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The ambitious musical project takes in a series of iconic National Trust locations across England as its inspiration, turning them into unlikely recording spaces. Michael and a host of musicians and collaborators — including soprano Grace Davidson (featured on Max Richter’s Sleep) and Shards (the choir on Nils Frahm’s All Melody) — travelled across the country in pursuit of places far removed from the traditional recording studio to create seven unique and moving pieces, straddling the past and the future.
The diversity of Michael Price’s choices ranges from the ruins of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire to the Fan Bay WWII shelter, cut deep into the chalk cliffs of Dover. All owned by the National Trust save one, each venue became both the inspiration and the recording studio for Price and his accompaniment of renowned musical ensembles, choirs and soloists.
Acoustics varied wildly as the artists moved from places designed with sound in mind to locations which demanded the use of miners’ helmets for light and battery-powered sound gear. The final recordings carry the genuinely unique sonic blueprints and spirit of each place – from the birdsong in the courtyard at Speke Hall to the steam-driven cotton mill accompaniment at Quarry Bank.
When we recorded the piece at Fan Bay in the World War II shelter deep inside the chalk cliffs of Dover, Peter Gregson’s cello wasn’t at all happy with the clammy, dank conditions; but to be in the tunnels where young soldiers spent months on end, constantly on alert for incoming bombers, gave the recording an extraordinarily intimate, moving quality. At each site, the human mixed with the historical, and the natural environment of each space comes through with each piece. I tried to leave an imprint of each location on the record.
– Michael Price
While each piece of music is named after the location in which it was created, William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience courses through them as well. Soprano Grace Davidson sings Blake’s poignant words about nature, religion and the industrial revolution on several of the pieces including the astoundingly beautiful album closer Shade Of Dreams, written after the birth of Michael’s daughter.
The final piece, Shade of Dreams, is part of a group of pieces I wrote for the birth of our daughter, Emilie. It, like all the works on the album, takes its text from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, in this case, A Cradle Song. As much as Tender Symmetry is about the past, it is firmly about the future, and all our of shared futures.
– Michael Price