New York Polyphony Announces Release of Innovative Audiovisual Project ‘Aleph Earth”

By Chris Ruel

Grammy ®-nominated vocal chamber ensemble New York Polyphony announced the release of “Aleph Earth,” a 12-minute visual presentation produced in collaboration with the University of Oregon’s Artificial Intelligence Creative Practice Research Group (AICP).

Using the soundtrack from New York Polyphony’s world premiere recording of Spanish Renaissance composer Francisco de Peñalosa’s “Lamentations Jeremiae Feria V” —  a work found on the group’s acclaimed 2019 album “Lamentationes” — “Aleph Earth” explores events tied to global climate change through the lens of the Biblical book of Lamentations.

“Aleph Earth” marks the first collaboration between the two organizations.

Colin Ives, AICP’s director and Associate Professor of Art and Technology at the University of Oregon, stated in the press release that “Aleph Earth” reflects upon how Lamentations speak to our contemporary times.

“The sense of ruin and loss evoke our current climate crises, and we found the idea of Jeremiah’s lament providing a way forward in the face of hopelessness compelling,” Ives noted.

In the same press release, New York Polyphony’s bass and University of Oregon music professor Craig Phillips added that “Aleph Earth” “is a setting of the poetic reflections of the Prophet Jeremiah on the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. It opens with Jeremiah weeping at the abandonment of God, but becomes more of a protest against the injustice of extreme suffering. There is no promise of deliverance, but the very act of lamentation is one of resilience.”

Multimedia artists Zachary Boyt and Thomas Newlands developed a machine-learning approach for generating imagery that is a direct response to New York Polyphony’s singing. The imagery portrays damage inflicted by global climate change, from melting ice caps to wildfires.

Hailed as one of classical music’s foremost vocal chamber ensembles, New York Polyphony’s repertoire ranges from Gregorian chant to innovative contemporary compositions, with an emphasis on rare and rediscovered Renaissance and medieval works. The ensemble’s “Lamentationes” was a 2020 finalist for the Gramophone Award in Early Music, topping iTunes and Billboard’s charts upon release. WQXR recognized “Lamentationes” as one of its “Best New Classical Recordings of 2019.”