Posts Tagged ‘The Earth Resounds’

The Sixteen – Croydon Minster – Choral Pilgrimage 2012

April 20, 2012
The Sixteen – Croydon Minster

The Sixteen – Croydon Minster

We never dumb down what we are doing. — Harry Christophers

It was one of those days, cloudy, sunny, then the sun came out and it turned into a lovely spring day, or so I thought, or at least I hoped.

I set off from my house, a few odd spots of rain, it turned darker, the wind started blowing, it got colder. Not good I thought.

By the time I got to the station to catch the Reading-Gatwick train to Guildford, it was dark, thunder and lightning and hailstones. I got drenched simply crossing the line, but at least it did not hit until I got to the station, otherwise I would have been soaked to the skin.

I was on my way to Guildford for lunch, then Croydon for the evening.

At Guildford, another downpour. I waited and luckily it slowed. I walked along the River Wey and was surprised how high it was.

We have little or no rain for weeks. Then a month’s supply in a couple of days with the net result it runs straight off the land and into the rivers.

Lunch at the Guildford Institute. For those who do not know, Friday lunch at the Guildford Institute is one of the best kept secrets in Guildford.

I looked in on on Ben in Ben’s Records. It was packed. He has only been there for twenty years and it seems people have only now woken up to an excellent record shop.

I was after a venue for a recital featuring Steve Lawson and Lobelia. I need a grand piano. Guildford Institute has, but not a good venue, St Mary’s Church excellent, but sure about the piano. Ben suggested I tried the Guildhall, which I had not thought of.

Yes, Guildhall excellent venue, and yes, a grand piano, but it is hired at £500 a night

I was now cutting it fine to catch a train to Croydon if I was to not catch an overcrowded rush hour train.

Alighting at Croydon, I had no idea where to go. I was after Croydon Minster. Street signs would help!

I popped into the Croydon Visitor Centre adjacent to Croydon East Station.

Two very pleasant and helpful people. They pointed me in the right direction, basically follow the tram lines, then turn left.

Yes, trams! First time I have seen trams in England. First time in my life I saw a tram was last year in Istanbul. The ones in Istanbul are nicer.

More heavy rain, so I chatted with the staff in the Croydon Visitor Centre.

Following the tram lines was easy enough, though no street signs. I spotted what I correctly assumed to be Croydon Minster. I headed off in that direction.

For what was a parish church, until it was elevated to a Minster, Croydon Minster is quite large.

I was there for a concert by The Sixteen.

I picked up at the door a ticket for the aisle. I thought I was going to have a bad seat. Yes, there were seats in the aisle, but either side of the nave was also classed as aisle. I could have sat anywhere, but that would not have been fair on those had paid for a nave seat.

I was early, sufficiently early to explore Croydon Minster.

I lit a single candle for Canon Andrew White (who has not been well and for the good work he does in Iraq), for Paulo Coelho (for his writing and the wonderful party at a Venetian mediaeval castle on St Joseph’s Day) and for Mio Baba (with who I spent a wonderful three days in Bassano del Grappa and whose dream came true).

I had a chat with the vicar and gave him a copy of a DVD of a talk Canon Andrew White gave at Guildford Baptist Church last year. The vicar told me Croydon Minster prays for Canon Andrew White and his ministry in Iraq and they would be very happy to invite him to Croydon Minster.

The concert was prefaced by an excellent talk by Harry Christophers (founder and director of The Sixteen). He talked of the composers and their music, but also set it in the cultural context of the Renaissance. And oh what a difference to the pre-concert talk at Winchester Cathedral the week before where the poor sound system rendered the talk unintelligible.

The Renaissance was a period when the arts flourished, Titan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael; a period of exploration, when Antwerp as a port flourished, when bankers got rich through financing expeditions.

Our three composers all Flemish or from the low countries, who also travelled across Europe, to what is now Germany and Italy. They were also highly paid. They were the rock stars of their era.

The music of the composers, Josquin, Brumel, Lassus, covers a period of about a hundred years. They travelled all over Europe. Quite amazing when you consider no Eurostar, no airlines, we take travel within Europe for granted. I was recently in Bassano del Grappa in Italy, and hour by train to the airport, an hour and a half flight to Venice, followed by bus to train station, followed by a train journey of a little over an hour.

Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455 – 1521), usually known as Josquin, French composer, regarded as a master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music.

Antoine Brumel (c. 1460 – 1512 or 1513), French Renaissance, and like Josquin des Prez, seen as one of the most influential composers of his generation.

Orlande de Lassus (c 1530-1532 – 1594), Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance.

The talk was excellent. Please film and upload to youtube.

Oh what a difference a seat makes.

At Winchester Cathedral last week the performers were too far away, the music somewhere way off in the distance. At Croydon Minster they were before me, it was possible to actually enjoy the music.

