Savage Altars

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note up front that I don’t think Ingram Marshall has written a piece of music that I didn’t feel attached to in some way. Just as there are authors who never seem to write a line I don’t enjoy and painters who always intrigue my eye, Marshall can stretch himself many different ways musically, and I enjoy following along for what the ride might offer. In this case, several elements meet to create an especially striking sonic experience—sacred and secular texts set to recall tradition while sounding fresh, the striking performance from the Tudor Choir accompanied by an electronic track with violin and viola obbligato, all recorded live in a cathedral in Seattle. Maybe in the current political climate it means even more if you know the composer was influenced by the First Gulf War, but then again, maybe the specifics don’t matter. The title references a battle in the Roman campaigns against the German tribes. Marshall’s piece is presented to a modern world that still turns often to war, and maybe the reminder of that past horror (…hard by lay splintered spears and limbs of horses, while human skulls were nailed prominently on tree trunks…) and well as the eventually found peace (…no man knew whether he consigned to earth the remains of a stranger or a kinsman, but all thought of all as friends and members of one family…) is the truer necessity.