Calling All Dawns

CD Review: Calling All Dawns

It is appropriate that the first entry in the new Discoveries series of posts should have a global influence. Christopher Tin‘s Calling All Dawns is a massive song cycle that features over 200 musicians from 5 continents, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 4 choirs, 17 soloists, numerous percussion and other ethnic instruments.

The piece consists of 12 songs, each with its own language, from Mandarin and Sanskrit to Hebrew and Farsi. The lyrics are taken from religious texts such as The Torah and Bhagavad Gita, as well as ancient Japanese and Persian poetry and contemporary lyrics. A number of vocal traditions are featured, including African choral music and medieval chant, Irish keening, and Indian Carnatic improvisation. The three movements—Day, Night, Dawn—“a metaphor for the cycle of life,” said Tin, flow seamlessly into each other and correspond to “life, death and rebirth.”

“The message of the album is that we are interconnected a s a people,” he continued, “and despite our differences in culture, religion and belief, we all share the same common human experiences. Thus, the album is a tapestry of interconnected motifs—the main melody of one son will become the instrumental interlude of another, etc.”

Tin has composed for film, television, advertising, and video games. In fact, the first song, “Baba Yetu,” was the theme song to the 2005 video game Civilization IV, which won him two awards from the Game Audio Network Guild in 2007. The lyrics are a Swahili adaptation of “The Lord’s Prayer,” and the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir give a spirited performance that enhances the infectious rhythms and soaring melody. The song is also used as a featured segment for the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest choreographed fountain, situated at the base of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper.

Calling All Dawns CD
“Baba Yetu”
“Kia Hora Te Marino”

Instrumental interludes in songs like the Latin “Lux aeterna” feature more traditional film music orchestrations. But perhaps the most moving track is the final song in the middle Night movement, “Hymn Do Trojcy Swietej,” sung in Polish by legendary singer Frederic von Stade. Flicka’s burnished mezzo lends a haunting poignancy to this Catholic hymn to the Holy Trinity.

The album closes much as it began, with yet another infectious track, this time a traditional Maori blessing, “Kia Hora Te Marino.” The combination of the lyrics–“What is the greatest thing in the world?/My answer is,/(All) the people, the people, the people!”–the voices raised in joy, and some fantastic French horn riffs can’t help but give you goosebumps.

If you listen closely after the final cymbal crash, you’ll hear a lone voice quietly intoning the opening theme of the piece. “If you play the whole album as a loop,” says Tin, “the last song will fade seamlessly into the first, reflecting the cyclical nature of the universe.” Try it. It works and it’s truly haunting.

Lucas Richman leads an impassioned performance from the Royal Philharmonic and the other musicians. The album was recorded at Abbey Road in London, with additional recording in Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Johannesburg and Montreal. Engineer John Kurlander, best known for his work with The Beatles and Grammys for the Lord of the Rings albums, brings clarity and warmth to the sound of the album.

The piece sounds like a unique cross between world music and film music, but Calling All Dawns defies all labels. It’s just great music, period.

  1. Love the idea for a Discoveries series Jim and this is certainly a worthy entry. But when playing these samples I immediately heard great similarities to Karl Jenkins – ADIEMUS series which began back in 1995. In fact this – at least to me – sounds like it was written by Jenkins and is a part of his cycle. It features a very similar sound of choirs, orchestration and thematic material. He was obviously inspired by Jenkins and I just thought it worth mentioning.

    In case you haven’t heard any of Karl Jenkin’s work here’s a link to you friend’s at youtube.

    1. Hi Charles. No, I’m not familiar with Jenkins’ work, so thanks for that clip. Actually, when I was listening to the piece, parts of it reminded me of THE LION KING and CRY FREEDOM, and I mean that in a good way. It’s not that it was a rip-off in any way, more in the orchestrations and choral use. What Tin’s piece does do for me is it makes me want to hear more of his work. I can’t ask for anything more than that. :)

  2. Great article, thanks for sharing Jim! :)

    Not familiar with Jenkins’ work?! :O
    .-= Wendell´s last blog ..M.E.T. =-.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Wendell. No, not familiar with Jenkins’ work. He’s just one in a long list of people I’ve missed. My musical life is just one big game of catchup. :)

  3. I read about this disc a few months ago and I forgot the name of the composer and where the link was posted. I’m really glad you made this article! I really dig period music :) Thanks Jim.

    1. I found it a really interesting blend of elements of world music and film music. If you like either one (and I assume you like the latter LOL), then I think you’ll definitely like this.

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  5. I’m one of the fans who discovered Christopher Tin through his “Baba Yetu”, the Swahili-language hymn which opened the game “Civilization IV” and went on to dazzle in the “Video Games Live” concerts. I followed the progress of this album through his blog posts, and the preview clips he posted on his website. But that led to high expectations: could he possibly meet them?

    He didn’t just meet them — he beat them, and left them in the dust!

    “Baba Yetu” is back, with more epic orchestration, and a thrilling chorus by the Soweto Gospel Choir. “Mado Kara Mieru” is a beautiful song in Japanese, about a cycle of seasons; this alludes to the cycle of human life within the song, and the overall cycle of day-night-dawn in the album. “Lux Aeterna” (Latin) and the “Hymn do Trójcy Swietej” (Polish, featuring Frederica von Stade) plant a foot solidly in the classical tradition — this is an album that welcomes lovers of the orchestral and operatic traditions. And so on through eight other tracks, each in a different language.

    Part of what makes the album so brilliant is the clever interweaving of themes from one track into another. Here are riffs from “Lux Aeterna” and “Mado Kara Mieru” woven into “Baba Yetu” and “Hayom Kadosh”. There the opening chant and strings of “Hayom Kadash” recall starts of “Baba Yetu” and “Caoineadh”. But what I think is most compelling is how the ending of the final track, “Kia Hora Te Marino”, segues so seamlessly into the start of the first track, “Baba Yetu”. This makes the whole album a circle. You can start it at any point, and it will roll forever. In fact, I normally play the album starting from “Sukla-Krsne” (near the “end”), and put my player on repeat.

    I’m used to any work, even ones I really like, getting stale after one or two hearings. I have to put them away for some days or weeks before I’m ready to hear them again. Somehow, Tin has, with this album, written such a delicious confection that I can listen to it over and over for hours. If it were possible to wear out a digital music file from repeated playing, my bits would would be in tatters. But fortunately, the files hold up just as well as Tin’s music.

    1. Hi Jason, thanks for commenting. I’d have to agree with. I’ve gone back to this album time and time again and Tin’s music never lets me down. :)

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