Wonderful: The Journey & The Labyrinth

The Journey & The Labyrinth

I know this is going to be old news to some people. I first heard of this through PBS in 2006. I just got inspired to write about it now.

Sting, with Edin Karamazov, created a wonderful collaboration, bringing back to life the 400 year-old music of John Dowland. Sting and Edin, both playing lutes, and Sting with his smooth vocals, created an album from Dowland’s pieces, which were made widely available to people in his day. The music has a richness that is wonderful to listen to. The DVD is even better. The locales they play in bring a greater fullness to the whole thing. In addition there are some vignettes where Sting, Edin, and a couple of experts on Dowland discuss the music and his life. Through this you get a small taste of the culture he lived in.

What’s really gratifying is seeing the growth of an artist. Sting is best known for the pop music he created with The Police, and then in his own solo career. The CD contains none of that. Instead what you hear is Sting and Edin really making an effort to bring life back to these old songs, respecting the tradition they came from. The DVD has a little of Sting’s pop music thrown in as well. A few of the selections they put on the DVD are Sting “unplugged” with the lute.

I should add that if you saw the PBS program on this you’ve already seen most of what’s on the DVD. It contains some extras not seen on TV, like the full length concert that Sting and Edin put on, and a rehearsal session.

Overall it’s a wonderful collection if you enjoy quality music with rich themes. I highly recommend it.

Edit 10/15/2009: I found a video clip from the DVD to give you a taste. Here is the most famous Dowland song, “Flow My Tears” (video).

2 thoughts on “Wonderful: The Journey & The Labyrinth

  1. Oddly enough, John Dowland wrote the song that the book “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” is named after, written by Phillip K. Dick. Who happens to be one of my favorite authors, and of course, the title has the word “Police” in it.

    Odd coincidence. I may just check out the CD, too.


  2. @Justin:

    According to what I heard on the DVD, Dowland’s music was popular even into the 19th century. There are probably other 20th century recordings of his music that I’m just not aware of. Sting said that the music kept coming up sporadically throughout his career. He would hear it here and there. People also kept suggesting to him that he sing some Dowland songs. So he finally did it.

    The DVD I have came with a CD. It mostly has Dowland music on it, with a couple of Sting’s own “unplugged” tunes. The stand-alone CD has many of the same tracks as the CD that comes with the DVD, but it has some extra Dowland songs (no Sting tunes, like I said). It also has little narration vignettes, where Sting reads from one of Dowland’s letters, in between songs.

    In the narration bits there’s a subtle sound effect they used that sounds like “whispers”. I think the reason for this is the letter Sting reads from is an autobiographical one sent to a prince to try to clear up rumors about Dowland’s activities, to clear his name.

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