This raises serious questions on the choice of venues, the seating in venues. The rear of Winchester Cathedral was lower price, but questionably should have not been available or free. But even if free, one would go away with a poor impression of the music, the performers or both. Or at least one would if this was the first encounter.

Personally I prefer the music of Victoria, Palestrina. The previous week I had picked up two CDs of The Earth Resounds (which I have yet to remove from the shrink wrapping), the music of the tour. It is also available as digital download in high quality lossless FLAC. This evening I picked up two CDs of Allegri and Palestrina, Allegri Miserere (also available as digital download), and was able to catch Harry Christophers during the interval to have them signed.

Clearly a man of taste, Harry Christophers commented on the high quality of the pen I gave him to sign with. He asked was it a Mont Blanc? I said no, a Montegrappa, a far better pen. He turned slightly pale when I told him how much the pen cost.

The Sixteen are looking to crowd sourcing and community supported music to provide funding, an excellent idea, but they have to make this far more explicit, even to mentioning it in the pre-concert talk.

What is a community? For The Sixteen it is those who attend their concerts, those who listen to their music. The community can join the Patron’s Circle. A huge banner poster, if you joined that night you got a free CD, but where was the information? There was information available, but it was by no means obvious.

For the next recording The Sixteen are using crowd sourcing. If there was information, I saw none.

Artists are now using crowd funding to finance projects, for recording sessions, for films. It is a great idea, but for many it is finding the numbers, spreading the word. It should be like falling off a log raising it from the Choral Pilgrimage, something that should be part and parcel of the Pilgrimage but it will not happen if no one knows about it.

With crowd sourcing you also have to have incentives. Donate x, where x is less than y the cost of the CD when launched and you get an advance copy or free digital download. Pay more than x and you get two free tickets for a venue of your choice.

The music of the tour has to be made available for people to listen to on-line. Yes, there are problems with the owners of the copyright who demand to be paid for something that is free. That is what I call greed, not just greed, but crass stupidity.

A thought that occurred to me whilst listening to the concert was what a pity not recorded live with a simple cross microphone pair: The Earth Resounds Live!. Put it on bandcamp where people can listen, charge a nominal fiver or pay-as-much-as-you-like for digital download, with links to buy the album The Earth Resounds.

This has many many pluses.

It promotes the Pilgrimage. It makes the music available outside the privileged few who will be able to go to a cathedral on the Pilgrimage. It makes music available to those who cannot afford music.

Call it education. Unless music is made freely available, that people can share, good music will be lost.

People who grew up with Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, can migrate to early music, those who grew up with a moronic monotonous beat stripped bare, cannot.

Slow music v fast music cf the difference between fast food, junk food and slow food.

Look around, as I did at Winchester and Croydon. You would be hard pushed to find anyone under 50, probably hard pushed to find anyone under 60. At Winchester I could have counted on one or two hands the number of young people. This is not unique to The Sixteen. Is it that one has to be over fifty to appreciate, or is at as I fear, an ageing audience?

Musical Illuminations at the British library was the exception. I was pleased to look round and see a wide spread of ages.

In his introduction and when I talked to him in the interval, the Vicar said the Pilgrimage was an annual event at Croydon Minster. Certainly something worth noting for next year.

The Choral Pilgrimage 2012 started in Winchester last week. It will wend its way around the country during the summer and autumn.

The Telegraph has a somewhat pretentious review of St Albans. Whet is is with reviewers that they lack a basic grasp of the English language and end up spewing out gibberish? There are several mistakes. I thought the Pilgrimage was in its 25th year, The Telegraph says 11th. A glaring typo ‘Flanco-Flemish composers of the 15th and 16th centuries’, I think is meant to be Franco-Flemish.

The Guardian says of The Earth Resounds: ‘ a little too polished and controlled; there’s surely more guts to this music, more earthiness to its rhythms, than these performances admit.’ Begs the question compared with what? Does not say. In other words a completely meaningless statement.

What reviewers think, write or say is an irrelevance. What matters is the experience of the performers, those who attend the concerts, those who listen to the music.

In his pre-concert talk, Harry Christophers briefly touched upon pilgrimage, that the best he could manage was 20 miles in a day. Please expand the talk to say a little about pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage is not alternative tourism. Pilgrimage is a sacred, spiritual, mystical journey. To encounter the divine, to reconnect with your soul, to come back renewed.

Paulo Coelho recounts walking el Camion de Santiago in The Pilgrimage.

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

The next date on the Choral Pilgrimage will be Exeter Cathedral (2 May 2012).

The Sixteen – Winchester Cathedral – Choral Pilgrimage 2012

April 13, 2012
The Sixteen - Winchester Cathedral - Choral Pilgrimage 2012

The Sixteen - Winchester Cathedral - Choral Pilgrimage 2012

Winchester Cathedral was the first date for The Sixteen on their 25th Choral Pilgrimage, music by Josquin, Brumel, Lassus.

