Skip to main content

Michael Begg - Spem in Alium

In 1570, when Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis wrote his astonishing forty-voice motet, Spem in Alium (Hope in any other), , he probably didn't foresee the piece's transcendent propensities being co-opted by novelist E.L. James for her best-selling twenty-first century 'erotic romance', Fifty Shades of Grey. While such mass acceptance mercifully failed to dim the composition's splendour in the way Ravel's Bolero was kitschified following its use in Blake Edwards' 1979 rom-com, 10, it nevertheless saw recordings of Spem in Alium shoot to the top of the classical charts.

If Tallis was turning in his grave during the Fifty Shades hoo-har, he can rest more than easy regarding Michael Begg's infinitely more seasonal sounding 'arrangement and erosion' of an already majestic work. Rather than use voices, Begg utilises slowed-down strings and sepulchral sounding drones for a treatment that enhances the beauty of Tallis' original, even as it subverts it.

For those unfamiliar with his oeuvre, Begg is one half of electronic duo, Human Greed. He is also one of the driving forces behind vocalist Clodagh Simmonds' Fovea Hex project, who are set to release new material in 2016. Past attendees of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations may also know Begg's output from Fragile Pitches, a sound installation performed at St Giles' Cathedral in 2009 alongside Nurse With Wound mainstay Colin Potter, in which the pair took natural sounds recorded locally, before distorting them over a five-hour electronic collage.

Originally released on Begg's Omnempathy label in 2013, and intended as a bonus disc to accompany Human Greed's World Fair album, Begg's thirty-minute take on Spem in Alium has now been re-released as a free download for December 2015 only. Begg himself has described the piece as an aural Christmas card. With the last date for posting physical missives now passed, this exquisite piece of fractured classicism is a glorious accompaniment to end of year meditations to cherish while it lasts.

http://omnempathy.bandcamp.com/album/spem-in-alium

Product, December 2015


ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…