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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Oracle Hysterical, New Vintage Baroque, Passionate Pilgrim

I was awakened yesterday from my private world of dreams and expectations when I helped my nephew negotiate the ins and outs of a used car purchase from a dealer. As I was waiting for his credit to go through, I struck up a conversation with young ladies in the office. The talk chanced on music. "He makes CDs! Yes, he gave us one of them!" my nephew chimed in. Well just the format elicited reactions of astonishment and disbelief. I was an impossible anachronism. When one of them asked me if my music sounded like [name I didn't recognize], I tried in desperation to backtrack to common ground. I mentioned George Harrison. No. "Who is that?" I gave up. There is a specific audience for the music I cover on these pages, and the music I myself make, and they were not it. Or so it seemed.

If it weren't for yesterday I would say that today's CD might appeal to a general audience as well as the classically oriented. Now I am more inclined to say "A specific wider audience," but perhaps not those who have grown up on the pop music that fills their earbuds.

Nonetheless Oracle Hysterical, New Vintage Baroque and their joint collaborative album Passionate Pilgrim (VISIONINTO ART VIA -12) gives us a very appealing program of contemporary songs that one can profitably think of in terms of the principal ensemble's name New Vintage Baroque.  As the liner notes assert, this is a music "dedicated to the creation of a 21st century repertoire for early instruments."

Absolutely, that is what we have. What does that mean? This is an adventure in song form, of the modern day yet bardically story-telling. It is a contemporary tonal music that gives us some striking songs that have both a currency and a rustic feel. It does not have much in the way of Baroque counterpoint or that period's pronounced periodicity. But then it is readily distinguishable from the ordinarily modern nonetheless.

The New Vintage ensemble was formed in 2011 by Baroque oboist Lindsay McIntosh. This latest set is comprised of contemporary songs composed by members of Oracle Hysterical.  To clarify the album is very much a joint effort by New Vintage Baroque and Oracle Hysterical (the latter a quartet of bassoon, double bass-viola da gamba, and the voices of Elliot Cole and Majel Connery; the former an eight-person chamber ensemble of baroque instruments). The four members of Oracle Hysterical give us a set of songs that bear close listening.

One revels in the lyric sensibilities and pronounced baroque sonics of the music. It sounds spring-like, the sound of poetic springs celebrated by the bards of an age long gone. It is not so much a nostalgia for an age we never knew, though that is part of the charm. It is mostly perhaps born of an urgently aesthetic need to reach back to earlier music to craft a music anew. You don't have to hear this in the spring, but it has the sound of a renewal we might feel the need of as I write this.

It is music that will come alive with repeated hearings. The songs and arrangements are distinctly unique. I am glad to have this album and I recommend it warmly to anyone seeking something new that is born like Phoenix from the ashes of its past!

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