Songs from the Labyrinth [CD/DVD]

Songs from the Labyrinth [CD/DVD]

by Sting
     
 

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Casual pronouncements are made every so often that the lute songs (the lute is a plucked stringed instrument, an early cousin to the guitar) and madrigals of Elizabethan and Jacobean England were the popular music of their day. And Sting, who alludes to the likes of Vladimir Nabokov in his lyrics, is hardly uneducated in the legacy of fine arts,…  See more details below

Overview

Casual pronouncements are made every so often that the lute songs (the lute is a plucked stringed instrument, an early cousin to the guitar) and madrigals of Elizabethan and Jacobean England were the popular music of their day. And Sting, who alludes to the likes of Vladimir Nabokov in his lyrics, is hardly uneducated in the legacy of fine arts, and he has a certain cerebral, inward sadness that matches the dominant mood of English music around 1600 well enough. Thus some might easily have thought it would be a short leap from Sting's own music to the lute songs of John Dowland (1563-1626). But the leap is anything but short, and Sting gets credit for having thought out fully the problems in making it. It is not just the issue of what pianist Katia Labèque, one of the classical musicians who introduced Sting to Dowland's music, called his "unschooled tenor" -- Dowland's songs are not really difficult. It is the great divide between rock (and other traditions ultimately rooted in Africa) and the European tradition: speaking in generalities, the former prizes "noise" -- sound extraneous to the pitch and to the intended timbre of an instrument or voice -- as a structural element, whereas in the latter it is strenuously eliminated. Sting's voice has plenty of "noise." The listener oriented toward classical music will object to its being there; the rock listener, noting that Sting is singing very quietly, may wonder why there isn't more of it. Why, then, does this album work well on the whole? The short answer is that Sting took 20 years to think about how to interpret the refined melancholy of Dowland songs like "Come, Heavy Sleep." His booklet notes tell the long story of how he happened to make this album, and it's quite an interesting one, involving a "labyrinth" of encounters with Labèque, with the Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov, who performs on this album, with a friend who gave Sting a lute inlaid with a labyrinth design based on a pattern in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France (Sting later reproduced the maze in his garden at home), and finally with a Swiss voice teacher who schooled him in pitch precision and the occasional octave run. Sting constructs two crossover points between this temporally remote music and his popular audience. First, he intersperses the songs with selections from Dowland's letters. This has surely been done before, at Elizabethan dinners and the like, and for modern listeners it has the beneficial effect of situating Dowland's music at the center of the social and political life of its time. Sting's second crossover point is more radical: he replaces the melody line in a few of Dowland's verses with multitracked harmonies, apparently consisting entirely of his own voice. These sections appear rather randomly, but they do break up the texture in a way that suggests an additional dimension of modern perspective. Sting passes a key test for vocal music of any kind: he understands and means what he is singing. The real gloomfests among Dowland's songs -- like "Flow My Tears" and the final "In Darkness Let Me Dwell" -- lose none of their power in Sting's performances. And he brings something of his own sense of humor to the lighter ones; a certain smirk in his reading of "Come Again" suggests that he is aware an audience of Dowland's time would have heard the line "To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die with thee again" as a sexual allusion. He sounds like himself, even while purging rock's blues-based treatment of pitch from his singing; he also takes a few turns on the large archlute. And Karamazov proves an ideal collaborator, creating a sharp, edgy tone that stands up to Sting's rough voice. In making Dowland's songs his own, Sting has accomplished something that really has never been done before, and perhaps he'll show some of his own fans that Renaissance music is more than an accompaniment for silly jousting competitions -- it is a labyrinth that leads us toward the roots of our own culture. [A 51-track CD/DVD version was also released.]

