A New Recording of Composer Eric Whitacre's "What If"
HAS AUDIO PIECE I ran across a recording of Eric Whitacre and David NoroÃ±a's What If today. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="157" caption="Eric Whitacre"]
[/caption] If you don't know who Eric Whitacre is, he's quite possibly the hottest composer of choral music livingÂ today.Â (Here's a link to his blog.)Â His music reflects many influences, including Monteverdi (textual sensitivity) and Morten Lauridsen (harmonic language, use of the choral "instrument"), in stunningly beautiful works on a gamut of subjects.Â Actor David NoroÃ±a, known for his work as Scott Garcia on television's Inconceivable, co-composed with Whitacre What If and four other songs for his independent film Alligator Alley (2000). No wonder What If sounds like popular music.Â It is.Â It's not strange that someone of this day and age, and especially someone of Whitacre's generation (my own generation, as heâs in his 30s), would have popular music in his ear.Â Indeed, in addition to his classical works, Whitacre has composed (also with NoroÃ±a)Â a musical, Paradise Lost, with a fantasy storyline andÂ anime-influenced staging.Â But as WOSUâs music director Beverley Ervine put it, it is "a little bit of a departure" for him and for the "classical" choral music world.Â And it was quite refreshing to hear the pieceâwith its energetic, pop-sounding percussionâon the most recent recording (A Company of Voices) of the Austin-based choral ensemble Conspirare.Â Listen: [audio:whitacre_what_if_conspirare3.mp3] As in his other music, Whitacre doesnât just set the text in What If, he sets it in motion.Â He gives the poemâa dialogue between a non-parenthetical voice and a parenthetical voiceâits own conversational momentum.Â An excerpt from the text: Youâre hiding, surviving Youâre stubborn, too. (True.) And youâre frightened not knowing your heart. (And you?) Iâm trying to question, the answerâs near (Where?) Here. Whitacre gives each of these voices expression through varying divisions of the chorus, creating here, with the drum set, xylophone and metalophone, kaleidoscopic tone coloring that permeates his "classical" choral works. I personally enjoy the full gamut of popular music.Â But much of it is like what they say about Chinese food: tastes great, but youâre hungry an hour later.Â With What If Whitacre and NoroÃ±a have composed something that is toe-tappingly fun and also gorgeous and interesting.Â Does it sound like movie music? Yesâespecially near the end, and noâif by "movie music"Â you meanÂ John Williams' Wagner-inspired scores.Â But What If does have that uplifting feel that, let's face it,Â is Hollywood's chief commodity.Â It's sound-good and feel-good music.Â And isnât that what we want from most things musical? --Jennifer Hambrick