The evening was sold out!

I was seated towards the rear of the nave, in what was classed as restricted view. Diminutive view would have been a better description, as the performers were too far away. I have though only myself to blame as I did not try to get a ticket until a few days before the concert and all the decent seats had long gone.

I have to admit the concert was a disappointment. Whether this was the venue or the music I do not know. The music was heard from afar.

I would not say I did not enjoy the concert, as I did, but not as much as when I saw The Sixteen last October in Guildford Cathedral performing the music of Victoria.

Hail, Mother of the Redeemer

There was a pre-concert talk, but this was rendered unintelligible by a very poor cathedral sound system, made far worse by a constant flow of late arrivals. Very bad organisation on the part of the cathedral stewards that these late arrivals were not made to wait until the speaker had finished.

The music for the tour is available as The Earth Resounds. I bought two copies, one to give to a friend. I had hoped to get them signed and was very disappointed that there was no sign of The Sixteen after the concert. I had even brought along my Montegrappa pen for the signing!

The Earth Resounds is also available as a digital download in various formats from low quality mp3 to studio master as FLAC. [see mp3 v FLAC]

I have downloaded the studio quality FLAC, the download site is a pain to use, but have not yet found the time to listen to, then decided I would wait until after the concert.

To play FLAC, download and install VLC Media Player.

The Sixteen need to establish a presence on bandcamp. Far easier download than their own site, plus one can listen on-line, and they can give details of their Choral Pilgrimage.

Yes, you can listen on their own site, but a few seconds of lofi does not do justice to either their performance or the music.

Why therefore are they not there?

One reason is they have to pay if you listen to the music!

But did the composers not die centuries ago?

Yes they did, but when someone dusts off some old archive and publishes their finding, they claim the rights.

It is an absolutely crazy system where payment is being demanded for people listening!

It is people like The Sixteen who are bringing this music to life. Were it not for them, the music would be notes on a page. It is their interpretation, their performance.

But this is sadly yet another example of greed and the rotten nature of the music business.

Were The Sixteen to put The Earth Resounds on bandcamp, they would as the system stands in essence be signing a blank cheque as they would have to pay every time anyone listened. Not downloaded, not ordered an album, but simply listened.

The net result is everyone loses. We lose who may wish to listen. The Sixteen lose as we cannot listen. Even the fools who are imposing this on us lose as less music is sold.

Ideally not only would the albums be there to listen to, but at least one track would be available for free download. instead all you get is a few seconds of lofi to listen to on-line.

Most people, myself included, would assume the works of Josquin, Brumel, Lassus is in the public domain, part of our common cultural heritage, but apparently not.

We are seeing widespread copyright abuse. Copyright claimed for an image of a London red bus. Copyright claimed for an image of furniture.

Copyright abuse over who owns the image of a London red bus
Photographing your furniture may be a breach of copyright!

For their next recording, The Sixteen are using crowd sourcing to raise the money. An excellent idea, slow music, community supported music in action.

Why therefore no mention at their concert?

If there was a mention I saw none. There was nothing on the stall selling their CDs. Possibly there was a mention in the programme. I do not know, as I neglected to pick up a programme.

If all the venues are sold out, then it should be relatively easy to raise the money, but not if you do not tell anyone.

The music of the composers, Josquin, Brumel, Lassus, covers a period of about a hundred years. They travelled all over Europe. Quite amazing when you consider no Eurostar, no airlines, we take travel within Europe for granted. I was recently in Bassano del Grappa in Italy, and hour by train to the airport, an hour and a half flight to Venice, followed by bus to train station, followed by a train journey of a little over an hour.

Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455 – 1521), usually known as Josquin, French composer, regarded as a master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music.

Antoine Brumel (c. 1460 – 1512 or 1513), French Renaissance, and like Josquin des Prez, seen as one of the most influential composers of his generation.

Orlande de Lassus (c 1530-1532 – 1594), Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance.

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

Why The Sixteen? I counted twenty. I do know the answer but my lips are sealed to retain the mystery.

The Sixteen are performing in Croydon Minster in a week’s time, Friday 20 April 2012. I may go, curious what difference the venue makes, and hopefully I will not be so far away.

Top Story in The Vevomtv Daily (Saturday 14 April 2012).

mp3 v FLAC

February 12, 2012

FLAC

If I download an album from bandcamp, I am given a choice, mp3 or FLAC and several other file formats.

Downloading Music from Bandcamp

The Sixteen are offering digital downloads in various formats. For example The Earth Resounds, music of Josquin, Brumel and Lassus, which will be performed on their Choral Pilgrimage 2012, is available as a CD, but also available as mp3, FLAC and several other formats. The FLAC and other lossless formats is direct from the 96kHz/24-bit studio masters, but at a price.

