This time of year, when even the moments of quiet contemplation are bought and paid for by a car manufacturer or jeweler, where does one go for some real Holiday feeling? Where are moods that reach beyond jolly?
Collin Rae, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Naxos, has an answer. He and his team have combed through more than 2,500 recordings to gather together a truly lovely disc of music – A Twist of Christmas – that won’t make your tummy ache from the sweetness.
Although, looking at the cover, you can’t be exactly sure what it will do to your tummy. This is, you will quickly note, not your typical Holiday CD.
“I think the cover art infuses the ‘darkness’ I was pulling from the music, while it also infuses a cute sense of humor as well,” says Rae, who feels that, in our world of “dark cartoon culture,” these two extremes go together well.
Darkness is, indeed, the focus of the disc, with candles to light our way instead of blinking neon signs. The album moves beautifully through the centuries and across a range of textures, highlighting the essence of a season dedicated, at its core, to embracing both the darkness in the world and the brightness of the creative and emotional mind. “It leans,” says Rae, “towards dark and somber beauty without the jarring and scary elements.”
Rae and his team achieve this blend, moving deftly among Tchaikovsky’s seasonal Classics, William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, Arvo Part, and even Krzystof Penderecki. “I can hear the sounds and pick the century of music I want to use to achieve that sound and flow,” says Rae. “I think the severity of the stylistic differences placed side by side, flowing into one another, made this haunting and effective. It won’t always work, but when it does, it’s magnificent.”
A Twist of Christmas is a follow-up to the well-received Naxos release Music for the Zombie Apocalypse, a beautiful and haunting collection born of Rae’s deep and lasting love of horror films and Zombies that started when his father took him and his siblings to a midnight showing of The Night of the Living Dead in the 1970’s.
As with A Twist of Christmas, the Zombie-inspired disc shifts across the centuries; with tone, feeling, and character all nicely blended and shifted to create an engaging and interesting listening experience. This matching of sounds is necessary for Rae’s vision, as “It needed to flow from the stark beauty of Faure, Mozart, and Rutti to the fierce and darker works or Coates, Penderecki, and Schnittke. I’ve seen people purchase this who would have never bought a recording by, say, Gloria Coates, or Penderecki, or even Faure. I find this very, very encouraging.”
Exposure to new kinds of music is important to Rae, who spent several decades in the record business building a love of a wide range of musics. Included in his lists of influences are (mostly European) soundtrack music from the 60’s and 70’s, electronic music, noise, jazz, punk, post-punk, and all those old cartoons. “I’m hoping that not only lovers of deep and more obscure pieces will gravitate towards this, but also those who were into the zombie album. It’s for people who are truly tired of the same old Christmas collection, and in my mind it’s great music for a get-together, or even Christmas dinner.”