Composer Christopher Tin and Voces8 team up to remember extinct birds
New Classical Tracks - Christopher Tin (Extended)
Christopher Tin/Voces 8 — The Lost Birds (Decca)
Composer Christopher Tin and the British vocal ensemble Voces8 were introduced to one another by their recording engineer about a decade ago. Ever since that first meeting, Tin has been looking for an opportunity to collaborate with the singers. They were finally able to come together on a project called The Lost Birds.
“The main overture of The Lost Birds is actually a melody that I'd written years ago for a documentary about bird extinctions,” Tin said. “This subject has been on my mind for more than ten years. This one little tune that I wrote 11 years ago has stayed as something that I wanted to expand upon in a choral requiem format. I finally got the chance to do that with Voces8 during the pandemic.”
Why is the loss of birds important to you?
“I've been very captivated by the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine, which you may know comes from the 19th century practice where miners used to bring a canary down to the coal mines with them. If the canary died it meant there was a buildup of poisonous gases in the coal mine and the miners would be next. I thought there was no better metaphor for the impending change in the climate and what it could mean for our own civilization. I took this metaphor and I essentially made an entire choral piece out of it.
“We talk about birds and celebrate their beauty in the first half. But over the course of the second half, the birds vanish and the texts become more suggestive of humans going extinct along with the birds. It’s a soft activist message about where these extinctions are leading us.”
Why did you decide to adopt a 19th-century musical vocabulary?
“I immersed myself in the vernacular of the 19th century, both musically and poetically. The four poets that I chose to set to music are Emily Dickinson, Sara Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Christina Rossetti. I really wanted to create a time capsule that was reflecting on where we are now.”
What were you going for with the piece “Thus in the Winter”?
“The way I think of writing choral parts is almost like the way that birds fly in a flock. The different voices are individual birds and they all have their own motion, but collectively they have a group motion to them. It's directional and it's made up of all these individual threads. A piece like ‘Thus in the Winter’ is a realization of that movement. It is a lot of individual lines weaving around, sometimes coming together with big cries, but often diverging and doing their own things.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Christopher Tin/Voces8 — The Lost Birds (Christopher Tin official store)
Christopher Tin/Voces8 — The Lost Birds (Center Stage store)
Christopher Tin/Voces8 — The Lost Birds (Amazon)
Christopher Tin (official site)
Voces8 (official site)