Can you suggest more music like this?
July 19, 2016 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I recently discovered this rendition of O Magnum Mysterium on tumblr and it took my breath away. I mean that truly - the first time I listened, it gave me goosebumps and then brought me to tears. Something about the vocal harmonies coming together and then drifting apart and the sound resonating off the walls of the bathroom and aaagggh! I need more of this sort of music in my life.

How would you describe this song, for search purposes? Choral duet? I feel like there's a genre here I'm not aware of.

I really like Gregorian chants but this seems different than that - what I specifically like is the two singers (i.e. not a full choir) singing different harmonious parts that occasionally resonate with each other.

For instance, this recording of the same song does not give me the same effect AT ALL.

I also enjoyed this Icelandic hymn sung in a train station - it had a similar effect on me as O Magnum Mysterium, though not to the same degree.

What I don't want:
- pop culture covers by choirs
- huge choirs
- people vocalizing the tune of Pachelbel's Canon
- the thing where one person records 45 vocal tracks (and video) of themselves for one song

What I do want:
- that ethereal, haunted sound
- limited number of people - think 2-5 or so
- HARMONIES. Lots of harmonizing.

YouTube preferred, but I have Amazon Prime Music and access to Spotify as well. And iTunes, I guess. Portions of a certain song are fine. Language is irrelevant, accompaniment is irrelevant.

Help me find some hauntingly beautiful harmonies!
posted by meggan to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
Try looking up Abbess Hildegard's music. Maybe "Feather on the Breath of God"
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:34 PM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

You want the music of Poulenc, Morten Lauridsen, Arvo Paart, Eric Whitacre, Bruckner, perhaps even Palestrina. Randall Thompson's Alleluia is also a classic example of this style. Start with those!

Lauridsen: O Nata Lux
Bruckner: Os Justi Meditabitur
Thompson: Alleluia
Whitacre: Alleluia
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:34 PM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The second recording you link to is not of the same song; it is the same text but by a different composer. The first setting was by Tomás Luis de Victoria circa 1600, the latter by Morten Lauridsen, who is currently living.

How does this recording or this recording of Victoria's setting work for you?

I think you might like a lot of other Renaissance-era music sacred music.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:38 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So those are two different Magnums. The one you like is a Renaissance setting by de Victoria, as opposed to the Lauridsen, which is modern. Check out these gents' take on the older version. That being said, Bingen yes (Anonymous 4 may have the tone you like), or Rachmaninoff Vespers... Jinx, on preview, mountmccabe!
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:43 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: New York Polyphony is a four-piece vocal group that has several albums of this repertoire, quite a few of which are available via Spotify.

They have quite a bit on their YouTube channel as well, such as this Audivi vocem by Thomas Tallis.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:45 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh my, I wasn't try to return the jinx, notquitemaryann!
posted by mountmccabe at 7:48 PM on July 19, 2016

Best answer: Not sure if there's a single word for what you're looking for, or even a couple! When I'm needing a fix of this, I tend to look for specific vocal groups rather than composers - that way I'm sure to get the one-on-a-part feeling. (Actually, searching "one on a part" might get you somewhere...)

AE is a vocal duo, here mixing an American and a Balkan folk song
Anonymous 4 is a quartet performing largely Medieval and Renaissance music: An English Ladymass

Actually, Balkan singing groups in general may give you what you need. For instance, The Eva Quartet, Kitka, The Nightingale Trio...

Also check out Georgian [the Republic thereof] folk music. They're all about harmony, and you can often find small ensembles. I love this song, though this recording of it may be a bit muddy for what you're looking for?
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 7:49 PM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh My Darling, Clementine.
posted by oceano at 8:00 PM on July 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Most of Keep On Doing by The Roches scratches this itch for me. Here's "Losing True"
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:05 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also des Prez (my very favorite "sorry I was such a jackass" song ever) and di Lasso, or sift through some Palestrina.

(We owe each other Cokes at a future meetup, mountmccabe)
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:12 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Vokal Ansambl Gordela - Zinskaro
posted by Mrs. Buck Turgidson at 8:14 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Arvo Part.
posted by gehenna_lion at 8:16 PM on July 19, 2016

3rding Arvo Part. In particular, I respond very viscerally to De Profundis (some recordings feel like magic to me and others are only meh). I'm also very partial to the Palestrina Motets for 5 voices.
posted by mathtime! at 8:20 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pergolesi Stabat Mater
posted by hortense at 8:24 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: the hilliard ensemble is my favorite vocal group- they focus on both early polyphony as well as modern stuff like the previously mentioned arvo part
posted by noloveforned at 8:29 PM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm wondering if what you are responding to is not so much harmony as the effects of counterpoint?
posted by praemunire at 8:32 PM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

and this thread just turned me onto new york polyphony, who also geek out over the hilliard ensemble and make some hilliard recording recommendations.
posted by noloveforned at 8:33 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's an Arvo Part piece that reminded me of the one in the OP: Arvo Part - An den Wassern zu Babel
posted by gehenna_lion at 8:49 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some more secular music of this type:

April is in My Mistress' Face.
Il bianco e dolce cigno.
Come again, sweet love doth now invite.
The Silver Swan.
Lasciate mi morire.

