Blomington (Indiana), USA – The Paul Winter Consort has released Silver Solstice, a CD with Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, Davy Spillane, Mickey Hart, Arto Tunçboyaciyan, and more.
Paul Winter’s annual Winter Solstice Celebration has now firmly taken its place among the major, durable Holiday traditions of National Public Radio (NPR) and New York City. The event’s 10,000 annual revelers make it among the best-attended celebrations of seasonal change in the country. In the United States, it has consistently been among Billboard magazine’s top-ten grossing events during its week of performance. For at least twelve of its sixteen years on radio, the NPR broadcast of the event has been among NPR’s six most popular cultural program specials of the year.
In the years since Winter’s Celebration has emerged, there has been a proliferation of solstice events, perhaps fulfilling a yearning in the nation for alternative yet inclusive ways of honoring holiday time for people of diverse faiths and spiritual paths.
The cumulative music of the 25th annual Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral is captured on Silver Solstice: The Paul Winter Consort & Friends, on Winter’s Living Music label. This three–disc box set also includes ten tracks from earlier Solstice events, many of which are also previously unreleased. The 142 minutes of music are on two stereo CDs, and in 5.1 Surround Sound on a bonus DVD-Audio disc, which includes four streams: High Resolution 5.1 Surround Sound, High Resolution Stereo, Dolby 5.1 Surround, and Dolby Stereo. Winter says the audiophile recordings may be the “best presentation of our music ever.”
NPR listeners will have a chance to hear the live recording from which the CD was drawn during the nationwide broadcast this year of the 25th anniversary Winter Solstice Celebration. The broadcast will include narration and interview features, but is otherwise similar to the CD. The release comes just in time for Paul Winter’s 26th Annual Solstice Celebration, continuing its tradition as “New York’s Holiday alternative” December 15, 16, and 17, 2005.
“In 1980, the opportunity to play in the Cathedral’s extraordinary space inspired me to look at the big picture,” Winter explains. “I wanted to celebrate the universals, the things we share in common with all peoples. We were coming out of the ’70s. We had become accustomed to seeing the photos of the whole Earth which the astronauts brought back from space. This cosmic dimension gave me the answer I was seeking: the Winter Solstice, at least for northern peoples, has since ancient times been the great turning point of the year, when at this darkest and coldest time, we welcome the return of the Sun. I never dreamed that we were launching a tradition that would still be growing a quarter-century later.”
From all his acoustical explorations with his soprano sax over the decades, in wilderness locations and concert halls on six continents (all but Antarctica), Winter’s two favorite playing spaces are the Cathedral, and the Grand Canyon, a place of pilgrimage for him for over forty years. He considers it no coincidence that the Cathedral, and his primary recording site within the Canyon, both have a reverberation time of seven seconds. The Cathedral’s monumental architecture and enveloping acoustics have a profound effect on musicians and listeners alike—a “Grand Canyon East.” The immensely resonant space of the Cathedral asks you to listen, and to play, in new ways.
“Sound coming from a distance has a certain magic,” says Winter. “It activates instincts from our genetic memory—of ancient times when we lived outdoors, and needed to be able to judge how far away certain sounds were. So we often have musicians playing from different corners and balconies of the Cathedral. When the lights are low and you cannot see the ceiling, it almost feels like you are outdoors in some great canyon. Charles Ives has long been an inspiration for me. He loved to place musicians in different spaces, to get this effect of distant sound. You cannot get it by simply changing the volume level of the music.”
The Cathedral is a fitting forum for Winter’s aural-vision of a genre of “Earth Music,” celebrating the entire community of culture and creatures of the world. During four decades of travel, in 48 countries of the world, Winter has evolved an extended community of kindred players, and the Solstice Celebration in New York has become their annual reunion. This embrace of diversity is, for Winter, the hallmark of the solstice tradition, and he regards this yearly gathering as a kind of musical feast. The Silver Solstice album presents this eclectic cornucopia.
Winter’s Solstice Celebration takes the listener on a symbolic journey through the longest night of the year, incorporating theatrical musical effects that highlight the titanic space of the Cathedral. The centerpiece of the event is a giant, rotating “Solstice Tree” — a 28-foot spiral aluminum sculpture hung with hundreds of bells, gongs, and chimes representing the diversity of life on
Earth. The climactic return of the sun is celebrated by the world’s largest tam-tam gong, seven feet in diameter, which slowly ascends, with its player, to the 100-foot vault of the Cathedral. Presented “in the round,” the Solstice Celebrations feature a stage in the middle of the Cathedral, with audience on both sides.
Silver Solstice is Winter’s first foray into Surround Sound. “I’m thrilled with Surround: this is the way I’ve always dreamed of hearing our music,” says Winter. The effect, for the listener, is that of being amidst the band, in the center of the world’s largest Gothic cathedral.
Author: World Music Central News Department
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