Jocelyn Pook, Flood

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 06.28.11 in Reviews


Jocelyn Pook

Flood is a haunted, dark-hued work about the end of the millennium — the first and the second. At the end of the first millennium, Europe produced a large body of art centered around the End of Days, which was then assumed to be the year 1000. At the end of the second, when Jocelyn Pook created this piece, there were perhaps fewer people expecting an Apocalypse, but the latter half of the 20th century still saw an uptick in art that dealt with the looming threat of a nuclear end. Pook’s album-length suite, originally created for a dance-theater work called Deluge, brilliantly weaves together the sounds of Latin chant and moody electronics, suggesting the hopes, prayers and fears of people facing both millennial marks. Pook, a violinist herself, uses strings, samples and Asian instruments to great effect.

Brilliantly weaving together the sounds of Latin chant and moody electronics

The album hits an early high point with “Oppenheimer,” which begins with the famous clip of J. Robert Oppenheimer explaining the “what-have-I-done” feeling that overtook him when the first atomic bomb was tested. The “Requiem Aeternam” theme of the Latin mass for the dead, which recurs at several key parts of Flood, appears here, but so does a sample of Yemeni Jewish singing (the world’s only unbroken tradition of Jewish song, and thus an echo of an even earlier millennium). Another highlight is “Blow The Wind/Pie Jesu,” which marries a sample of the song “Blow the Wind Southerly” by the beloved mid-century contralto Kathleen Ferrier to a Latin chant (and which became a hit soundtrack to a TV ad in the U.K.).

Pook, an in-demand film score composer, has a knack for creating and sustaining a mood. Several of the pieces here were, in fact, used in Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, including the track now known as “Masked Ball” after the film scene where it was used. (The original name was “Backward Priests,” because the unsettling lead vocal track is a recording of Romanian priests, played backwards.) Throughout the album, subtle but telling touches weave things together ̬ the drone, the sound of wind, a lone raven’s caw, and the requiem theme. It may be the perfect album for the year 2999, but in the meantime, any dark, stormy night will do.