Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Surround Sound Grammy

It’s especially fitting that this year’s Surround Sound Grammy went to a recording where the title work was indeed composed for surround sound. It’s the first time that’s happened.

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The main work, On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams, is a musical commemoration for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. The composition is neither an official public memorial, nor a personalized response, but Adams describes it as "a memory space – a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions." To enhance the atmosphere, the composer specifies that the audience be surrounded by multichannel playback of “prerecorded city sounds (quiet traffic, voices, footsteps, etc.) and the reading by many different voices of the names of the victims.” John Rockwell has commented:
"The emotional kick is the juxtaposition of the orchestra and the sound collage. You couldn't have done that 50 years ago and had it considered classical music. His acoustic, amplified acoustic and electronic blend adds a contemporary element to him."
The hybrid SACD also offers works from Samuel Barber, John Corigliano, and Jennifer Higdon (who also picked up a Grammy for her Percussion Concerto). The sound of the surround sound SACD has been called “spectacularly clear and atmospheric” (All Music Guide).

Congratulations not only to John, but also to sound designer Mark Grey, surround engineer Michael Bishop, and surround producer Elaine Martone. The label is Telarc, known for high quality sound and originally founded by classical musicians. (Unfortunately, in 2009 most of the key staff was eliminated.)

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