“This release by the Cappella Romana (of Portland, Oregon) first appeared in late 2019 but acquired new relevance and promotional energy with the Islamization of the Hagia Sophia in mid-2020: the "lost voices" of the title now seem to be lost permanently, although recordings in the giant sixth-century structure had long since already been banned. What's heard here is a pioneering endeavor that apparently has never been attempted before: a digital re-creation of the Hagia Sophia space and its profound reverberation lasting more than ten seconds. Basic data was gathered by a Stanford University researcher who wore microphones and popped a balloon over her head; many more striking insights into the process are included on a Blu-Ray disc included in deluxe editions. The album itself was recorded entirely at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Even the basic CD yields remarkable sounds, and for audiophiles with the equipment and wherewithal to go deeper, this will be an essential purchase. However, what makes it even more attractive is that recordings of Byzantine chant are by no means common, and this is a very fine one. The music has several striking divergences from Western chant, with the presence of female voices being the most prominent one; both women and eunuchs were used in Byzantine liturgical music. Drone lines are abundant, and the music seems similar to the later ages of Western chant in the way it is tied to the text; the basic forms of antiphon, responsory, and Office chant are similar, but the musical rhythms may shift across the course of a piece in a way that does not occur in the main body of Western chant. The Cappella Romana ("Romana" refers not to Rome as such but to the world of Christian religious music, with Rome at its center) has a remarkable sound with lots of head tones, and even listeners with no interest in the engineering wizardry will find the singing and the music compelling. An extraordinary release.”
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