To our dear friends in the NativeDSD family,
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and to those of us who operate on the Gregorian calendar, Happy upcoming New Year!
Today’s new release from Yarlung Records called ‘Nostos’ is not exclusively Christmas music , but it is a sacred program of acapella choral music from the Western tradition. My friend Robert Istad conducts the Cal State Fullerton University Singers at the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge, California, in a program ethereal and rousing.
The Stereo Recording:
We recorded the stereo version of Nostos using Ted Ancona’s AKG C-24 stereo microphone with a special new-old-stock RCA 6072 vacuum tube, supplied and calibrated by David Bock, Yarlung’s microphone technician. We chose Elliot Midwood all vacuum tube microphone preamplification and fed our signal into our SonoruS ATR12 analog tape recorder using Agfa 468 tape made by EMTEC and into our Merging Technologies Hapi converter recording DSD256 using Pyramix Software. Yarlung designed our interconnects.
The Sonorus Holographic Imaging Recording:
We used the AKG C-24 and added two additional mid-hall Ted Ancona Schoeps M222 vacuum tube microphones, which Yarlung recording engineer Arian Jansen fed into the SonoruS Holographic Imaging processor to create a 2 channel mix that uses a proprietary matrix incorporating phase, timing and EQ information from the four microphones to reproduce a three-dimensional listening experience from two speakers. We decided to push the envelope a bit for this recording, to give the SonoruS files the sonic perspective of the conductor. If your system reproduces phase information carefully, you should hear the singers in a semicircle in front of you from far left to far right. It sounds like what Robert Istad heard while he was conducting the ensemble. For more information please visit yarlungrecords.com/sonorus/ We have included free sample files and a special file to aid in setting up speakers as well. Please let me know what you think.
The Quatro Surround Sound Recording:
Our friend and surround sound engineer engineer Tom Caulfield gets all the credit for encouraging Yarlung to release Surround Sound. He has flown in from Boston to record prior Yarlung albums, and has offered to return in the future. For Nostos, Arian Jansen, Cliff Harris and I did our best to follow Tom’s inspiration, and added two Bock 5ZERO7 microphones for the left and right channels. This is 4.0 surround sound, where channel 1 is left front, channel 2 is right front, channel 3 is silent, channel 4 is left rear and channel 5 is right rear for easy playback on standard 5.0 or 5.1 playback systems. We elected to use two front channels to preserve delicate phase and playback room loading information from the configuration of our singers in the Valley Performing Arts Center where we made this recording. As always for NativeDSD, we recorded all three formats in DSD256, and Tom has kindly made them available in all three resolutions of DSD and DXD as well, for people who prefer PCM. Thank you Tom!
Repertoire & Album Title:
Conductor Rob Istad planned this recording and the repertoire for their tour carefully. This is church music, from the sacred traditions in Europe, Russia and the Americas. The University Singers gave this concert in four beautiful houses of worship in Västerås, Tallinn, Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Rob wanted to take the best American choral tradition on tour, and take home music by composers from these areas. Rob talked about how important it was to “connect each student to the culture of the places they would visit through the repertoire,” while he also acknowledged that “European audiences expect American choirs to bring music from their own folk tradition.” The University Singers performed this wide-ranging music from memory, and their concerts were effectively and entertainingly staged by Fullerton colleague Jim Taulli. I attended a pre-tour concert in Newport Beach, and I was impressed with how well the staging and music worked together.
“connect each student to the culture of the places they would visit through the repertoire”, Rob Istad
Herbert Howells’ Requiem and Brahms’ Op. 29 motet served as the foundation stones of the program. The singers performed other works by Howells in 2015, and asked for more. Istad was happy to oblige, especially since he had fallen in love with the Requiem and with its companion work, Hymnus Paradisi when he was a student. Istad wrote his dissertation on the two works. Rob talked with me about his reaction to the Requiem several times, and stressed that even though it is a mass for the dead, it celebrates life through its promise of the peace that comes through faith, contemplation and acceptance. This performance, anything but morbid, emphasizes the Requiem’s transcendence, its reassurance, and its foretelling of eternal light.
Howells’ inclusion of Psalms 23 and 121 in the Requiem encouraged Rob to balance them with Brahms’ setting of Psalm 51 in the Op. 29 motet. Istad elaborated that “Brahms takes the penitential words of the Psalmist and creates an emotional journey from which exhilaration emerges out of supplication.” He also relished how Brahms’ tonal language contrasts sharply with the harmonic structure in the Howells Requiem. Rob looked forward to hearing how the singers would respond to the Brahms, which demands such different vocal production and choral color than does the Howells.
Both composers’ works acknowledge the fleeting nature of life and the grief we must all suffer on our journey, balanced hopefully by spiritual transformation. Both composers wrestle with conflict and doubt but emerge stronger in their optimism for spiritual enlightenment. This became the overarching theme of Rob’s program. He wanted the students and listeners to experience mortality and grief, transfigured ultimately through the promise of enlightenment. Texts and English translations of the music.
Nostos Tes Mousikes, which can be translated as “The Home Coming of Music,” responds to this vision of travel, struggle, transformation, evolution and return throughout life.
Nostos Tes Mousikes, which can be translated as “The Home Coming of Music,” responds to this vision of travel, struggle, transformation, evolution and return throughout life. Nostos also reflects the ensemble’s tour to Russia, Estonia and Finland, some of the countries in which this music was composed.
Collaborations in music, and perhaps in life in general, can be among our most rewarding experiences. At Yarlung, these collaborations and camaraderie are what keep us going. Nostos offers an example of just how fruitful this sort of relationship can be. May great music continue to help all of us in the world as we grapple with challenging times. Music is not magic (well, sometimes it can sound like magic when you download it from NativeDSD) but it is indeed powerful. May its full strength help us heal and enjoy each other as human beings moving forward.
And happy holidays,
Bob Attiyeh, Yarlung Records