The Sixteen say the lossless formats such as FLAC will give CD quality. If what is being offered is from the 96kHz/24-bit studio masters it should be much better than CD quality!

Note: The Sixteen have asked me to note that ONLY the FLAC files for The Earth Resounds are available as 96kHz/24-bit download, all the others are CD quality only, ie 16-bit.

Our newest CD – The Earth Resounds – is the only disc currently available as a 96kHz/24-bit download – all the other discs are available to purchase as CD quality FLAC files. We didn’t want people to think that all the FLAC files were 24-bit and so there is a note on The Earth Resounds page to let folks know it is a Master Quality download.

Unlike bandcamp, The Sixteen Digital store provides minimal help and information on the various file formats. Basically it is buyer beware. They do though provide test files of Handel’s Hallelujah to try in various file formats including mp3 320 and FLAC. Some to be played within a web page, others to download and play. I found some did not play. Why, I do not know, as no explanation or error messages. At a guess a required plug-in missing.

The Sixteen digital download faq

The information from bandcamp and The Sixteen on digital downloads and the various file formats compliments each other which is an aid to understanding. I would advise read both.

Downloads from bandcamp include lyrics, album art, sleeve notes. I do not know what downloads from The Sixteen includes as does not say.

mp3 is lossy compression. Smaller file size, but loss of quality, mushy sound.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is an audio format similar to mp3, but lossless, meaning that audio is compressed without any loss in quality. The downside is large file size. But does that matter, when you can do something else whilst downloading?

mp3 will play with Windows Media Player, FLAC will not. For FLAC you will need to download VLC Media Player (which is a superior media player to Windows Media Player).

Why bother, will I notice a difference? The simple answer is yes. Yes, with a but. I will return to the but.

Last night I listened on bandcamp to the excellent jazz fusion album The Traveler and The King by Stadtmusikantin und Sterntaler, aka Traveler’s Diary aka Trav ElersDiary. Unlike most sites where all you will get is a lofi snippet, bandcamp lets you listen to the entire album at mp3 128 (which I did twice, it is that good), I then downloaded the album as mp3 320 and as FLAC.

Bandcamp makes the listening and downloading very easy. They also make it easy to share the music with your friends. You can share on your or their facebook wall, tweet, or if you wish, they provide the embed code to embed on your blog.

I sat back and listened to a couple of tracks. I was amazed at the difference. The mp3 320 was superior to the on-line mp3 128, the FLAC was a lot different. Going from mp3 to FLAC was as though cotton wool had been removed from my ears!

I said there was a but!

I am listening using a top-end-range HP laptop with top-end-range Sennheiser HD580 precision headphones (no longer available but we are talking about headphones a decade or so ago that were £200). These are open headphones which give a much more natural sound than closed headphones. Were I to listen on my hifi system, I would be using a reference amplifier, feeding into very large transmission-line speakers with Kef drive units, built and designed by myself. Begs the quetsion how do I transfer files to a CD to then listen on CD player.

Note: Linn recomend a digital connection to amplifier (assumes digital input on amplifier) or a usb converter (line output via phono):

A much better option is to connect your computer to your hifi using a digital connection. This can easily be done if your computer has a digital audio output and your amplifier has a digital audio input. It will be either a phono (RCA) shielded cable or a fibre optic cable. Either will give much better results than the analogue output from most sound cards. However not all hifi amplifiers have a digital input, and not all digital inputs are equal. Check what connections you have, your computer supplier will be able to help select the correct cables and connections.

If your hi-fi amplifier does not have a digital input, the best solution to connect your computer to your hifi is to use the highest quality of external USB sound card with onboard DAC you can afford. Connect the analogue outputs of the USB sound card to your hifi amplifier auxiliary inputs.

Hard drives fail! If you have paid for an expensive FLAC studio recording, then back it up to DVD.

I am also listening with two different media players. Windows Media Player for the mp3 320 (though I could use VLC Media Player, the files within a zip file defaulted to Windows Media Player) and VLC Media Player for the FLAC. I do not know what is used when I play the mp3 128 on-line, I simply click and play.

If you were using a cheap portable player with cheap in-ear headphones, then no, you would probably not notice a difference. Whatever you listened to would sound bloody awful.

If I use my portable CD player, I use reasonable quality Sony in-ear headphones that at the time cost something over £20 at duty free shop. They of course are not in the same league as my Sennheiser headphones.

We are also dependent on the quality of the original recording. Most is poor quality and unbearable to listen to. You need a live recording, and by live, I do not mean live as in live but recorded with high quality microphones direct from the sound sources, or in the case of electric guitar, plugged in. Sound tapes, drum loops, heavy electronic processing, forget it.

Piano is a very good test.

The sad fact of life is that most people have never met quality music either musically or sound quality.

I would love to repeat this exercise with The Earth Resounds by The Sixteen.