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Classical Music Review

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Then Elephant Speaks


Composer: Bill Whitley
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 23 August 2019

Composer Bill Whitley's new album, Then Elephant Speaks, is released via Ravello Records. The instruments, whether they be piano, harp, vibraphone, electric guitars, or electronics, build patiently, gathering up every second to create one living, breathing force...

Bill Whitley's Then Elephant Speaks opens with the title track, a slow building, beautifully melancholic piece which, according to the composer, he was part way through composing when the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School occurred. The event influenced not only the mood of the piece, but the approach to remixing the songs as well.

The album contains 5 pieces (29 min, 02 sec), which in reality is two tracks with remixes. Motifs are shared among the original compositions and remixes, but each reiteration forces the listener to rethink what they thought they understood about the piece.

There are two versions of 'Then Elephant Speaks', and three versions of 'The Circles'. The original 'The Circles' offers up piano melodies over electronic harmonics, whilst the first remix takes the same melodies and asserts a greater electronic influence over the composition, driving the piece into a realm of ambient music. The second remix, one that was written seven years earlier than the first two, is the skin and bones; uninterrupted piano leading the listener through the sonic journey.

It's an interesting listening experience, witnessing how the original compositions shift and change with the remixes. It's a wonderful lesson in the art of composition and is certainly a project that anyone studying music composition should seriously invest a little time with.

Track listing:

01 - Then Elephant Speaks (8:40)
Elena Talarico (pianos), Lucia Foti (harp), Stefano Grasso (vibes) and Francesco Zago (electric guitars)

02 - The Circles (2017) (4:21)
Elena Talarico (piano), Francesco Zago (electronics)

03 - Then Elephant Speaks (8:43)
Remix by Shaun Michaud
Elena Talarico (pianos), Lucia Foti (harp), Stefano Grasso (vibes) and Francesco Zago (electric guitars)

04 - The Circles (2017) (4:16)
Remix by Shaun Michaud
Elena Talarico (piano), Francesco Zago (electronics)

05 - The Circles (2010) (3:05)
Bill Whitley (piano)


Darren Rea

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