The Symphonic Juncture

A [Symphonist]: "The one who is not afraid to raise the primal force."

- Boris Asafiev (1917)

Resonance Treble Ensemble: 2020 E.P. Review

Dedicated to being a ‘catalysts for social change’ with an advocatory-model expressed by ‘leading with action’, the recently founded, six-women vocal alliance, ‘Resonance Treble Ensemble’, directorally led by Simon Lee [trained operatic Baritone who, in 2019, performed as Pandolfe in Massenet’s Cendrillon] with management by Dana Hsu [trained classical Violinist who, in 2017, participated in the outreach-project called ‘Bach in the Subways’], gave a [digitally] sonic glimpse into the imaginative capabilities of the female choral sound which offered their listeners the chance to hear what Barenreiter calls the ‘delicate and subtle hues of the high registers’. This description seems appropriately fitting for R.T.E [called henceforth], and In-House arranger Emma Nelson [Cellular & Molecular Biologist by microsphere and Composer by macrosphere] certainly has acclimatized herself with the distinct, at times restrictive, challenges of SA harmonicity. This intricate dilemma is tough to navigate, especially since traditionally the female voice within a choral-setting is used to either fill-in the the textural body of a work, mostly given to mezzo and lower-pitched female voices, or divergently to further aid in the construction of a celestial [full?] soundscape by soaring in the upper atmosphere or even intoning the melody and its immediate, intervallic equivalents, evidenced by almost any ‘standard’ SATB choral piece. Female choral-groups are not a new phenomenon in the musical world, however, and can be found throughout the world, from Slovenia [now-disbanded Carmina Slovenica], Finland [Philomela], Bulgaria [Sofia Women’s C.C], and Sweden [Adolf Fredrik's G.C], to the UK [Mediaeval Baebes] and the U.S. [the first ‘feminist’ Choir ANNA Crusis], just to name a few.

Thus, R.T.E is not entering into a newly blossoming niche, and in order to firmly supplant themselves within the undulating socio-cultural fabric that is the choral subsection of the massive American Music Industry [‘classical music’ accumulating only 1% of music Album consumption in 2018, while in 2019 digital track sales amassed a total of only 3%], they’ll have to define, and redefine as it becomes necessary, what exactly makes them worth tuning in for, and why exactly a consumer should spend $5.99 on their latest EP entitled AWAKEN which [hint, hint] features an eclection of original works, arrangements, and interpretations of Bluegrass modalities [Hopeless], folkish communality [Bring Me Little Water, Silvy], and even time-negating harmonic washing [The Lake Isle, an homage to the island in Lough Gill, Ireland and its nostalgic grip on its original corporal translator, W.B. Yeats, nearly 130 years ago]. As I logged into YouTube for the debut of their Album nearly 16 hours ago [a small figure in comparison], I sat pondering on my previous aural experiences with female Choirs of both amateur and Professional status, and questions arose along the inquisitorial lines of ‘How will the textures be foundationally built’, and ‘What possibly could have been created which has not already been verbalized?’, a salient thought as we involuntary languish in the epochal horn-of-plenty, forever dodging the looming threat of ‘aesthetics of yesterday’ paradoxical uniformity which hangs in the air like a noxious fume. I was not only surprised, but unreasonably excited due to the fact that, 1) the sonorous depth and unspoiled ‘music of the people’ is still being innovated upon, and 2) this particular group doesn’t feel required to start their ‘careers’ generically ‘covering’ to death either 17-19th c. choral pieces, or abstract, practically unknown 20-21st c. ‘choral’ works believing themselves to be the arbiters of a message unheard before them and of which won’t be heard after their dissolution.

