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Next Level: Where Music Worlds Collide, part 5

gustav mahler christopher tin
Composers Gustav Mahler and Christopher Tin.
Adolph Kohut (1892) / provided photo

At its most fundamental level, great art exists as an expression of the human soul. Oscar Wilde once quipped that art is a "way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."

Art consumption, such as music listening, is more of a discourse than a soliloquy. Just as the musician or composer pours him or herself into the piece, the listener, too, brings his or her own life experiences and outlook into the mix.

Next Level is an attempt to bring artists' statements and messages to people who might not otherwise be interested in listening. Hopefully it serves as a chance to experience what it means to be human, just expressed in a different way than you are accustomed to.

Well, it's kind of like that … mixed with speed dating. Hopefully Next Level helped you discover an artist or composer you were previously unaware you loved.

On to this week's installment! We've got two men obsessed with power, and music that tips your expectations upside-down.

For classical music lovers

If you like …
Mahler - Eighth Symphony
Then you should check out …
Christopher Tin - Calling All Dawns
Because …
Calling all Dawns is not, itself, a game. It was, however, inspired by Tin's work in the game Civilization, wherein he wrote the Grammy-winning arrangement of the Lord's Prayer entitled Baba Yetu.

With a new-age take on melody, harmony and rhythm, Tin's work nonetheless shares some of the defining characteristics of Mahler's best-known compositions. In short, both men are obsessed with musical power. While Tin approaches his composing from a decidedly modern (but undeniably orchestral) direction, Mahler plumbed the depths of traditional compositional styles to create the defining Mahler "knock-you-across-the-room-from-your-speakers" approach.

If the strength and depth of Mahler's repertoire attracts you, Tin's album will most certainly do the same. Calling all Dawns includes, at various points, a full taiko drum ensemble, a brass section which includes nearly a half-dozen horns and the Soweto Gospel Choir. With soaring musical lines and dynamic changes that can raise the hairs on your neck, Christopher Tin would be a great Mahler pairing.

For video game music lovers

If you like …
Marty O'Donnell - Destiny
Then you should check out …
Debussy - anything
Holst - Neptune
Because …
Perhaps most classical music strikes you as predictable. You can tell where a phrase is going to end or what the next chord will be, and this (to you) is a tragedy. And perhaps that's why you like Destiny's soundtrack so much. Just as soon as you think you know the key, it shifts. When you hum what you think will be the next chord, the music will modulate somewhere else. And, of course, there are the lovely cello and violin lines interspersed with dissonant, otherworldly women's voices.

Guess what? Pretty much that entire description can be applied to Holst's Neptune. It's part of his Planets Suite, where each planet is given a musical personality based on Greek and Roman mythology. Holst represents Neptune with a dreamy, discordant composition that ranges from sparkling woodwinds and harp to dark, brooding long tones. Neptune has the vibe of a suspense film soundtrack. (That might be fun — listening to Neptune while watching Alien with the sound off…)

And if you enjoy discord and tonal progressions that leave you with a feeling of 'Where did that come from?', check out Debussy. He didn't think that traditional forms could carry all the emotion and passion he wanted to portray. So he went in the opposite direction. Some of his stuff sounds pretty traditional (see also: romantic dude), but a lot of it will leave you wondering if he forgot his glasses while writing it. That's meant in the best possible way.

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