Michael Zev Gordon's 'Nigun'

The recent BEASTdome mini-festival at the University of Birmingham's Barber Concert Hall included a UK premiere of Professor Michael Zev Gordon's 'Nigun'. 

The composition was performed by renowned bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood, at the end of his international tour, including USA, Canada, Poland and Holland, with his specially commissioned Electric Voice project.

Speaking to Composer's Edition, Michael Zev Gordon commented "A nigun is a religious Jewish song, especially associated with Chassidic mysticism. Most often such songs have no text, and are carried along through many repetitions of one or two vocal sounds such as ‘ai’ or ‘yai’. For me, the mystical ecstasy that is pointed towards comes precisely from the lack of verbal meaning, with ‘abstract’ music being centre stage. In my work the solo voice begins in the foreground, developing a meditative, improvisation-like line, with little sense of beat. But the background electronics gradually surface and a rhythmic repeating pattern begins to make its presence felt. Initially the source of this pattern is submerged because of the electronic treatment. But as the solo voice increasingly joins up with it, so the electronic sounds multiply and clarify; and their source – a recording of a large gathering of Chassidim – make its presence felt. The Chassidic voices sweep up and even start to overwhelm the soloist: the one becomes part of the many. The electronic parts of the score were created with Ian Dearden of Sound Intermedia."