Boomkat Product Review:
The first vinyl release from acclaimed Canadian composer Cassandra Miller, 'Traveller Song / Thanksong' is rooted in her well-established transcription process, turning a Sicilian folk song and a Beethoven composition into intimate, hierarchy-free celebrations of the human voice. Quite remarkable.
Based in London, Miller is best known for her creative examination of the transcription process, where she takes established themes and works with them until they're almost unrecognizable, buoyed by the joy of human error. 'Traveller Song' is based on a song from an anonymous Sicilian cart driver that was recorded in the 1950s by Alan Lomax and Diego Carpitella. Miller, who's not a trained singer, attempts to sing along, layering her wavering tones and following them with piano. It's an absurd technique on the surface, but reveals the humanity at the center of the original composition. Far from a cover, it's a way of interpreting the soul of the piece and extracting its inner beauty; when the composition swells, with additional voices, strings, clarinet and guitar, it staggers gracefully into nervous grandeur. Miller doesn't miss an opportunity to tug at the folk roots either, meeting her vocals with accordion in the final third.
'Thanksong' is a loftier proposal, based on the third movement of Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A minor (Op. 132). Miller sang along to each individual part in the composition, then handed the "aural score" to her collaborators, Montreal's Quatuor Bozzini, who were instructed to play back the material in headphones and interpret it by ear. Soprano Juliet Fraser completes the picture, singing slowly and quietly over the resulting piece.Hearing the strings crack and falter alongside voices recorded to pick up every breath and motion, Miller completely transcends her subject matter. We're reminded of Gavin Bryars' 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet', and that should tell you everything you need to know about the supremely special nature of this work.