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Certain unusual aspects of The Passions, some related to its musical features and
some related to the recording techniques employed, make this album of particular
interest to audiophiles. This is so primarily because the work was composed by Les
Baxter, who, like many conductors and composers closely associated with
recording, is keenly aware of the requirements and limitations of this unique art and
of its almost limitless possibilities for imaginative use in the presentation of music.

As Charles Fowler has commented elsewhere in this series of albums, popular
recording techniques differ greatly from those employed in the presentation of
classical music. Classical music is recorded so as to sound upon reproduction as
nearly like the "live" performance as possible. Generally only one microphone is used,
carefully placed to create an illusion for the ultimate listener of a seat in a concert
hall. If additional "booster" microphones are used at all - to prevent the loss of quiet
solo passages, for example, or to give greater clarity to thickly orchestrated sections -
they are activated sparingly, and with great care to avoid distortion of the concert hall
balance. Special effects other than those created musically by the composer are
scrupulously avoided; and it is invariably the hope of artist, engineer, and producer
that the listener will feel almost as though he were possessor of "the best seat in the
house."

The value of the "classical" recording approach should not be minimized, for it
presents music as nearly like the composer intended it to be heard as is technologically
possible. It does not exhaust the possibilities of the recording art, however, and it is
to the credit of modern composers and conductors - in both the serious and popular
fields - that they are keenly interested in the creative contributions to music that can
be made by electronic techniques. The extent of these contributions is evident in most
popular recordings, for they generally display effects unobtainable in a "live"
performance. The intriguing sounds of Les Paul, for example, and the softly intimate
voice of Nat "King" Cole, supported - but not overwhelmed - by the richness of a
full orchestra would be literally impossible of duplication in actual performance. Such
sounds as these would never be heard without the aid of special recording methods -
methods of the sort so carefully avoided in the presentation of classical music.

The Passions was composed specifically for the recorded medium, and it was
conceived with the "popular" recording technique in mind. Particular interest for the
audiophile attaches to this work not because of the special techniques, however, but
because of the unusual vocal and instrumental sounds obtained by the use of those
techniques. Here in a single work will be found a voice recorded in the manner of a
popular vocalist, a classical vocalist, an instrument in the orchestra - and in some
sections almost as a device for the production of sound effects. Here also will be
found orchestration which presents symphonic sound, the sound of a popular jazz
orchestra, and the exotic sound of Latin American rhythm instruments. The Passions
is an unusually broad experience for the audiophile.

TRACK 1

The chief identifying characteristic of Despair is its bass sound. The extreme low
musical tones should be distinctly audible on a wide-range system, despite the fact
that their resonance is somewhat limited by the deadish thump of the bass drum
accompanying them. Note the vibration of the low gong note, almost more felt than
heard, following the brief instrumental interlude. The clear sparkle of the bells should
be distinctly audible in a short passage preceding the gradual crescendo leading to
the "grand pause," and in this crescendo the brassy "bite" of the trombones should
be evident.

The dry, hollow sound of French military drums is simulated by a large open snare,
and is followed by a rumble of tympani coupled with all the bass instruments of the
orchestra. The effect here on a good system is spectacular in the low end, and yet if
the system is in proper adjustment an excellent balance between the highs and lows
of the orchestra will be heard, for strings and woodwinds furnish the remainder of
the sound spectrum. Note the whip-like crack of the rim shot just before the ending and
the resonant depth of the final chord. There is no choir on this track.

TRACK 2

In contrast to the preceding track, Ecstasy features a veiled orchestral sound
reminiscent of Debussy and Ravel, with muted strings and softly played harp
glissandos in the upper middle register. At the start of the selection the voices of both
the soloist and the choir are so monitored that a distinct impression of either one or the
other is avoided - the effect of an overall vocal and orchestral haze is imparted
instead. Harp and flutes in this section should be clear, but soft and unobtrusive, and
the distant sound of muted trumpets should be smooth if the system is distortion-free.
As Bas Sheva comes into prominence, the filmy high end of the orchestra should still
be discernible above her, as should the background of the choir. Later, in the passage
beginning with the soft breathy "Ah" of the soloist in her lowest register, the
contrapuntal line of the violins above should be sweet and clear until it is buried in a
climax of sound from Bas Sheva, the choir, and the full orchestra

In the following section, in which the voices are used more instrumentally, the bright
and slightly percussive ring of dissonant piano chimes should be distinctly separated
from the strings and the resonant pizzicato bass beneath them. The sound of the
celeste should be delicate and clear at the end of the violin solo. Immediately thereafter
an interesting effect is heard in which the low strings are softened and given a
warmer sound by the addition of choir in the same register. Note the even balance of
high and low orchestral ranges in the bright instrumental waltz, the "roomy" sound of
the trumpets, the brilliance of the cymbal and the rich resonance of the string bass. As
the selection closes Bas Sheva is drawn in and a very breathy, intimate quality in the
voice should be apparent on a properly adjusted system.

TRACK 3

The selection Hate presents at the outset an entirely different type of sound. The "bite"
of piano, brass, and xylophone should be extremely percussive. A brassy "edge"
should be apparent in the trombones, and the normal resonance of the tympani should
sound somewhat deadened because of their doubling with an open snare. The
addition of piano to the rhythmic pattern produces a hard tonality. The choir, which
sings full voice, is held in the background so that it becomes almost an echo of Bas
Sheva, who seems far out in front. This is one of those effects that would be
unobtainable in actual performance, because the desired hardness of the choir
sound would normally drown out the soloist.

It is in this selection that we first encounter the exotic sounds of Latin American
rhythm instruments, led off by the occasional hollow slap of a conga drum about
a third of the way through the composition. As the rhythm goes into double time, the
bright, crisp sound of the bongos and the metallic tones of timbales are added. The
careful listener will observe that shortly after this section begins a certain amount
of the low end of the orchestra disappears; the extreme volume of the soloist
would make it impossible to add further sound to the recording without inducing
distortion. The bongos, on the other hand, continue to "cut through," and provide an
excellent example of the carrying power of these small drums which so often
causes recording difficulties. It is interesting to note the closer position of Bas Sheva
in the slow 4/4 section. The heavy thud of the low bass note in the last few bars
and the violent sound of the horns at the end should be apparent in balanced
reproduction.

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