Fratres by Arvo Pärt was one of the key inspirational pieces for Albion V. We therefore thought it only right to take rising star Kirsty Mangan into an Estonian forest to begin the recording process of a one-off challenge; to accompany Kirsty with nothing more than Albion V and do the master’s composition justice!
Whilst putting together materials for Albion V, the Spitfire team decided to travel to Estonia to pay tributes to one of its most famous sons, Arvo Pärt. Estonia is one of the least populated parts of Europe, with only 1.3m people (of which 400k live in the capital Talinn) spread over an area the size of the Netherlands and Belgium combined. It is also densely covered in forest (about 60% of the country). When you have this many trees it just eats up the wind. So the most immediate and profound observations our team of urbanite Spitfirers made was 1) the sheer silence of the place and 2) how damaged their hearing was with everyone’s tinnitus-riddled ears whistling between the pines. Not only did we visit Pärt’s birthplace, but we also thought we’d take out Kirsty Mangan, a rising star violinist, to play into the forests. We thought this’d help us find out more about the world of Arvo, and another woodland fanatic and neighbour (by a short ferry ride away to Finland): Sibelius.
After extensive research (Googling ‘Estonian forest’) the team decided to drive across the country to a part of forest that contained an extraordinary installation created by Estonian students. Three giant wooden megaphones that naturally amplified the sound of the forest, into the forest. Thinking it would be overwhelmed with tourists, Spitfire set out to set up shop early. It was only on arrival that they realised that this had been unnecessary. A long dirt track craved its way through the pines, with a small unsuspecting wooden sign pointing us towards the ‘cones’. It was clear that we weren’t going to hear, let alone see another human all day.
Other than gathering some beautiful footage of the pines, the mossy forest floor and the early morning mist, the Spitfire team’s true highlight of the day was to occur when Kirsty started playing. For as she did, and because of the total silence mentioned before, the trees that surrounded the team resonated in a thousand different sympathetic harmonies; with different distances and the effects of Doppler, and then each tree counter-resonating with one another. The result was a wooden chorus the likes of which none of the hardened team of curmudgeons had ever witnessed. It was like Kirsty was playing inside a giant’s piano with the sustain pedal down, and with each string made of three enormous pine trees.
It was this profound experience that encouraged the team to take back what they had recorded and put Albion V through its paces. To see if it could create a valid accompaniment to Kirsty playing the very piece that had inspired Christian to suggest creating the library in the first place.
Judge for yourself with this extraordinary film made by Chris Turner, with music programmed by Christian Henson using only Albion V, and a recording produced by Joe Rubel, engineered and mixed by Harry Wilson.