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/22/2013
Label:
Decca U.S.
UPC:
0602537414536
catalogNumber:
001904800
Rank:
16137

Related Subjects

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Walsingham (Ballad setting)
  2. Can she excuse my wrongs ("The Earl of Essex's Galliard"; First Booke o
  3. "Ryght honorable: as I have bin most bounde unto your honor..." (Letter
  4. Flow my tears (Lachrimae) (Second Booke of Songes, 1600, No. 2)
  5. Have you seen the bright lily grow (from Ben Jonson: The Devil Is an As
  6. "...Then in time passing on Mr. Johnson died..." (Letter to Sir Robert
  7. The Most High and Mighty Christianus the Fourth, King of Denmark, His G
  8. The lowest trees have tops (Third Booke of Songes, 1603, No. 19)
  9. "...and accordinge as I desired ther cam a letter to me out of Germany.
  10. Fine knacks for ladies (Seconde Booke of Songes, 1600, No. 12)
  11. "...From thence I went to the Landgrave of Hessen..." (Letter to Sir Ro
  12. Fantasy
  13. Come, heavy sleep (First Booke of Songes, 1597, No. 20)
  14. Forlorn Hope Fancy
  15. "...And from thence I had great desire to see Italy..." (Letter to Sir
  16. Come again (First Booke of Songes, 1597, No. 17)
  17. Wilt thou unkind thus reave me (First Booke of Songes, 1597, No. 15)
  18. "...After my departure I called to mynde our conference..." (Letter to
  19. Weep you no more, sad fountains (Third Booke of Songes, 1603, No. 15)
  20. My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home (Version for two lutes)
  21. Clear or cloudy (Second Booke of Songes, 1600, No. 21)
  22. "...men say that the Kinge of Spain is making gret preparation..." (Let
  23. In darkness let me dwell (A Musicall Banquet, 1610, No. 10)
  24. Flow my tears (Lachrimae)
  25. The lowest trees have tops
  26. Fantasy
  27. Come again
  28. Have you seen the bright lily grow
  29. In darkness let me dwell
  30. Hellhound On My Trail
  31. Message In A Bottle
  32. Fields of Gold

Disc 2

  1. Come again
  2. Project Origin
  3. Can she excuse my wrongs
  4. The Lute and the Labyrinth
  5. The lowest trees have tops
  6. Flow my tears (Lachrimae)
  7. Dowland's Exile
  8. Clear or cloudy
  9. Political Intrigue
  10. Have you seen the bright lily grow
  11. Weep you no more, sad fountains
  12. Le Rossignol
  13. Religion
  14. Sting and the Lute
  15. Come, heavy sleep
  16. In darkness let me dwell
  17. Choir Rehearsal
  18. Fine knacks for ladies
  19. Can she excuse my wrongs

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Sting   Primary Artist,Vocals,Archlute
Edin Karamazov   Lute,Archlute
Stile Antico   Choir, Chorus
Massimilliano Lanciotti   Grip
Lee Kimble   Grip
Ernesto Garofalo   Grip
Alessandro Bolli   Grip

Technical Credits

John Dowland   Composer
Sting   Arranger,Composer,Lyricist,Producer,Liner Notes
Roger Eaton   Camera Operator
Ian Cooper   Mastering
Donal Hodgson   Producer,Engineer
David Horn   Executive Producer
James Birtwistle   Engineer
Chris Coles   Camera Operator
Ann Kim   Producer,Direction
William Francis   Tour Manager
Merle Kersten   Art Direction
Jim Gable   Producer,Direction
Adam Sweeting   Liner Notes
Peter Welch   Camera Operator
Tam Fairgrieve   Production Stage Manager
Ned Doyle   Producer
Matteo Passigato   Camera Operator
Edin Karamazov   Arranger,Producer
Kathryn Schenker   Executive Producer,Management
Chris Wines   Producer
Cezar Mateus   Instrument Design
Kipper Eldridge   Sound Design
Christopher Roberts   Executive Producer
Chris Roberts   Executive Producer
Nico van der Waals   Instrument Design
Mickey Wilson   Gaffer
Richard Cornelius   Camera Operator
Steve Leverington   Electrician
Steve Cussell   Electrician
Stefano Varini   Sound Man
Rudi Thackway   Art Direction
Pietro Putzu   Generator
Peter Lee   Sound Man
Patrick Bramucci   Gaffer
Paolo Frasson   Key Grip
Mario Virdis   Electrician
Kevin Fraser   Key Grip
Julie Alford-Sawyer   Producer
Jeffrey Doe   Video Editor
Franco Constantini   Property Master

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