Featured on the debut ‘performance’ yesterday [and viewable on their YouTube page] were seven selections and most were attributed to the EP although two songs were not, ‘Gaudete, Christus est natus’ the 16th c. Swedish carol and December, a quaintishly strophic tune described as ‘modern’, although it read more hollow than perhaps intended and lacked a sense of forward directionality which rendered the tonalities all a bit flat [however, the soloists, especially the soprano Serenna Jones, were quite exceptional in their delivery]. By far, this group shined when fully absorbed in unapologetically folk unity and its characteristically accessible mannerisms, i.e., the absolute perfection of Down in the River to Pray which, if unacquainted with this group, I highly suggest you listen to and enthrall yourself in the true, foundationalist vitality of its drone and ardent treble companions, as well as Nelson’s textural mastery in Hopeless, a testament to the collective consciousness birthed from unbroken, living harmonic melos [coined by B. Asafiev, described as ‘the continuation, the unbroken quality..., the constant flow’] which unfolds as naturally as it was originally brought into this world by The Stave sisters [circa 2017].

This arrangement, as conceived by Nelson, was a ‘a simple song that focuses on the words’, and indeed it accomplished its task, the intrinsic organicity found throughout this song and every track on AWAKEN can be accurately personified through the term ‘dejstvo’ [the unity of ‘the power of the religion and everyday life’], where the collective spiritual consciousness of all participants are unified, even for a brief moment, in the act of musicking and nothing can be thought of as separated, or even able to thrive separately, from that collective channeled through the composer and made public by the performers, and in turn made ‘real’ by the act of listening. Just as Asafiev states that returning to that ideal state of ‘dejstvo, “the beauty of the lost unity and wholeness of the worldview,” can counteract the superficiality of contemporary society, so too can reclaiming folk’s music true reason for existing bring us [composer, performer, listener] away from the dependence on shock, false innovation, overstimulation, and destruction of traditionalism, and more to the awakening of what music’s real purpose fundamentally was in antiquity, the path to God.

Another track unheard during the EP unveiling is the fifth track of the Album ‘Bring me Little Water, Sylvie,’ a Moira Smiley arrangement of the both anonymous and accredited [Huddie Ledbetter] song, ‘collected’ in 1936, and again it features hand percussion and an idiosyncratic homemade, yet wholly refined, intonational verbiage with its close-knit hymnody which captures the Skiffle movement’s notable founder and his powerful, yet undoubtedly caring temperament. Each singer audibly presents themselves in their own timbral naturality, and because of this adherence to the sounds of real-life, one hears every personality harmonize with the other [especially one singer and their ‘every little once in a while’ impassioned delivery] without feeling as if something is being sacrificed for the fallacious pursuit of ‘musicality’. If one was to look for a musical example of R. Thompson’s excited utterance after having been required to sing in quartet’s during a choral rehearsal, “What is flat takes shape. And when the harmonies are just right, it’s like you’ve created a hologram out of thin air,” then put on track five. For that matter, put on track one, and then two, and if you’re feeling ‘in the mood’, then three, four, five, six, and seven, you won’t regret the used time I am sure.

The Resonance Treble Ensemble, as of 3:10 pm on December 22nd, 2020 not only reached their prerelease goal of $500 for a new recording project, they earned twofold their expected amount [$1,025], thus ensuring that there will be more music to come in their future and by extension ours. As I sit here and contemplate on the generous hearts who gave during COVID, I blush to think that even in the one of the darkest moments in global history, we still can rely on musicians, both world-renowned, developing, and everywhere in between, to materialize the spiritual ‘will-to-creation’ despite having performance and main roads of expression shut-down, closed, and underappreciated. If one is still not convinced of the Artistic realms very real need for existence, I suggest you go a day without listening to music, looking at Art, thinking an imaginary scenario, or doing anything creative and then proceed to tell me how you really feel…............………...Exactly.

Reference Links

1. To donate to their longevity and ability to create much-needed beauty, click here

2. The video of the E.P. premiere in its entirety, click here.

3. For Bandcamp Album purchase, which is only $6, click here.

4. Their personal website can be reached here.

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