People have been dancing as long as we can remember. Medieval children ringing round the roses of the Black Plague, Renaissance nobility processing to the stately basse danse, city folk courting to the steps of the pavane, and the already pregnant bride in Brueghel’s painting The Peasant Wedding, all danced their way through the rituals of life; courtship, marriage, political intrigue, harvest, and the final Dance of Death which we must all join regardless of social status, wealth or position. Just as their choreography balances delicately between the strict restraints of convention and the ingenious flourishes of spontaneous florid motion, its music weds strict and unchanging patterns with kaleidoscopic permutations of musical invention.
Our title “Ciaramella: Dances on Moveable Ground” plays on the fact that we live in Southern California, where the ground might roll or shake below our feet at any time. But dancing on shifting grounds is also a musical concept that serves as a unifying element in this recording. Grounds are the repeated chord progressions and melodies that lie at the heart of Renaissance and Baroque dance. Some, like the passacaglia, contain ostinato patterns which repeat only four descending notes and their harmonies. Others, like the passamezzo antico, moderno, and romanesca, consist of four-chord progressions with open (unresolved) and closed (resolved) endings, a musical question and answer.
Total time: 01:08:06
|Analog Recording Equipment||
Len Horowitz vacuum tube record circuitry
Steve Hoffman, DSD 256 Music Download Created from the Original Analog Master Tape by Bob Attiyeh
AKG C24, preamplification "Elliot Midwood"
|Original Recording Format|
Bob Attiyeh, Jacob Horowitz
Alfred Newman Hall, Los Angeles, California
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||May 17, 2018|
Early Music Today [Editor’s Choice]
“expressive fluidity and rhythmic vitality.”
The Ciaramella Ensemble is a modestly sized group of seven musicians playing recorders, percussion, dulcian (a bassoon-like Rennaissance era woodwind), viola da gamba, guitar, theorbo (a large lute) and harpsichord — all of which are recreations of original instruments.
It is a small ensemble so the arrangements are organized more intimately. Appropriately, the recording sounds more closely miked, yet still wonderfully spacious and natural. Instruments are convincingly spread across the stage and to appreciate fully, don’t play it too loudly.
The music covers “grounds” from Spain, Italy and England. Even if you didn’t know that, you’d easily guess the origins of each of the songs. These mostly mirth-filled tunes sound something like what you’d expect to hear at an outdoor June wedding held in a garden. There’s also a new composition “The Fisher and Fox” by group co-director Adam Knight Gilbert. Alessandro Piccinini’s “Chiaccona in partite variate” has a chord progression familiar to any rocker or folkie.
As much pleasure as the melodic compositions and spirited playing bring, an additional highlight is the superb, minimally miked recording (a single AKG C24 tubed “stereo” unit), produced to analog recording tape at USC’s Alfred Newman Hall.
The short signal path wired with five foot long custom, stranded silver interconnects, features custom Elliot Midwood-designed vacuum tube preamplifiers and no mixer. The album from the original analog tape uses no compression or limiting.
So guess what? The sonics are astonishing. Quite simply, if you want to know how good your stereo can possibly sound, get this short, but delightful recording (if the woodwinds “break up”, blame your system, not the recording)!
The Absolute Sound
Yarlung hits a home run! The sound is clear and warm, intimate, and not too wide. The instruments are recorders, dulcian (a Renaissance double reed instrument), viola da gamba, guitar, theorbo, harpsichord, and percussion.
“Grounds are the repeated chord progressions and melodies that lie at the heart of Renaissance and Baroque dances,” say the liner notes. The fact that Ciaramella is based in earthquake-prone California makes “movable ground” a pun as delightful as the lively music here.
The first two tracks, by Gaspar Sanz and Andrea Falconieri, are from the late Renaissance and are heavily Spanish-flavored. In the Sanz, in fact, the Arabian influence is as prevalent as the Spanish. Adam Knight Gilbert, one of Ciaramella’s directors, contributes “The Fisher and Fox,” a whirling English-style dance that sounds straight out of the 1500s. Falconieri’s “L’Eroica” is a wild three-parter, and the version of “Greensleeves” is a world away from the soggy, sulky versions you normally hear.
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