Early Music America Reviews Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia

Karen Cook reviews our Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia recording for Early Music America:

“Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and painstaking work of two college professors, however, it is possible to imagine what a medieval Byzantine service might have sounded like. … The prolonged phrases flow over each other in layers and waves, collecting and resonating in the dome. Listen to this sonic accumulation at the beginning of Psalm 140 and notice how it gradually dissolves into the higher voices; at the end, furthermore, the sound reverberates for nearly 12 seconds after the ensemble stops. … The drones exacerbate this accumulation, blurring lines between phrases and creating a sense of sonic stasis, as in the last choral portion of the Cherubic Hymn. In many cases, the meaning of the text is also blurred, linking this music to the metaphor of divinity as light and water. The dome catches the sound like ascending breath and sends it showering back down like a sonic waterfall. The ensemble’s sound is rich and radiant, the sonic equivalent of the gold leaf that dominated the iconography of this tradition. They sound like light filtering through stained glass, glinting off of tiny dust particles as they float away. I wonder how the acoustical space might differ if it also recreated the building full of worshipers. … According to the Icons of Sound project, “Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia is the first vocal album in the world to be recorded entirely in live virtual acoustics.” The two-disc set includes a 24-minute documentary that explains the building and the project. The liner notes are incredibly detailed, replete with bibliographies, high-quality images, and musical examples. For the novelty of its digital recording process, attempts at historical recreation, and preservation of this repertoire, the album would be worth hearing. The quality of its musical creation, however, cements it.

Karen Cook, Early Music America

See the full review on earlymusicamerica.org

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