Schizophrenic Melodies

post # 7

Echternach – La Procession Dansante – 196X

This is an interesting record.  Echternach is a tiny town in a tiny country; Luxembourg.  This recording features music being made by the entire town.  Every year, for well over six hundred years, this whole town has gotten together on a certain holy day to dance around and sing this song, which honors the town’s patron, Saint Willy.  It is thought that the tradition may be related to masochistic marches of the flagellants.

I am posting this record cheifly because of the awesome sound collage of field recordings of the festival day that fills the A side.  The recording starts out with the ringing bells of the Basilica (big church), and quickly fades into a cavalcade of passing singers, who’s voices echo and fade in and out as they sing the same song at different times.  Then we hear a few different passing marching bands, each who play for a few seconds and then fade out.  Then we hear the bells again, and the track is over.  All of the musicians are playing loose variations on the same musical theme, the Dance of Echternach.   This track is trying to simulate the sound of the entire day, with all of the passing bands and singers, while compressing it into 4 minutes.  The result is awesomely, yet unintentionally, psychedelic.

The B-side is a nice recording of a full orchestra playing the same song.  It’s nice, but it has not the crass impact of the other versions.  This record is a really nice package, with liner notes in four languages and even musical annotations!  Apparently, this festival still happens today, and you can easily find videos of it on the web.  Some of them sound almost exactly like this record, which I am guessing was recorded in the early sixties.  The town itself is beautiful, I’d like to take my family to see this some day!