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It the beginning was the word, well a few words really and the words were can you write some music for an Airline commercial? Thus begins the story of Adiemus, a series of musical works that have now stretched to four albums, international fame and critical success. Its creator Karl Jenkins is now a well-respected composer in the field of classical music but his route to his exalted position today began in jazz music being a member of the bands Nucleus and later Soft Machine, one of the seminal bands of the 1970s. Despite winning awards for his work with such bands and later for film scores and advertising music, it is perhaps the Adiemus projects that have become his best known work, a music that seems all encompassing in many ways and non-categorisable at the same time. A piece of work that Jenkins had in mind for another recording project was pitched to the aforementioned Airline company (Delta, if you must know), they loved it and from the initial track Adiemus a concept was born. For a type of music that is no stranger to Classic FM it is surprising that the music is reminiscent of many new age bands such as Enya, Dead Can Dance and Deep Forest but with the main emphasis on vocal work rather than any prominent instrumentation. In the words of the man himself, "When I conceived the Adiemus concept initially, I was thinking of it purely as a recording. My intention was to compose a work based in the European classical tradition but with vocal sound more akin to ethnic or world music." Although initially in a fairly defined heritage, the work has grown over the years to include African, Celtic, Arabic and even ecclesiastical themes and sounds. The percussion, the main accompaniment to much of the work also incorporates diverse beats and rhythms that suggest Indian, Middle Eastern, Japanese and even Australian styles as well as those of its original brief. This album, Journey is a compilation of the four albums to date and contains nineteen original and beautiful tracks.
Opening with the most famous piece of the project Adiemus is a song that you will already be aware of even if you dont know that you know it, its one of those pieces of music that just stays in the back of the mind for later recall. This one piece does really sum up the magical qualities of the concept. Soloist Miriam Stockleys voice opens on an almost Arabic chant as tribal background beats pick the song up. Its when the backing group of singers join in the piece that it really kicks off, vocal waves wash over each other each reaching higher than the last in a fashion that sounds like a strange South American tribal choir. The sound structures are awesome, powerful, beautiful, spine tingling and otherworldly and when they have reached their highest peaks they drop away to be replaced by a subdued and haunting flute or a contrasting solo voice. It was after hearing this one song that I wanted to learn more about the music, not only was it totally original, there was something about the voices and language that that enthralled me. Upon doing some digging I found out that the Adiemus singers are Finish, the soloists British, and the backing music largely by a little known band called The London Philharmonic Orchestra. What surprised me more is the concept behind the lyrics, there are none! As Karl puts it "The text in Adiemus is written phonetically, with the words viewed as instrumental sound. The human voice is the oldest instrument and by removing the distraction of lyrics, we hope to create a sound that is universal and timeless. I must admit that I am a big fan of using the voice as an instrument and as I listen to a lot of Gaelic and world music the concept of not understanding the language is not a problem, here there is no language to understand. Its odd that I have heard from people the argument of I couldnt listen to music where you cant understand the words but then advocate bland dance music or misogynistic rap music which is saying nothing anyway.
Its impossible to separate one track from another here for reasons of description as the whole body of work seems to be created as a large piece rather that as individual tunes. All have a lot in common, lush female vocal harmonies, sometimes en mass, sometimes sparse and gentle. The mix of cultural identity makes it a totally global product, East meets West and every compass point in between, some conforms to its original design of a European classic tradition, others are totally Amazonian in flavour, Arabesque solos sit along side Chinese back beats, Gregorian whispers flit through African celebration dances, Polynesian chants and even Strauss like waltz time signatures have their place. There is also a lot of pieces here that will already be well known to you, subliminally through TV adverts but also because the themes are so universally recognisable as cultural markers.
Although I found that not every thing on this album matches up to the brilliance of the original theme, it also acts as a good reference for which albums to buy. I seemed to find that as successive albums were made, the music tends to move slightly away from what it was that initially caught my attention in Jenkins work. I there fore now know that probably only the first two albums are suitable for me, but everyone will have their own favourites and this compilation is a good way of finding which ones to go for, especially if like me you managed to pick it up for next to nothing on e-bay. This is one of those albums that is good for the me time. That is; lounging in the bath, relaxing on the sofa after a hard day down the mine or just dropping off to sleep. I seem to be reviewing a lot of that sort of thing recently, must be getting old. And the last word from our main man, To me, Adiemus transcends labels. That fact that it reaches people of different backgrounds, faiths and cultures gives it a universal appeal which is special. The compositions can be spiritual, religious, meditative - it's open to 'move' people in a way that they choose to experience.
For those that insist on having all of the buying information spelt out for them e-bay, Amazon, music shops, blah, blah, blah .its not rocket science.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Cantus Inaequalis
3 Kayama [Radio Edit]
4 In Caelum Fero [Radio Edit] - London Philharmonic Orchestra, Miriam Stockley
6 Cantilena - London Philharmonic Orchestra, Miriam Stockley
7 Cantus-Song of the Trinity [Edit]
8 Cantus-Song of the Plains [Edit]
10 Chorale VI+Cantus-Song of Aeolus
11 Chorale I (Za Ma Ba)
12 Cantus-Song of Tears
13 Rain Dance [Edit] - Adiemus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
14 Ein Wiener Walzer (A Viennese Waltz) - Adiemus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
15 Corrente (Courante) - Adiemus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
16 Zarabanda (Saraband) - Adiemus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
17 La La Koora (Ländler) - Adiemus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
18 Beyond the Century - London Philharmonic Orchestra, Miriam Stockley
19 Adiemus [1999 New Version] - Adiemus, BBC National Orchestra of Wales