Listen: Holly Herndon – “Frontier” [2019]

Somehow, someway, I was able to anticipate that the electronic music genius (and certified doctor!) Holly Herndon was going to be deriving great inspiration from the assaulting and euphoric harmonies of Sacred Harp singing. I mean, it makes sense. Her music has always examined the balance between the human voice and computer speak, why not engage one of the most intriguing and beautiful examples of the human voice coming together as one giant chorus, but also as standalone entities, finding ways to work within and without each other.

Not to focus on me, but you may remember I posted about Alan Lomax’s Sacred Harp recordings earlier this year. I then listened to this song, finding great similarities between the two. THEN I read the press release and was affirmed. What a great feeling, combined with the fact that her experience in the hollow Sacred Harp square sounds incredible:

“I went to an international Sacred Harp Meetup in Berlin where I live, which was jointly led by Evelyn Saylor (an ensemble collaborator who helped to arrange “Frontier” to more accurately reflect the tradition), and people gathered in a square to sing facing each other. When I stood in the middle the power of the voices brought me to tears. It was partly pure sonics and the beauty of the songs, but also the sight of witnessing people from all different backgrounds come together under such a simple and elegant premise. There were visitors from afar for whom the experience clearly had some deep religious significance. There were even more visitors clearly drawn to the event for other reasons, albeit the nature of the communion itself, or just to nerd out on the music. It felt like a rare union.”

This is a meeting of the waters kind of thing for me. Deeply significant, rich traditional music merging with the absolute cutting edge of technology. Can anything be better than this? I honestly don’t think so. The song is gorgeous, terrifying and cathartic. I cannot wait for the rest of the album and her live performance at Pioneer Works in a few weeks.

PROTO is out May 10 via 4AD.

About Very Warm

Usually cool dude stuff.
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