• Urbanicity / Concerto for Electric Guitar and Orchestra / The New York Variations

    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.


    Virtual Orchestra

    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 programlink. “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 Fireworkslink and Grammy winning Britten's Orchestralink. 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
    Genre:* Classical
    Label:* Chesky Records
    Release Date:* 2010

    Purchase and download Urbancity from HDtrackslink

    Use the following code to receive a 50% discount on either the 24/48 or 16/44.1 version of Urbancity: compAudioUrban




    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Richiyaado's Avatar
      Richiyaado -
      Thanks for the tip... I went ahead and downloaded this from HDTracks, and received the discount.<br />
      <br />
      I've only listened once (through headphones), and enjoyed it... I don't think I would have known the instrumentation was synthesized (which is remarkable in itself), but was mostly struck by how much his music reminds me of Frank Zappa.
    1. American Audiophile's Avatar
      American Audiophile -
      Right! Chesky is the 21st century Frank Zappa! Concerto for Electric Guitar's dense composition, powerful dynamics, and sheer beauty will rock your world. Chesky has somehow fused orchestral complexity with mind-bogglingly fierce electric guitar!
    1. qualityornothing's Avatar
      qualityornothing -
      I downloaded this out of curiosity since I used to play percussion in an orchestra in college. The sounds are frighting real. I must admit I do not think most real orchestras could play this precise. I have no idea how Chesky pulled this off. And it is amazingly audiophile as well as one would expect from a Chesky album. Maybe the best dynamics I have heard on digital.The music is modern but accessible and it grooves.<br />
      <br />
      Maybe the world is changing a little to fast for my tastes. Whats next the computers will write music for themselves and we humans will be out of the picture all together?
    1. Dynacoman's Avatar
      Dynacoman -
      Well I never thought I'd hear computer generated music like this in my lifetime. From the first Moog to the digitally synthesized drums to virtually every instrument now is an unbelievable achievement.<br />
      I am even more blown away by the dynamics and phrasing that this work has. Hats off to david and the programmers and engineers that pulled this off. What a great tool for young composers to "try out" their compositions with Sibelius and really hear them.<br />
      <br />
      Next decade - we'll see the computer compose and play its own compositions after studying Bach or Mozart or maybe Alan Broadbent!!
    1. TrebleCliff's Avatar
      TrebleCliff -
      ACCESSIBLE and GROOVES ??? I wish I could agree. Chesky's music is to way out for my tastes. What is this Grooves stuff. I am happy to be old fashioned. Give me my Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms any day of the week over this crazy stuff. I want my classical music to sound like classical music, not some hybrid invention.This music is not for me, but the sound is stunning and dynamic and would make a good test CD.
    1. audiolofft's Avatar
      audiolofft -
      Composer David Chesky has captured the sound of urban settings and New York in an orchestrated sampled work with astonishing effectiveness. The sound quality is very clean and seems entirely acoustic (except for the electric guitar played by Bryan Baker); there's wonderful use of percussion and drums--be prepared to reduce your subwoofer level by at least 3 dB to avoid overwhelming bass. For fans of multi-channel, including myself, the recording decodes beautifully in DTS Neo:6, Dolby Pro LogicII or Logic7, and there's a fine spatial element. I especially liked "New York Variations" with its opening nod to Gershwin's Porgy&Bess. I hear other influences from Leonard Bernstein to Stravinsky. This is challenging music, hardly background fare but be patient and go with it. Full disclosure: I dislike the distorted sound of heavy amplified guitar; I hear only the distortion; even in my druggy youth, I hated Hendrix and heavy metal, but fans of amped guitar will like the integration of guitar and orchestra. -- Alan Lofft <br />
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Figured @ $7.50 with the discount code it was worth a shot. Sounded like the kind of thing I might like.<br />
      <br />
      Still listening to it the first time, but what's clear is that the SQ is very high. Very clean sound. Good dynamic sound - none of that "compressed" sound. <br />
      <br />
      Good sense of "instruments" placed in the orchestra and in space. Not a classical expert, but I don't think it is blindingly obvious that this isn't an orchestra. You don't hear it and immediately think - "fake synthesized orchestra!". Not at all. Sounds like real music. I can imagine sitting in a hall hearing this performed by a real orchestra accompanied by a guitar and synthesizer. So David Chesky did a good job on that end of things. Shows how good something completely digital can sound.<br />
      <br />
