Mark Knoop / Keaton Henson / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Six Lethargies

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Keaton Henson is a British folk singer who suffers from severe anxiety and as a result, can give only a few concerts a year. Along the way, he conceived the idea of trying to depict his state of mind in the orchestral medium, and Six Lethargies is the result. There are seven tracks; one of them, the "Unease Concerto," has what's called a cadenza, although it precedes the main track, and it's unclear what makes it a cadenza. Henson devised a large number of short chunks of music that he conceived of as having specific emotional affects and joined them together into six pieces lasting roughly ten minutes each, plus the cadenza. The effect of the short chunks of music is somewhat minimalist, but Henson doesn't stop there. He has arranged performances of the work where audiences are wired up to devices that measure their emotional responses. The whole idea definitely gets points for ambition, although that aspect is lost in this performance by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Enough of the emotional content Henson intends is apparently communicated, judging by the commercial success of Six Lethargies, which has extended well beyond Henson's circle of fans. You, too, may enjoy the experiment.

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