Dufay Re-Imagined by John Potter and Ambrose Field

When The Hilliard Ensemble collaborated with Norwegian Jan Garbarek on Officium (ECM, 1994) and the follow-up Mnemosyne (ECM, 1999), who knew that the combination of vocal music, ranging from pre-AD Greece to contemporary times, would mesh so beautifully with the legendary saxophonist’s soaring improvisations? With Being Dufay, released in 2009 on ECM’s classical New Series imprint, the label has taken another intrepid step into brave new world where processed and found sounds mesh seamlessly with musical fragments from the 15th Century to create one of the most hauntingly beautiful records of the year.

Composer Ambrose Field uses live and studio electronics to reshape the music of Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474) into fuller constructs. Celestial sonics turn tenor (and ex-Hilliard Ensemble member) John Potter‘s plaintive and deeply expressive interpretations of Dufay’s (in this iteration)  linear music into something altogether new. (AllAboutJazz, John Kelman)

Regarding his compositional process, Ambrose Field says:

“Whilst being important for my work, I have a general dislike of computers, preferring to find the right sounds first instead of undertaking extensive processing later. This can be a lengthy activity, but has the result that the electronics here highlight the contributions of humans, rather than machines.”

In a day and age filled with debates over authenticity and scholarship, and in which so much of the music we have from the early Renaissance survives only in fragments or without clear indication of tempo or arrangement, how refreshing it is to see two musicians taking a strikingly different approach that is no less attuned to the spirit of the music, allowing it to freely wander its own contours without having to fit into those of another.  (ECM Reviews, Tyran Grillo)

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