Many musicians aspire to blend the old and the new, but few do so as dramatically as Alexander Vitzthum. What he considers the “old” on his upcoming album is not ’60s soul or ’50s beach-pop. He went centuries further back, to the monks’ vocal tradition of Gregorian Chant. And for the “new” side of the equation, he used the latest in electronics: vocoders, samples, computer effects.
It makes for a wild and surprising combination, hearing Gregorian chanting sounding like if Aphex Twin joined a monastery. Vitzthum has released one song so far in what he calls The Electric Requiem, his version of the traditional “Requiem Aeternam (Introit),” and promises more to come.
“I had this concept of mixing the classical music I studied in school with the electronic music that I’ve come to love since graduating,” he tells us. “These two things haven’t been blended before as far as I know, and so I wanted to push the idea further with this piece – the idea of combining the oldest western music we have with the newest. It’s set up as a call-and-response between the solo voice (cantus firmus) and the vocoder ensemble with some musical ideas interspersed. I sampled myself singing the traditional hymn tones, then added the vocoder and effects.”
As he points out, this music might be as niche as it gets. Devotees of Gregorian chant might find this approach irreverent if not sacrilegious – this is, after all, an artform that fundamentally hasn’t changed in 500 years. Hopefully, though, younger fans of contemporary electronic music might discover a beautiful old music that could use new listeners.
Listen to “Requiem Aeternam (Introit)” and follow him on Bandcamp for future installments.