      In the first piece already noticed that the quality of the low orchestral bass sounds are some of the best I own. <br />
      <br />
      Just a few first impressions. I think I will like the music also, but that takes a little longer to find out - do I listen to it just once or twice when new, or come back to it again after?<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Later edit: I've decided I do like the music. And the sound quality is incredible - great dynamics, doesn't "sound digital". You can really show off your system with this one.
    1. kana813's Avatar
      kana813 -
      Chris, thanks for the 50% deal. This Is my first download from<br />
      HD Tracks.<br />
      <br />
      After several spins of Urbancity, I can say the sound quality<br />
      is good, but I'm not connecting with the music. <br />
      <br />
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      At $7.50 I could not resist downloading and listening to this. <i>Technically</i> the sound was excellent, only sounding synthesized to me in the decay and ringing of some of the instruments. I'm not sure if I noticed it because I knew they were synthesized, or if it was really just as apparent as I think it was. <br />
      <br />
      The music left me rather cold though. It sounded like mid-20th century avante garde music to me. (Think a more melodious Yoko Ono... <br />
      <br />
      -Paul<br />
    1. pgreenspun's Avatar
      pgreenspun -
      It sounds like being in Boston's Symphony Hall, but the musicians are just a little more precise than humanly possible. For me one of the most interesting parts is the percussion. I've seen and heard some great percussionists, but you'd need about 10 of the best to replicate what is on this album.<br />
      <br />
      The composition is interesting and lively. It rewards repeat listening.
    1. Stattube's Avatar
      Stattube -
      In 1957 Vladimir Ussachevsky from the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center convinced RCA that orchestras would soon be obsolete, and that they should help Columbia build an electronic synthesizer for his center so it could eventually replace all of those expensive orchestras.<br />
      <br />
      While the RCA Mk 2 synthesizer never did put any musicians out of work, I think the goal of replicating the sound of an orchestra faithfully has finally been accomplished with this recording. But unlike with RCA, Chesky's motivation for doing it this way was not financially driven. He's used real living orchestras plenty of times in the past, but it was the complexity and dense nature of the music that necessitated this approach. To get even close to this level of precision playing without weeks of rehearsal would be almost impossible, so assembling it piece by piece was the only way.<br />
      <br />
      Sonically, the dynamics are startling at times, and the bass energy impact will quickly pick out any weaknesses in your system. The strings and electric guitar (the only instrument actually played in real time) sound great, but it is the percussion that is really the star of the show. During some of the loudest passages the sound can become a bit relentless and congested, but that's probably more down to having a system that can sort out music that's so tightly woven together. It's not all loud and bombastic however, for example, the second movement of Urbanicity is based around tranquil themes played on what sounds like a Gamelan.<br />
      <br />
      While other comments talk about having problems connecting with the music, I think it's unfair to call it difficult. This isn't Schnittke or Varese. It's more like the fifth movement of Messiaen's Turangalîla on acid.<br />
      <br />
    1. Pale Rider's Avatar
      Pale Rider -
      I received a promo coupon from HDTracks for this recording on the same day this review appeared. Glad I used it. This is a very enjoyable, difficult to classify, recording. Makes a great demo. The bass is amazing.
    1. adam90's Avatar
      adam90 -
      may you like my site,<br />
    1. qualityornothing's Avatar
      qualityornothing -
      I found another code for this download where you can get 75% off. Trav20. Your welcome.
    1. William33's Avatar
      William33 -
      I muscularly consider that our new music should mirror our cultural skill, just as Beethoven's music reflected the cultural landscape of his time.<a href="http://www.onthebroadway.com/cheap-broadway-tickets/New-York-City-Ballet.php">new york city ballet tickets</a> In my composition 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 immense classical composer as well.
    1. Steve1's Avatar
      Steve1 -
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    1. William1's Avatar
      William1 -
      The New York variation are my favorites on this album. Many reader may prefer The Concerto as it contains the nice electric guitar piece by Bryan Baker.<a href="http://www.onthebroadway.com/cheap-broadway-tickets/Cirque-du-Soleil-Quidam.php">cirque du soleil quidam tickets</a> Both Ballets have copiousness of deed and excitement to remain most non-classical aficionado <a href="http://www.onthebroadway.com/">onthebradway</a> involved through the entire movements.