Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 25, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).
The Benedictine Monks of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma have teamed up with De Montfort Music and Sophia Music Group to release a new album of Advent melodies that takes advantage of Apple’s new spatial audio feature.
Raymond Arroyo from EWTN’s “The World Over” recently spoke with the monks’ Father Abbott Philip Anderson for deeper insight into the inspiration behind the new album and the role music plays in the life of the abbey.
“Once you’re in the monastery for a few months and you’re only [hearing] Gregorian Chant … it’s like your eyes getting used to the dark are [now] ‘getting used to the light,’” Anderson said.
Anderson also spoke about his abbey’s decision to release “Rorate Coeli: Marian Sounds of Advent,” a collection of Advent chants that place the Virgin Mary at its thematic center.
“We were looking for a repertory that hadn’t been done recently elsewhere,” Anderson explained. “We thought Christmas would be a good time … to get out some of this music, so we chose something that hasn’t been recorded, or too much.”
Anderson also explained that, unlike Lent, there is a certain note of joy that imbues the penitential aspect of Advent. Ultimately, Anderson said, the goals behind the album’s release are to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, foster the sacred tradition of Gregorian Chant, and share a deeper insight into the monastic life of the abbey.
“If a person buys a CD … reads the booklet, and listens along with you, you’ll enter into our life a little bit,” he said.
Additionally, listeners can also be aided by Apple’s new spatial audio feature (with support for Dolby Atmos), which orients each element of the music into its own space around the listener.
Rather than simply splitting music into “left” and “right” channels as with stereo music, spatial audio orients each element of the music within a 360-degree radius from the listener — making the experience closer to a live concert rather than a static audio file. (Those interested in learning what this might sound like may do so by trying the free demo on Dolby’s website.)
While the availability of this feature on the album could vary depending on the streaming service used, it is nonetheless a new option for those interested in immersing themselves more deeply within the music.
As for the effort it took to implement the new technology into the monks’ latest album, Anderson credited producer Brad Michel for seamlessly integrating it into their recording process.
“Brad was great,” Anderson said. “He is an accomplished musician, not just a tech guy … He knows the equipment but he also could appreciate the music: the finesse [and] the kind of nuances … He helped us … group together and do the right thing, and so it was a good experience.”
Not only is the technical creation of the album impressive, the training of the monks is also something to take note of — as most members do not have a background in music when they enter the abbey.
“A generation or two ago, young men would enter with a certain knowledge of music, and now it’s rare that they have any training,” Anderson said. “But when you’re young, young men can learn fast, and they do.”
Anderson detailed the training that each monk undergoes in order to learn how to sing Gregorian Chant, which includes participating in an academy of sacred music in Europe as well as taking chant classes to ensure they understand the fundamentals behind the music. This process of formation takes years to complete, Anderson said, which gives ample time for training.
“As they take on responsibilities in the choir, they learn more,” he said. “There’s a whole range of knowledge that comes before you become a choirmaster, for example.”
Watch the full interview below.
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