On September 30th Decca Records released the latest album from Grammy Award Winnipeg composer Christopher Tin.
For those unfamiliar with Christopher Tin, he is one of today’s most innovative and influential composers. His compositions for film, video games and the concert stage have earned him two Grammy awards, and accolades from audiences and critics throughout the world.
This latest project titled “The Lost Birds,” is a sweeping and gorgeous musical memorial to bird species driven to extinction by mankind. It is a celebration of their feathered beauty: their symbolism as messengers of hope, peace, and renewal.
The topic of bird extinction is something that Tin has been interested in for many years, and the interest actually grew out of an earlier film score project. As Tin explains, “I’ve been interested in bird extinctions for more than a decade now. It actually started when I scored a documentary about a sculptor named Todd McGrain who was making sculpture memorials to extinct bird species. I was just so moved by his artistic process and his story that the music I wrote for the documentary was something I felt very much attached to. I felt that I wanted to tell more on purely musical terms.” A decade later, Tin would come back to the documentary score he wrote and use it as the seed for this project, and expand on it.
The times that we live in allow for the “The Lost Birds Project” to have many facets and layers to get Tin’s message out into the world. It is not just about Tin’s ethereal, gorgeous music. This project also has a social media component, and a visual component that are used to help raise awareness not only to the extinction of bird species but the immense decrease in bio-diversity that is happening across the planet. “I like to infuse my music with lots of different layers of meaning and reference,” states Tin
Tin started his University education as a double major in English and Music, and this passion for literature would pay dividends. The album consists of text written by four women poets from the late 19th century, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Sara Teasedale. As Tin explains, “The Late 19th century was the beginning of the industrial revolution…when we first really started re-shaping the world around us with industry. It was a really interesting time period to set this project in. It created the right musical language that conveyed the emotion of losing these bird species.”
“The Lost Birds” is scored for string orchestra and choir. Tin has written music that really lends itself to sheer beauty and homogenous sound colors. “I think the story itself does not lend itself to enormous forces in the same ways that some of my previous works did. There is sort of a uniformity of sound that I was going for in this one. With this project there is a very clear message that needed to be delivered…and a story that needed to be told. By using an ensemble such as Voces8 which has an unearthly blend to them and pairing them with the stripped down sound of a string orchestra…I was able to create something more serious in a way.” says Tin.
The album was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the strings of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the heavenly voices of Voces8. It made for recording sessions that Tin will not soon forget. “As a person who also produces his own recordings…it was a joy working with them.”
There were many moving parts that needed to work in order for the project to flourish. There is the amazing music composed by Tin, the superior musicianship of the Royal Philharmonic Strings and Voces8, the recording engineers at Abbey Road Studios, and the marketing of Decca Records…but there is also Tin’s fan base. Like many of his other projects, Tin crowd funded this project raising 225K, thus breaking the record for most money raised for any classical project.
All of these mechanisms helped to create something that is truly remarkable and gorgeous. The music that Tin has composed is sublime, but Tin wants listeners to go further. “I hope that this recording helps engender some more conversations about the loss of bio-diversity and the reasons for the loss of bio-diversity in our world.”