Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bjorn Morten Christophersen's Woven Brass from 2L Recordings

Is there any musical instrument that can convey dread, fear and impending terror as well as a horn? Let me elaborate and tell you about the first time I listened to classical music. It was the first or second grade, and our teacher played Tchaikovsky's Peter and the Wolf for us. (Don't ask me which version--I was six years old.) When the wolf first appears, signified by an eerie and menacing melody from the horn section, I felt more than just chills down my spine. I freaked out a little bit. I think I had nightmares for weeks afterward, and the soundtrack for each frightening image in my troubled dreams was the massed sound of those evil horns. It took me years before I could listen to that otherwise beautiful piece of music without feeling like something was waiting in the bushes for me, certain to tear me apart.

Woven Brass, from Norway's 2L Recordings, has absolutely nothing to do with Tchaikovsky's classic introduction to the orchestra which was obviously aimed at children with more fortitude than me--at least back when I was six or seven years of age. But I can't help but think about that horrible wolf when I listen to these fourteen musical pieces from composer/conductor Bjorn Morten Christophersen. These horns from six members of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra create so many razor-sharp moods and images that I can't help being transported back to that classroom in 1968 and feeling those same physical reactions I had to such soul-shattering sounds. I'm not expecting nightmares, but this recording has generated its share of goosebumps.

Fortunately, Woven Horns does not sustain those dark, unfathomable fears and emotions for the hour or so it takes to listen. Christophersen's music is thankfully varied and at times it's actually playful--in a vaguely macabre way, that is. The idea behind these fourteen tracks is to allow the listener to digest this music in a number of ways. You can be a purist and listen from beginning to end, or you can take Woven Brass one piece at a time. "Digital streaming services have led to new ways of consuming music," Christophersen explains. While I do think that listening to one isolated piece at a time certainly underlines this point, you'll get more of the recurring themes and ideas if you consume this exciting work as a whole.

This is a 2L release where all the recording technology that producer Morten Lindberg employs comes in very handy. These six musicians (who don't necessarily occupy the stage at the same time) create such swirling patterns of sound in the Jar Church in Norway that 2L's bag of tricks--9.1 Dolby Atmos 48kHz and other surround options, the Blu-ray audio format and MQA, all recorded in DXD 24bit/352.8kHz--is extremely effective in putting each horn in its place on the stage while letting you see the spatial trajectory of every note. You'll be able to track each musician's output with ease, whether it's leader Jonas Haltia's trumpet or the brass from colleagues Axel Sjostedt, Brynjar Kolbergsrud, Jan-Olav Martinsen, Thorbjorn Lonmo and Frode Amundsen.

From a sonic standpoint, this is an ultimate reference recording for brass instruments. It will, like all 2L Recordings, test the fidelity of your sound system. But Woven Brass is also a reference for the idea that music can be spine-chilling, so listen with a trusted friend who will make you feel safe!

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