The Glass Cathedral – Philip Sheppard – Cello – free MP3 stream
It’s now ten years since I recorded The Glass Cathedral. I had the idea for the piece after being so struck with Monteverdi’s Orfeo that I wanted to somehow record it, or elements of it, whilst playing with the idea of creating spaces purely through sound. Click here to listen to it:[Audio https://radiomovies.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/02-glass-cathedral.mp3%5D
At this time I was coming to understand the concepts of multitracking – even ten years ago the gap between classical writing and techniques from the studio world seemed poles apart in my head. Luckily, through meeting Pete Thomas, the drummer from (amongst other things) Squeeze and The Attractions I could experiment in a friendly studio just around the corner with the engineer Paul Riley who patiently recorded the bizarre ideas whilst being perplexed and yet brilliantly supportive.
Original CD notes:
The Glass Cathedral: This work is a meditative depiction of an impossible space. Piranesi’s designs for gargantuan structures, particularly the prison sketches, provide the blueprint for the construction of this work.
The harmonics depict the upper reaches of the building; the crypt groans below; a viol consort stir into life in the foreground and a voice intones from the middle distance. The Glass Cathedral was recorded on an English Cello built in London in the 1760’s by an anonymous maker. The track was recorded and mixed at the Bonaparte Rooms in St Margarets.
Gramophone Magazine review March 1999 EDITION
‘The Glass Cathedral Philip Sheppard (vc)
Debut solo records usually default to one of two categories: 1. Breathtaking but vacuous displays of virtuosity; 2. Gorgeous but empty digital fantasies. Youy can guess at once that Philip Sheppard’s approach doesn’t fit the first category – the booklet is almost too reticent about the performer’s name – and suspicions of the second category fade quickly. Yes, it uses overdubbing; yes it features a new digital and acoustic five string cello. But the pieces use state-of-the-art technology without being overwhelmed by it. In any case, Sheppard restricted himself to the sounds made on the instrument, as opposed to using it as a MIDI controller.
Maybe the programmatic nature of the venture also helps Sheppard to avoid conventional pitfalls. ‘Harrison’s Chronometer’ is a soundscape of a voyage to Lisbon; The Glass cathedral depicts ‘an impossible space’ and sent me back to my LP collection to compare Bryars’s ‘Sinking of the Titanic’ on Obscure. Like that piece, ‘The Glass Cathedral’ always avoids narcosis, whilst dealing with drones and generally slow changes (except once or twice when Sheppard dumps a huge string section right in your lap after a lull). He’s very committed to improvisation, but I’m not sure how much it could figure in a piece involving 44 cello overdubs. Whatever the case, it works beautifully.
‘Harrison’s Chronometer’ uses a wider vocabulary, drawing on creaks and what sounds like whalesong. It’s gripping music – much more than a soundtrack for an imaginary movie – and it reclaims for string players those long drones and chords that ‘ambient’ musicians couldn’t function without.
Because the disc is, in effect, an EP it’s not going to seriously dent most punter’s budgets. BLUE SNOW is a new independent label run in true improvised music fashion by Sheppard himself. If all the releases are up to this standard, Sheppard (glimpsed recently with The Smith Quartet, Pulp and Terry Riley) has nothing to worry about.