Performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales in 2012, ‘THE THAW’ is a collection of 15 compositions that fuse Brewer’s diverse music sensibilities such as classical, non-western, and contemporary alongside modern production. Classical reference points include Max Richter, Lisa Gerrard, Preisner, Arvo Part, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Sigur Ros and Goldfrapp.
‘THE THAW’ began life as an idea. How could you create a new live experience for audiences, with music that bridges the gap between classical and a more contemporary sound? And how could you incorporate a visual element to underline the delicate and evocative music? The goal was to reinvigorate the classical music experience around a special and universal theme of our time: Global Warming.
“I studied abroad in Saint Petersburg, Russia 20 years ago. Winter was intense with frozen canals. When the weather warmed and daylight returned, one day there was a tremendous cracking noise on the streets. The ice began to melt: a sound I’d never experienced before,” says Brewer. He adds, “I’ve always been drawn to northern climes, with the special light, the immense quiet and the majestic landscapes”.
Putting the project together was not without its struggles. Refinancing his home to buy the space and time to write and record the music, he called on the assistance of The Tampere Philharmonic who helped commission and finance the project. With access to a full 97-piece symphonic orchestra, including key contributor Stephen Hussey, glass instrument specialists Sinfonia di vetro and Hamilton Ice Sculptors, ‘THE THAW’ was performed at the stunning Tampere Hall in Finland for the first time in 2008 after just a few rehearsals. In addition, the music that would make up ‘THE THAW’ was also recorded under studio-like conditions, where it has sat for 10 years on a hard drive, waiting for the right moment to be mixed and produced for general release – until now.
“There was definitely some pressure to create the goods. A sonic vocabulary evolved, starting with a ticking clock, and glass harmonica. A practical element: I needed one instrument to guide me. Celeste, vibraphone and xylophone would be secret friends guiding my performance. Their winter wonderland quality created a base for the sound,” says Brewer.
Using his voice as an instrument, Brewer’s work sits somewhere on the hinterland between contemporary minimalism, cinematic themes and anthem-like grandeur. Compositions such as ‘Heaven Sent’ are uplifting in spirit and grandiose in scope while more emotionally charged moments can be felt across ‘The Summoning’ and ‘Upon A Midnight Clear’.
Swirling atmospherics and vivid sounds are a prominent feature throughout ‘THE THAW’ as Brewer’s ethereal, otherworldly voice floats as a counterpoint over melodic narratives and escapist abandon. An introspective quality takes listeners on a journey for personal reflection.
Brewer’s career began with the release of the collaborative album ‘These Wings Without Feathers’ (1996) with Australian musician, singer and composer Lisa Gerrard, which introduced his music to an international audience. The follow-up album ‘The Ebbing Wings of Wisdom’, released later that year to critical acclaim, showcased an emerging signature sound, and was championed by late BBC presenter Charlie Gillett. Film scores eventually followed including the Emmy-Award nominated contributions to ‘The Path to 9/11’ (2006) starring Harvey Keitel and Cannes Critics Week selection ‘Together’ (2009) starring Matt Smith.
Raised on the outskirts of New York, Brewer’s family originates from atmospheric New Orleans, with its French and African mélange. Brought up alongside Russian émigrés, his childhood imagination was fuelled by dramatic literature and languages. Catholic church soloist at the age of eight, compositional training began at the age of nine when he started rearranging Chopin and Beethoven. His earliest music inspiration was secretly playing a pipe organ when no one was looking as a child, fascinated by acoustics, and their spiritual relationship with sound.
Having studied in Russia, regular stretches in France, the Netherlands and Berlin have all peppered his story. Brewer has lived his entire adult life in the U.K. He lived in London for over a decade before relocating to Hove, now composing overlooking the sea.
Brewer hopes to tour ‘THE THAW’ in 2019, with tentative talk about filming it live for an immersive IMAX dome cinema 3D experience. He has already started initial work on the follow-up album ‘THE SEA’.
The last word to the man behind ‘THE THAW’: “Without knowing why at the time, I wanted to create a body of work to serve as an escape from the everyday and a place to find solace from life’s ups and downs. From a humble call to action around Climate Change to a roadmap to thawing the emotions, there’s a platform for all kinds of change, good and bad, personal and global.”