Switched-On Renaissance Music

Sunday Synth Jam: This video, via Richard Galbraith, captures a performance of the Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis’s motet, Salve Intemerata.

Technical details below. 

This is the first third or so of Tallis’ motet Salve intemerata for five voices, performed and recorded using a modular synthesizer.

Modules by Synthesizers.com, MOTM, SSL, Grove Audio, and MegaOhm Audio were used.

Reverb is Valhalla Room.

20 thoughts on “Switched-On Renaissance Music

  1. Richard, you just gave synths a better name. Things are so dance-oriented that people can forget what a little added craft and practice can yield. Its a fine example of the side of the coin opposite step-sequencing. If anyone says a synth isn’t a real instrument, this is the kind of gem that shuts ’em up. A+.

  2. Great to see Thomas Tallis getting a work out but I’ve yet to see a piece of classical music performed on a synthesizer that doesn’t take its sonic cues from every Wendy Carlos/Tomita/generic 70’s and 80’s “classical music played on synths” arrangement known to mankind.

    Classical music deserves to be reinterpreted again but FFS people need to start looking forwards in their sound choices.

    1. When someone plays classical music with a synth, they’re hung on the proverbial horns of a dilemma. Either they stay fairly precise and get accused of a sort of me-tooism, or they use more adventurous sounds and get accused of being too cutesy. If Bach can translate to the harmonica or the ukelele, then any classical music can surely withstand translation to a synth. If they can help to keep classical more ‘alive,’ that benefits everyone, even those who aren’t into it. The musical dialogue stays more classy and more fluid. Besides, ultimately, its all in the wrists, boys.

      1. Good point. I think buntybunbun is right, to a certain degree, though.

        In the 70’s, there were tons of ‘switched on’ releases that basically tried to capitalize on/rip-off Wendy Carlos’s work. Most of the albums were crap, and it seems like there was sort of a backlash against synthesized versions of classical music.

        Another factor is that it’s extremely hard to play classical music, and most synthesists probably don’t have the training to both play and interpret classical music well.

        When it comes to ‘switched on’ performances, it seems to me like they work best if they are a little conservative in the patches used in the arrangements. Otherwise, the synth sounds can make the music sound dated very quickly.

        A couple of ‘switched-on’ works that stand out to me are William Orbit’s Pieces in a Modern Style, and Bob James’ Rameau.

  3. It probably would be nice if more people studied the art and science of intervals like the masters of a few hundred years ago.

  4. Check out his other, earlier tracks on Soundcloud as well (account “Spinach Pizza”), they are all superb! I especially like “Alma redemptoris mater” by Orlando Lassus.

  5. Beautiful sounds and a wonderful evocative composition. Thank you.

    It’s those thick luscious tones that got me into synthesis over 30 years ago.

  6. Beautiful. It was exactly this kind of electronic music that awoke me to electronic music – some 40+ years ago. I absolutely love it.

  7. Wonderful! I enjoyed this immensely. Thank you for sharing! (good luck doing this on your hand wavy gizmos, kids!)

  8. Thank you for all your comments! And thanks for listening/watching.

    In reply to buntybunbun…when I started recording this type of music, it began as something quite personal and I didn’t really expect anyone else to be all that interested. I patch whatever sounds good to me with the ultimate goal of expression in mind. I want timbres that a) fit the music (in my subjective opinion of course), and b) can emote. I don’t really care whether they are “forward looking” or not. In any event, this music is from the 1500s. My instrument was invented in the 1960s. Anything patched on it is modern, pretty much by definition.

    Have you really listened to Tomita? He was much more daring and inventive than just about anyone, including William Orbit (who makes beautiful recordings), and most certainly me.

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