I often get so caught up in the mirk and mire of pop and rock music, this wave of contemporary creation favours guitar over most other instruments and even non-instrumental ways of making music that I sometimes forget about the finer things in the musical world. And These Distances Between Us: 21st Century Songs of Longing is undoubtedly an album fashioned from the finer things.
No matter what world you come from, indie-kid, metaller, hip-hop hooligan, or pop picker, you can’t deny that what you hear on the album isn’t the result of years of extensive musical training. The piano work, courtesy of Tad Koriath, Jonathan Santore and Craig Brandwein, is gorgeously delivered, creating myriad soundscapes from those composed of dramatic weight to more spacious chiming deftness and from relaxed ambience to skittering and energetic bursts, as required.
But it is Emily Jaworski Koriath’s vocals which are the real focal point here. A Mezzo-Soprano delivering operatic salvos, her voice dances lightly and elegantly, occasionally ornately and with a more intense purpose, over the waves and washes of piano acting as her platform.
Originally conceived as a suite of music for a chamber ensemble, the pandemic put paid to any ideas of rehearsing that many players under one roof. So the husband and wife team re-imagined it and reworked the music for piano and voice, working remotely with a more limited collection of contributors. What you hear is the result of this change of direction. And it is awesome. Not just awesome, but exciting, eloquent, vibrant, fluid, dramatic, delicate, incredible and surprising, moving through these and many other moods and meanings as required to paint the sonic pictures with these emotional hues.
The album is divided into various chapters, for want of a better word, and plays out like a book of poetry, prose and song put to music. The Giver of Stars, a series of poems by Amy Lowell, is spacious and dramatic. Jonathan Satore’s 2 Letter of Suplicia blends electronics into the mix in a way that you feel Musgorgsky might have used on Pictures At An Exhibition had the technology been available to him. And Craig Brandwein’s 3 Rilke Songs are sparse and sweeping.
We often get fooled into thinking that classical music was made in the past and, to a large degree these days, stays in the past. But this collaboration shows that classical music is alive, kicking and moving with the times. There is much here that is in line with the classical tradition, but there is just as much which is looking to take such music over the horizon and into a bright new future. I think it is safe to say that Emily Jaworski Koriath and Tad Koriath have succeeded.