In her notes for Ecclesiastes: A Modern Oratorio, Kitty Brazelton suggests listening to the piece in a dark room with your eyes closed, which would be a good way to experience its mysterious strangeness. She characterizes the piece as "modern" because the use of modern technology to transform the sounds of instruments and human voices is an organic part of the work. Brazelton effectively blurs the line between the acoustic and the electronic because the instruments and voices so often employ extended techniques that can sound like they were produced electronically, and the electronics so subtly alter the acoustic sounds that the sound sources meld into an integrated whole. The verses from the first and third chapters of Ecclesiastes are sometimes sung conventionally, sometimes chanted, and sometimes murmured, primarily serving as textural elements. The longest movement is a wordless 17-minute meditation on the phrase "the beginning and ending of all things," seamlessly using the instruments and voices and their electronic permutations to create an atmospheric evocation of eternity. Generally, the sections where Brazelton uses the voices instrumentally and texturally are more effective than the straightforward text-setting, like the choral version of Ecclesiastes' most famous quotation, "To everything there is a season …," which sounds forced in comparison to the colorful spontaneity that characterizes the work as a whole. The vocal solo, "What do you gain?," though, is a compellingly simple chant-like setting. "Time," the penultimate movement and the last with a sung text, brings the piece to a seething, powerfully kinetic climax. The inventiveness of her approach to the subject and the vocal and instrumental virtuosity of the intensely committed performers make Brazelton's oratorio a work that should appeal to listeners interested in electro-acoustic music and unconventional approaches to religious music. The enhanced CD includes a CD-ROM track with additional notes on the music.
Review by Stephen Eddins
|Ecclesiastes: A Modern Oratorio|