India's Vedic and Sanskrit literature, Bernhardts arrangements are a complex interweaving of European liturgical melody and Eastern minimalism. In his words, the music arises out of silence, but its silences matter.
Available digitally only as full album.