"HEAVY ORGAN" - Tribute to Virgil Fox
Both of these are intriguing in their own way, rather odd releases in that each is a two-disk set containing a 5.1 DVD video version of the program and a reguar stereo CD of it as well. I can't help but wonder why the second disk in each isn't a multi-channel SACD edition of what is heard on the DVD. Both have unusual visual elements—ever-changing kaleidoscopic images filling most of the TV monitor screen, called by the producers "an art form customized for the DVD."
The visuals were suggested by Virgil Fox's playing of Bach with a light show at the Fillmore East, a show he took on tour for about a decade beginning in the mid-'70s. Marshall Yaeger designed a kaleidoscopic projector (named Kaleidoplex™) for that tour and this is used for images that accompany music on these DVDs. This instrument fragments an image into no less than 64 segments, sometimes as many as 4,096 images, all traveling in different directions, "fractalizing" the music. Movements on screen are coordinated with music being played with a myriad of colors. The effect is rather like gazing constantly at an ever-changing keleidoscopic image, usually with eight definable circles
"Heavy Organ" is a program offering Mozart's Fantasy in F minor, K. 608, Vierne's Clair de lune, Reubke's Sonata in C Minor (Psalm 94), the traditional Londonderry Air, and Franck's Grande Piece Symphonique played by Richard Morris, organist in residence at Spivey Hall. These are expert performances indeed, the multi-channel sound highly impressive.
"Sonic Bloom" is a collection of fourteen popular songs some going back to the '30s (My Heart Belongs to Daddy, Ain't Misbehavin', Embraceable You, Georgia on My Mind, Stella by Starlight, Yesterday, It Might As Well Be Spring and seven others) played by Larry Douglas Embury on the huge Möller organ in Atlanta's Fox Theatre with added piano and a touch of percussion made possible by overtracking. The sound is impressive indeed with lots of LOW bass, the surround sound indeed placing you inside the huge movie theater.
The cascading, colorful digital images often are fascinating but do not always seem to have anything to do with the music. It's all really quite beautiful, almost hypnotizing—but for me a little goes a long way.
R.E.B. (December 2003)