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Caroline Shaw: Narrow Sea

by Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gil Kalish

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STEPHEN KOLDERUP Narrow Sea is exquisite and deep; an exploration of texts and rhythms and song that moves one from meditation to expression. What a joy it must have been to write for these accomplished musicians; and what a privilege it must be to bring this gifted composer’s work to life!
Gordon Nicol
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Gordon Nicol I first heard this music at a concert at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre in February 2020. It would be the last live music I experienced before everything shut down, so the arrival of this album is like a gift from the past. It feels like several lifetimes have passed in the year since then, but expressing the timeless yearning for a safe place feels particularly meaningful right now. This is music to listen to again and again on that - joyful! - journey home.
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Taxidermy 08:57


Narrow Sea was written for Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gil Kalish in 2017. The piece combines my previous explorations of folk song with a sonic universe that includes ceramic bowls, humming, a piano played like a dulcimer by five people at once, and flower pots (which are the central focus of Taxidermy - my first piece for So Percussion, written in 2012). Gil Kalish’s piano serves as a grounding force, or a familiar memory, that keeps reappearing amid the different textures introduced by Sō Percussion. And Dawn Upshaw’s voice is a brilliant instrument that brings the words to life with warmth and directness.

Each movement of Narrow Sea is a new melodic setting of a text from the Sacred Harp, a collection of shape note hymns first published in the 19th century. All of the texts used in the piece share two features: each refers to water in some way (the river Jordan, swelling flood, narrow sea - images of what lies between this world and the next), and each has a sense of joy in looking to heaven (crossing over, going home). These words may be hundreds of years old, but the essential yearning for a home, a safe resting place, has a renewed relevance today, throughout the world. The work is dedicated to all humans seeking safe refuge.
- Caroline Shaw


released January 22, 2021


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Sō Percussion New York, New York

Through its sensational interpretations of modern classics, innovative multi-genre original productions, and “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” (The New Yorker), for almost two decades Sō Percussion has redefined the scope and role of the modern percussion ensemble, placing it at the leading edge of 21st-century music. ... more


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