Trachea from 2L and Norway’s Schola Cantorum

With Trachea, the latest superb recording from Norwegian label 2L, label founder and recording engineer Morten Lindberg continues his commitment to contemporary music. Here, working with Schola Cantorum, Norway’s well-tuned 55-year old chamber choir, under the leadership of Tone Bianca Sparre Dahl, Lindberg scores big with six fascinating and musically accessible choral compositions, all but one of which were written in the last five years.

The opening track, “Snilla Patea” (2016) by Bjørn Kåre Odde (b.1990), begins with what sounds like a medieval Norwegian folk song instrumental. Soon the voices of Schola Cantorum enter, the high sopranos soaring with early-music purity over Odde’s fiddle. Then the men surface, singing a melody intended to evoke the basic emotions of melancholy and freedom inherent to Norwegian folk music. For music lovers put off by “modern music,” the archetypal familiarity of this track’s harmonies, transposed to a thoroughly modern context, is reassuring.

After we’ve been softened up, as it were, “Trachea” (2018) by Martin Ødegaard (b. 1983) takes us on a very different journey—inside a windpipe. This time, a double choir intersperses breathy and even guttural sounds with louder extended vowels. Thanks to the recording’s high sampling rate—I auditioned it in 24/44.1 MQA which, when unfolded and rendered, played at 24/352.8—the sonic expanse is huge. Enhancing the sensation of openness are four horns, played by Marie Solum Gran, Niklas Sebastian Grenvik, Daniel Weiseth Kjellesvik, and Julius Pranevičius, which play off and around the voices. Visual, sensual, and cosmic by turn, this performance will instill a sense of wonder in many a listener.

I wish an English translation of “Alt I Universet” (Everything in the universe, 1988), the poem by Stein Mehren to which 2L favorite Ståle Kleiberg (b. 1958) devotes more than 5 1/2 minutes of music, were available. Given that it isn’t, I’ll just say that it melds Kleiberg’s warm and evocative harmonies with words that address humankind’s freedom to choose change and be changed in turn.

Kleiberg is hardly the only composer on the program who addresses the spiritual choices facing humankind. Karin Rehnqvist (b. 1957) devotes nine minutes to the words “When I close my eyes, I dream of peace” (2016), setting them first in English and then in twelve other languages. For each language, she chooses suitable music (e.g., an Arabic scale for the Arabic, and classic Russian emotionalism for the Russian words). Her goal is to express the desire for peace that she believes most humans share.

The spiritual—this time the Christian variety of same—comes to the fore twice more on the recording. The first visitation arrives via Bjørn Morten Christophersen’s (b. 1976) “Oak and Mayfly” (2014), whose harmonic mysteries, inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, help convey the atmosphere surrounding the birth of Jesus. The program ends with Frøy Aagre’s (b. 1977) “Gloria” (2014) (as in Gloria in excelsis Deo—Glory to God on high)—a setting of the words the angels purportedly sang to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. The echo created by Aagre’s haunting soprano saxophone adds to the sense of spiritual exaltation.

Until 2L gets its own webstore going, Trachea is available in download formats ranging from MP3 to stereo DXD, stereo and multichannel DSD256, and MQA . When it arrives in July, the physical package will offer many of these formats. Given Lindberg’s skill as a recordist, higher resolutions are likely to get you closer to the real thing.

Anton's picture

I tried running snippets of “Alt I Universet” past my Google translation app and got nowhere.

I like the emotionally expressive vibe your review created. Kudos!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Even before 'nose' and 'mouth'? :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wait till the next release comes out ........ It is called 'lungs' :-) .........

After that they are gonna come up with an album called 'esophagus' :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

That album you mentioned, originally was named as 'Deep Throat' ....... However, a prominent news paper strongly objected to that name ....... So, the name was changed to 'Larynx' :-) .........

DH's picture

"I auditioned it in 24/44.1 MQA which, when unfolded and rendered, played at 24/352.8"
The conversion of a hi res master to MQA results, by nature of the MQA process, to a file with max resolution of 17/96. In this case. probably 88k. The rest of the original is discarded in order to reduce file size. The MQA algorithm considers that part of the file "perceptually inaudible' and discards it.
This is not speculation, it is fact-confirmed by Bob Stuart himself in interviews.
The 24/352 your system is showing you is the result of upsampling done after the 44.1 undergoes the "first unfold" to 88.2k. Several non MQA software playback programs can do the first unfold.
Any user can further upsample the file to 24/352. No MQA DAC needed.

If you are not purposely writing falsehoods, you should write "when unfolded, UPSAMPLED, rendred, and then played at 24/352.8...."

There is no such thing as a 24/352 MQA file. 4x rate MQA is obtained only from upsampling from 2x rates and less than 24 bit resolution.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I thought the whole MQA process brings the listener "closer to the real thing" :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

OTOH .... it may be too close for comfort :-)..........

ok's picture

..content even more so.

jimtavegia's picture

does not fit the beauty of the music and I don't get the white dress. An ensemble performance should only draw attention to the group and performance, not any one individual. I am probably the only one who see it this way.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

As a side note .......

... 'have you ever seen the far side of a mountain swallow the sky' ........

"It Will Follow the Rain" ......... The Tallest Man On Earth :-) .........