Electronic press kit available for reviewers.
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'The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the arts in many diverse ways, not all detrimental. History has always seen the arts flourish in times of hardship, and this was no different, spawning some incredible innovations out of necessity. Soon after news of the virus’ spread came to light, the movie studios here in Los Angeles found a solution to the restraints of lockdowns and social distancing by helping players like me to set up temporary home studios. Miraculously, we were able to record full movie scores remotely, and I found myself learning basic engineering skills. Many late nights wrestling with unfamiliar technology were soon rewarded by the opportunity to listen back immediately to my – and only my – playing; an amazing journey of self-discovery as a player.
With this new skill-set that had become part of everyday life for many musicians, I was excited to realise that it was possible to play ‘together’ with other musicians, despite not sharing a physical space, by recording separately.
It suddenly occurred to me that the perfect fit for this ‘remote chamber music’ was the musical canon. As people all over the world were struggling, and failing, to play together in real time over the Internet, they found themselves plagued by echoes and delays. What could be more perfect than a musical form that itself seems to have evolved out of a long echo?! The musical canon needs an even greater time separation between identical lines, demanding that one voice must literally lead, and the next react to what has already been played. I realised that canons could be a great way to collaborate. And if I was not in the same room as another player, why not collaborate across continents as well as across my own city? This was an opportunity to play with some of my favourite players in the world!
In our new age of Zoom, this process became more like sending a ‘musical letter’ by mail, each of us recording as a leader and then waiting to follow and be inspired by another player in the next canon. The project evolved into a truly creative collaboration, with emails and internet calls across time zones about musical ideas as well as the technical process of recording. I remember discussing tempo preferences from my car, and emails about “alternating trills” at a particular cadence point... I even received a photo of a moose slipping on an icy road in Norway on the wintery day that Marianne returned her microphones to the hire company! Our patience for the much slower pace of recording was rewarded by the delight of ‘opening’ a new performance from another musician, and the luxury of time to fully absorb it and respond.
With the constraints of recording in separate spaces and very different acoustics came the opportunity to position microphones very closely. Without using too much of each performer’s live acoustic and through close microphone positioning, we were able to capture a very ‘real’ and immediate sound which communicates vividly and could later be put into the same virtual acoustic or musical ‘space’. And with that came extra silver linings: such as the ability to virtually ‘walk off stage’ (through fading out and speaker panning) during the unending ‘puzzle’ canons!
The final bonus was being able to mix in Dolby Atmos/Spatial Audio. We were suddenly able to make a huge feature out of our necessity to record separately, and it brought the project together in a remarkable way. With different voices seeming to appear from many different directions, there was now a whole extra dimension to the project that we had not envisioned at the start, and one that makes so much sense of the music; it’s hard to imagine a more fitting marriage of musical form and technical innovation. It was the most extraordinary and delightful experience to listen to Neil Stemp’s spatial mix for the first time and to be able to untangle each individual line so beautifully within the broader, more vertical structure. We had a lot of fun experimenting with virtual positioning of the many different voices in the multi-part canons and seeing how this affected the listener’s perception of the music.'
29 July: Telemann, Sonata No. 3 in D Major, TWV 40:120: I. Spirituoso
- 12 August: Telemann, Sonata No. 6 in A Minor, TWV 40:123: II. Soave
- 26 August: Mozart, O du eselhafter Martin (Jakob), K.560b
(arr. for violins by Maya Magub)
- 9 Sept: Mozart, Lacrimoso son'io, K.555
(arr. for violins by Maya Magub)
- 23 Sept: Mozart, Four Puzzle Canons, K.89:
Thebana bella cantus (arr. for strings by Maya Magub)