Toni Castells: 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal? – a spectacular integration of classical music and electronic elements
Toni Castells is a Hispano-British composer currently based in London. A lecturer at Imperial College London and the London College of Music, his sonic worlds transpire an inherited precocious classical training with an inventive use of modern technologies to create unique and distinctive soundscapes. Castells latest musical endeavor is entitled ‘2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal?’ which explores the prediction by computer engineer and futurologist Ray Kurzweil that the year 2045 will see the start of a new era in which human and artificial intelligence will merge, man will cease to age and so acquire the potential to live indefinitely. In the original interview with Kurzweil published in Time Magazine, Lev Grossman writes: “To see creativity, the exclusive domain of humans, usurped by a computer built by a 17-year-old is to watch a line blur that cannot be unblurred, the line between organic intelligence and artificial intelligence.”
That ‘blurring line’ is exactly what Toni Castells brings to the 16 pieces of music forged across this recording – whether it is in the blending of electronic and organic instrumentation and samples. So what we’re presented with here is a spectacular integration of classical music, electronic elements and operatic singing, as Castells truly blurs the lines of artistic expression via the musical idiom. The composer chose to explore new ground and this was ultimately a great decision, as he has created a masterpiece in musical transformation that is just as original as it is beautiful.
No doubt classic music or opera purists may stick up their noses, more out of technological ignorance than out of artistic disappointment. It’s often difficult to appreciate something you do not understand, or fear to fully comprehend. Many genres of popular music have long ago been infused and even dominated by the advent of electronic elements and techniques – forced to totally resign themselves in the name of progress, like so many other things in life. Nothing stays the same forever. It was only a question of time before a composer of Toni Castells talent and courage took the challenge towards the conservative classical oeuvre.
Surprisingly, though they do exist, you will find less hard-hitting percussive phrases than you’d expect here, and when the music does exceed past the level of ‘mezzo forte’, it is extremely powerful and will invigorate your mind and soul. But the effect is almost always achieved via melodic instrumentation or dominating vocal performances, and hardly ever reliant on rhythm or percussion.
The emotion is very compelling, with pieces such as “Gold” and “The Mission” being particularly inspiring, and others such as “Nile Lilies” and “Love Overcomes All Things” almost pulling you to reach out and embrace those you love.
This listening order should be taken seriously, as the evolving textures and moods created are essential to the story development. Yet every composition has so much intrinsic potential, that it can be listened to singularly and will almost always leave you breathless on each listen. Toni Castells is a near-genius, as he interweaves science, fiction, and human drama across a backdrop that juxtaposes electronic and organic musical elements, embracing a theory that holds as much a promise as it does a threat for mankind’s future.
A musical tale that is awe-inspiring in both its performance and artistic intent. Toni Castells handles Ray Kurzweil’s mind-bending prospect beautifully. There is enough here to keep just about anyone entertained and reflective. Strap in and hang on, because it’s a fantastic musical journey. It’s a passionate score that evokes mystical emotion.