In the past when I thought of virtual instruments I thought of MIDI tones emanating from an old cream colored computer's built-in speaker, some terrible synthesized songs from the 1980s, or even some chart-toppers created on a workstation in a bedroom without regard for the actual sound of real instruments. There's certainly nothing wrong with expressing one's musical creativity this way, but I'll pass on spending a buck when the first single is released. That was the past before I heard David Chesky's new creation Urbanicity / Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra / The New York Variations. The album's only real physical instrument is an electric guitar played by the 24 year old rising star Bryan Baker on the Concerto centerpiece. Every other instrument comprising the Urbancity Orchestra of New York is virtual. This may be a hard concept to accept for many audiophiles, but if anyone understands what real instruments sound like it's music impresario and current Composure in Residence at the National Symphony of Taiwan David Chesky. This album is thrilling to listen to on a nice audio system and is available beginning March 17, 2011 from HDtracks.com as a 24 bit / 48 kHz FLAC download. Computer Audiophile readers will be pleased to know HDtracks has provided them a 50% off code.
Dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker David Chesky didn't simply create the Urbancity album over a weekend from his Manhattan residence. David followed the development of digital recording, sampling, and synthesizing for many years before he felt the technology was ready for such a project. He spent three years assembling engineers and programmers to create a computer system capable of playing symphonic works using the Sibelius composing program. “It took years to accurately replicate tonality, timings, spacial cues, dynamics, phrasing, and the timbre and envelope of each instrument,” said Chesky, “it was an enormous amount of challenging work, but this technique allows the composer to really nail contrapuntal and rhythmic textures in a whole new way. I love working with live musicians, I’ll never want to give that up; but when the opportunity to create a virtual orchestra presented itself I thought - ‘Why not ? It’s another vehicle to create new music’.” One very appealing aspect of this whole concept to computer audiophiles is the fact that the project was created on a computer and is delivered to computer music servers for playback without touching optical media or magnetic tape. That's got to have old school, card carrying, knuckle dragging audiophiles thinking the world is coming to an end or possibly rolling over in their graves.
Technology is only one part of the Urbancity project. There is no chance myself or many of the Computer Audiophile readers could get behind a computer with the Sibelius program and create a symphonic masterpiece out of thin air. David is highly decorated composer, among many other talents, who used his enthusiasm for New York City to inspire his writing of this entire project. “With the compositions on this new recording I am using a language inspired by my experience living in New York, one of the most electrifying cities on the planet, surrounded by the sights and sounds of people from all over the world,” says David. "I strongly believe that our new music should reflect our cultural experience, just as Beethoven's music reflected the cultural landscape of his time. In my compositions you can hear all the beautiful music I've been immersed in my whole life, and that includes Latin music, jazz, rock, hip hop and the great classical composers as well. My music is urban music. Perhaps one could say my style is neo-impressionist. But I do not live on some quaint idyllic country farm, I live in the city that never sleeps! It is a hard-driving concrete jungle that pulsates around the clock, and I am simply responding to its diversity. I love the music handed down to us through 1000 years of Western music history, but I feel that we have a responsibility to create and nurture the music of our own time in today's concert experience, and that's one of the things I'm trying to accomplish."
Admittedly Classical music and symphonic works are not filling up my 160 GB iPod Classic or the majority of my music collection. That said I do enjoy some pieces immensely. For example Reference Recordings' Bolero! - Orchestral Fireworks and Grammy winning Britten's Orchestra. Based on my several spins of Urbancity over the last couple weeks I can say I really like the music as well as the sound quality. What good is a great quality recording if the music is worse than some Scottish Nose Whistle? The two ballets, Urbancity and The New York Variations are my favorites on this album. Many reader may prefer The Concerto as it contains the nice electric guitar pieces by Bryan Baker. Both Ballets have plenty of action and excitement to keep most non-classical aficionados interested through the entire movements. The New York Variations is a great place to start for readers seeking immediate gratification.
Title:* Urbanicity / Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra / The New York Variations (48/24)
Artist:* David Chesky
Label:* Chesky Records
Release Date:* 2010
Purchase and download Urbancity from HDtracks
Use the following code to receive a 50% discount on either the 24/48 or 16/44.1 version of Urbancity: compAudioUrban