Choir recordings from 2L Recordings tend to be a special treat. Since Morten Lindberg loves to record in spacious Norwegian churches, these releases tend to be pure exercises in the relationship between the human voice and the vast wooden structures inside the venue. 2L’s latest release, Tomba Sonora, is perhaps one of the purest expressions of these acoustic phenomena yet. In this case, Morten finds himself at the Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum for what he calls “a site-specific musical project,” where he captures the awesome sound of five female voices and four cellos exploring this incredible space.
Tomba Sonora, which consists of five pieces for voice composed by Kristin Bolstad (who specifically wrote this piece to be performed here), is otherworldly in its sound. The voices of the ensemble, known as Stemmeklang, are beautiful and yet unusual. When these singers stir up the acoustical whirlwinds in this awesome space, it takes the listener a while to realize that these are, indeed, voices. (Except, of course, when they are cellos, but the distinction isn’t as strong as you would think.) I found myself expecting, as the tones bloomed, to be hearing one musical instrument or another but the voice would then come into focus and give me genuine chills.
The venue for Tomba Sonora is unique, and that’s an understatement. As the liner notes explain, “To gain entry to the mausoleum one has to bend down low to get through a low, narrow opening. Just above this doorway is the urn which contains Vigeland’s ashes, so this is an act of obeisance that has to be made by everyone entering the mausoleum.” The 800 square meter space also contains frescos which took Vigeland most of his life to complete. While this can function as a bit of a tease–you really want to experience this with your eyes as well as your ears–perhaps this is where your imagination can be your greatest asset. (The enclosed booklet, of course, contains many photographs taken during the recording.)
I was lucky enough to listen to Tomba Sonora on an exceptional sound system, with speakers that excel at both decay and imaging. The Trenner & Friedl Osiris loudspeakers captured the complex sense of space in the mausoleum with ease, which is vital because this is no ordinary image nor soundstage. You can certainly place the five singers (Karoline Dahl Gullberg, Gabrielle Sørensen, Julie Kleive, Linnéa Sundfær Haug and Kristin Bolstad herself) in the space, but the true gift provided by Tomba Sonora is how those voices blend, even synthesize, into something much more mysterious as they travel through the air.
Tomba Sonora is yet one more exquisite recording from one of the most intriguing record labels in the world, but Stemmeklang will take you to places you’ve never heard before.
[photographs courtesy of 2L]