In addition to the other suggestions, you might have ok luck searching on "madrigal music", but that's probably a bit wider net than you're looking for.
posted by brentajones at 9:18 PM on July 19, 2016

Best answer: You should check out the Blue Heron Choir who perform Renaissance and Medieval music. Example on youtube, more on youtube.
posted by jhawk1729 at 9:26 PM on July 19, 2016

The Tallis Scholars are a great group for this repertoire, i.e. renaissance vocal music. Almost any recording of theirs will be just fine; one of my favorites is of Byrd's masses.

For composers, also check out Ockeghem; there is a series of recordings by the Medieval Ensemble of London of his secular songs that's very similar in tone to your clip. Like this one. His Requiem's real good too.

Other composers to seek out of the era, besides Victoria, are Lassus and Dufay.
posted by bertran at 9:46 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Go listen to a bunch of Renaissance polyphony. "Perhaps even Palestrina" indeed! A few examples, biased by my own personal experience and taste:

Byrd: Mass for Four Voices
Tallis: Spem in Alium
Victoria: Requiem
Monteverdi: Crucifixus
Taverner (not Tavener, although he's pretty cool too): Magnificat

And an honorable mention, because he lived in the 20th century rather than the Renaissance: Franz Biebl's setting of the Ave Maria.

Some ensembles I like that work in this musical space (and other spaces you might enjoy) include Chanticleer, Theatre of Voices, Conspirare, and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.
posted by egregious theorem at 9:55 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Then there's, of course, John Taverner's Western Wind Mass. Lots of soloist polyphonic action alternating with full choir. Background to the song here.

More Taverner: The Sanctus and Benedictus from the Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas.

A passage "in nomine Domini" from the Benedictus soon became a favorite of composers of instrumental music. John Bull wrote a number of In Nomine elaborations for keyboard instrument. The most famous goes in 11/4 meter, which was experimental for the time, or any time really (example with the music here; a more light-footed version here. Harpsichord warning for both).
posted by Namlit at 11:37 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There is a specific term for this – what you're looking for is called "one on a part" choral singing.

Clearly lots of great suggestions above, but the single most chill-inducing example I know of is the piece Absalon, fili mi - sung by the Hilliard Ensemble - album title is "Josquin Desprez: Motets and Chansons" (not on youtube, definitely on itunes, likely on the streaming services you mention)
posted by kalapierson at 11:57 PM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Love your question, and the answers it generated!

It's a different type of choirs but you might appreciate the Melanesian choirs (careful, loud, might be too huge, sorry) from the Thin Red Line. Never fails to give me goosebumps, at least the first two. Another song with polynesian choirs Mike Oldfield - A New Beginning I just remembered from a long time ago.

Or how about recitations of the Sūrah Yāʾ-Sīn. There are so many on youtube it's hard to recommend any particular one.

Selda Bağcan's Gine Haber Gelmis and Gayri Dayanamam, maybe?

On a much different and possibly completely off the mark yet still incredibly visceral note and as found on the Voyager Golden Record, Blind Willie Johnson - Dark was the night. This thing is gliding in interstellar space twenty-plus billion km from here, how's that for ethereal?
posted by phphph at 1:33 AM on July 20, 2016

Best answer: While looking for some Anúna links for you I also stumbled over the concept of Choral AMSR which might be a good search term for you.
posted by Iteki at 2:04 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's plenty of Bulgarian choir stuff available, but here's an example of a small group singing in that style. It's always given me chills!
posted by cellura p at 5:41 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Kate and Janelle's cover of Neko Case's 'Star Witness' is just beautiful and possibly what you're after as well.
posted by h00py at 6:26 AM on July 20, 2016

Best answer: Rolandskvadet is one of my favorite pieces of music. It definitely isn't a choral piece, 3 singers I think? I find it quite ethereal, particularly the descant in the back half.
posted by Carillon at 9:28 AM on July 20, 2016

Speaking of Bulgarian choirs, you might enjoy a corroboration between a Bulgarian choir and Tuvan throat singers group.
posted by easyasy3k at 9:48 AM on July 20, 2016

This is a long shot, because it's more like art music than traditional chorale music of the middle ages, but you might like aspects of Roomful of Teeth, especially their score for the movie "Colorado". Seconding any of the choral works by Arvo Pårt, too.
posted by littlerobothead at 10:36 AM on July 20, 2016

Ah yeah, that early medieval/Renaissance polyphony is pretty magical. Here are some composers you can try:

Josquin des Prez

Some other search terms that might help: organum, madrigal, motet, ars antiqua
posted by speicus at 12:15 PM on July 20, 2016

Best answer: Within this vein, it's the very deep voices that give me shivers:
Valaam Men's Choir: Orthodox Shrines of the Russian North
Russian chant - We bow down before Your Cross
Serbian basso profondo, low voices of Serbia
posted by oceanmorning at 9:55 PM on July 20, 2016

You might also be interested in Lumen Valo! They fit all your criteria, I think, and their version is my spine-tingling favourite. Here's their take on the Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium. They have other versions in their albums as well.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:44 AM on July 21, 2016

I might suggest Madra, the debut album by Miranda Sex Garden. Three women singing, acappella, Elizabethan madrigals. I love the sound of their voices weaving in and out through the vocal lines.
posted by the sobsister at 10:37 AM on July 22, 2016

This Sigur Ros clip always works for me.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:04 PM on July 24, 2016

Victoire. More Cathedral City (the first album) than Vespers (the second). It's beautiful and haunting. A bit chaotic at times, but so lovely.
posted by taltalim at 3:09 PM on July 25, 2016

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