As the New York-based composer’s recorded career nears a full three decades (debut The Mask of Memory appeared in 1994), Evensong takes him into territory that is simultaneously new and ancient. It’s his first album to be based on vocal music, with half of those melodies being penned by Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century.
Four of the eight tracks use her plainchant melodies, including her Latin texts, and when combined with Keller’s production, the resulting sound is timeless.
Conceptually, Keller takes the Early Christian idea of canonical hours (divisions of the day being marked by music) and interprets it as a microcosm of life and its procession from beginning to end—and beyond. The procession also takes us through the church modes, the scales (based on those of the ancient Greeks) used before major and minor took over in the Baroque period: Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian, Ionian, Dorian, and returning to Phrygian. Each track has a distinct character based on the varying order of half and whole steps in its chosen mode, with Evensong 5 being the most intense.
At every step of the way, Keller combines classical textures (strings, organ, piano) and modern timbres and rhythms in evocative fashion, often crowned by the beauty of the four female voices in unison. The profound sense of contemplation that has marked Keller’s most deeply felt work is once again present, guiding us gently along the journey to its otherworldly finale, with a plainchant melody written by Keller in homage to Hildegard’s style.
For more information and music samples, visit kevinkeller.com.
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