MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Contemporary classical music isn't always easy to listen to. It can feel dense and challenging. Well, English composer James Whitbourn belongs to a new generation of musicians who are changing that perception. His new CD is called "Luminosity," and critic Tom Manoff has this review.

TOM MANOFF: This choral piece is called "A Prayer of Desmond Tutu," and Tutu himself speaks on the recording.

(Soundbite of song, "A Prayer of Desmond Tutu")

Archbishop DESMOND TUTU (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate): Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. Life is stronger than death. Victory is ours through Him, through love.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. Life is stronger than death. Victory...

MANOFF: One of the most interesting aspects of this piece is the composer's combination of classical choral style with elements of African music, heard especially in the percussion. But Whitbourn isn't stitching these musical styles together in some artificial attempt at multiculturalism. No. His combination of different styles flows naturally. The music sounds authentic, honest and not the least bit contrived.

(Soundbite of song)

MANOFF: "Luminosity" is the title work of this CD. At the outset, a musical drone creates an archaic sense of time in which the chorus sings.

(Soundbite of song, "Luminosity")

Unidentified Group: (Singing)

MANOFF: A solo viola plays throughout the work, inflected by the melodic style of the Indian sitar.

(Soundbite of song, "Luminosity")

Unidentified Group: (Singing)

MANOFF: This is an extraordinary CD. It expands the experience of classical music beyond the edges of the traditional map. The word luminosity describes the nature of celestial light, and the music of composer James Whitbourn is a celebration of that light: peaceful, radiant and clear.

(Soundbite of song, "Luminosity")

Unidentified Group: (Singing)

BLOCK: The CD by James Whitbourn is "Luminosity." Our reviewer is Tom Manoff.

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