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Classical and metal converge in 'Ode and Elegy' 

click to enlarge Kent Fairman Wilson and Harold Taddy began working in earnest on the new album "Ode and Elegy" in 2016. - PHOTO BY TEAGAN WEST
  • PHOTO BY TEAGAN WEST
  • Kent Fairman Wilson and Harold Taddy began working in earnest on the new album "Ode and Elegy" in 2016.
“Ode and Elegy” — an epic, single-movement composition for rock band, orchestra, and choir lasting 55 minutes — started with a seed planted years ago.

The ambitious project couples a seven-part poem about love, pain, and memory to an intense soundtrack incorporating elements of hardcore, screamo, and classical chamber music and choral compositions. It was self-released quietly on Feb. 1 by Spencerport musicians Kent Fairman Wilson and Harold Taddy.

But its origins lie in the 2003 meeting of Wilson and Taddy, who were playing in separate bands at a hardcore show in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Wilson’s post-rock-meets-metal outfit The Pax Cecilia would prove a solid musical template for the ideas that would eventually flourish in “Ode and Elegy.”

In the intervening years, Taddy contributed vocals and additional songwriting to The Pax Cecilia’s 2007 album “Blessed Are the Bonds.” By 2011, Wilson, a cellist, had begun to write the initial string music for “Ode and Elegy.” Five years later, Wilson invited Taddy to move to the Rochester area, become roommates, and co-write the project in earnest.

“The sonic textures of metal, I think, go really well with orchestral sounds,” says Wilson, who was also heavily influenced by the mystical minimalist composer Arvo Pärt. “But most times, they’re kind of contrivedly smashed together. So it was a big project: How do we make this sonic texture move and sweep, and move in waves, and sound like they belong together?”

There’s something inherently tragic and violent in the emotional landscape the piece depicts and Wilson’s cryptic lyrics seem to suggest current or former lovers in existential crisis experiencing a kind of purgatory. Death, whether literal or figurative, is simultaneously welcomed and feared.

“The way that I hope the experience is felt is through the recurring themes in the lyrics,” Wilson says. “There's gardens and herons, and a lot of shifting between light and dark, a lot of water imagery.”


The recording took place over several sessions between 2017 and 2020 — they happened in various locations and featured musicians from around the world. Wilson and Taddy’s guitar parts were recorded in Woodstock, New York, and their vocals were laid down in California, while the rhythm section (which included Rochester bassist Reilly Solomon Taylor-Cook) was recorded in Pittsburgh.

Wilson also sought assistance abroad — a fact that he attributes to poor networking skills — by enlisting the Sofia Session Orchestra and Choir from Bulgaria for brass and choral contributions, as well as a flutist and harpist from England.

“Kent operates in this way where there’s no need for it to happen quickly,” says Taddy, who is also a founding member of avant-garde performance art group The Velvet Noose.

Wilson and Taddy have contrasting yet complimentary styles. Whereas Wilson creates in a deliberate, meticulously scripted way, Taddy is decidedly more spur-of-the-moment. Their individual singing performances on “Ode and Elegy” are often strikingly different, with Taddy providing mellifluous, androgynous melodies for the majority of the “clean vocals,” and Wilson adding most of the blistering screams at opportune moments.

“I learned to admire his process and taking all of this time with him,” Taddy explains. “We developed this relationship where he's basically giving me prompts, and I would write and give back to him all kinds of guitar riffs, and all sorts of vocal melody lines, and I would improvise jibberish vocal lines.”

The album is available for free download (and as a brilliantly packaged CD with booklet for the cost of shipping) at odeandelegy.com.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY's arts editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.
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