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“Drift” is a collaborative work between Los Angeles-based Parisian composer Daniel Wohl and Icelandic film director Máni Sigfússon. Originally projected onto Minneapolis’s Highlight Tower, the music video was premiered as part of the Great Northern Festival. Wohl, whose “beautiful … original” (Pitchfork) music blends electronics and acoustic instrumentation often to “surprising and provocative effect” (NPR), is one of his generation’s “imaginative, skillful creators” (The New York Times). On “Drift,” Wohl explores the life-sustaining function of breath and air—the element that unites us all—in a five-minute amalgam of film, treble choir, electronics, and acoustic instrumentation. From January 27 through February 6, the video will stream on The Great Northern’s YouTube channel, and on January 28, New Amsterdam will release the audio for “Drift.”
“Given what we all experienced these past few years,” says Wohl, “this piece could have been very somber. But I wrote ‘Drift’ during a period of some hope, as people seemed to be emerging from the pandemic. Even so, I wanted to recognize the intense sadness of this time. We’ve been tossed between hope and despair. I wanted the music to reflect that.”
Recorded in Iceland during the winter of 2020, and commissioned by the iSing Silicon Valley Choir, an adventurous children’s choir, “Drift” was designed to help kids cope with the pandemic through art. In addition to the iSing Choir, the recording features acclaimed Icelandic composer Viktor Orri Árnason on violin and viola, Timothee Loo on cello, and Garth Neustadter on saxophone.
In response to the current state of the world, Jennah Delp, iSing’s musical director, wanted to create a piece about air. “The events of the past year,” says Delp, “a silent, breath-defying virus, toxic air quality as California skies turned orange from record-breaking wildfires, relentless political turmoil that had us holding our breath, a choking police brutality crisis. These events have assaulted our understanding of what is normal, our humanness, our bodies, our loved ones, and the very life and breath we take for granted.”
“Due to its instrumentation and the subject matter, I think of this piece as having religious or spiritual overtones,” says Daniel Wohl. “I might describe it as some kind of electroacoustic hymn.”
When the Yule season rolls around, I am hopeful that some thoughtful souls will silence the all-too-commonplace holiday jingle-jangle in the room and allow sufficient space and stillness to play — and •listen• to — this most etherial take on a classic German carol. Philip David Morgan