While on my recent excursion into the murky world of Drone (more on this to come, in about 3 years time, which is how long it’s going to take me to plough through Earth and Sunn O)))’s back catalogue) I briefly segued into classical choral music. It happened while I was watching BBC’s Classic Goldie, on which the Drum and Bass pioneer was saddled with the task of writing a piece of classical music to be preformed at that most British of institutions – The Proms. Part time graffiti artist Goldie, who cannot read or write music, is more accustomed to stringing together audio files in interesting configurations and certainly isn’t your obvious classical composer material. He makes a pretty decent job of it.
Anyway, somewhere along the lines he’s introduced to various, more experimental classical techniques by his mentor. One of these was an unearthly low pitch droning, oscillating hum made by a bunch of blokes with deep voices. Thought I “now this reminds me of early Earth sung by a bunch of blokes with deep voices” and trotted off gleefully to find out more.
It turns out to be the intro to a piece called Roncesvalles from Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles. Mr. Talbot was once a member of British, tongue-in-cheek Brit-pop band The Divine Comedy. He now composes classical music in multiple styles with various degrees of populist slant, and is perhaps best known for his work on movie soundtracks like Son of Rambow and (festering bucket of badger entrails mixed with camel saliva) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Path of Miracles is choral from beginning to end, with few other instruments other than the human voice. I know nothing at all about choral music, so I can’t tell you if this is a good or bad example of it, but it totally bowled me over. The intro to Roncesvalles alone is like nothing I’ve ever heard. This ethereal rising drone sends shivers up my spine. Path of Miracles is comprised of 4 pieces at around 15 minutes in length. It’s sung, at least in part, in English, although it appears to be centred around a trip through various French villages.
Atmospheric and brooding, this is dark stuff. At times spooky or down right scary (along the lines of Jerry Goldsmith’s Omen theme), at others majestic and exulting. There are a fair few parallels in these histrionic overtures with metal – doom, black, drone and even European power metal. However, there’s no sense of quasi-intellectual posturing or irony here, this is the genuine article. It’s complex and difficult, and will no doubt take countless more listens before it really divulges its secrets.
There’s not much I can say that will do this justice. This is fascinating and powerful music. If you like your music dark and complex, then you should check it out.