June 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Ecclesia: A Musical Time Capsule of Endless History

I exclaimed in April my excitement for Ecclesia, the iPad app from critically-acclaimed electronic musician (and SoundCloud CTO) Eric Wahlforss (aka Forss); Leo Lass of the Viennse-audio-visual team Depart; and CGI artist Marcel Schobel. Now, the wait is over. Ecclesia is here to immerse us in an extraordinary melding of the past and present.

The Ecclesia iPad app ($4; 2G iPad or later) blends Wahlforss’ love for Europe’s oldest musical form, choral church music, and his skills as an electronic composer and technologist. In the app, he and his collaborators guide us through a new-yet-reinvented auditory and visual landscape.

Their approach turns every sound, large and small, from inside and outside of an ancient church, into completely contemporary-sounding music. It’s musically strong; pristine choice voices ring out in perfect composure in these pieces by and/or inspired by Faure and Duruflé.

Wood and stone structures, no longer silent, form mythological and mechanical bass and drum patterns in the foreground. Organic instruments transform into voltaic apparatuses, as in “Dictum,” which features a church organ’s strangely jovial, disjointed melody. To enhance the feeling of being there, even the audience’s rustling is made harmonious. Normally-annoying coughing and fidgeting sounds become key components in this symphony, as Walforss manipulates disparate elements into an immersive, timeless experience.

That’s just the music. Visually, the iPad screen delivers a spiritual, reconstructed visual feast for the eyes. The app presents a historical and futuristic universe with discrete sectors to explore and discover, each track in its own celestial room containing church-inspired structures, mystical forms, and ancient artwork pulsating in and out of time with the music. Shapes appear and disappear. It’s immersive; we zoom in and out of the landscapes and fly through a three-dimensional realm, with plenty to see as it materializes.

“Diligam” shows a large cross-like shape spinning in space to a single male voice. As the chorus kicks in, red bars emerge and vanish as if the construct is building upon itself and consuming what it creates. “Dictum” lends the aforementioned church organ even more prominence, rising and falling like sound waves.

There’s so much going on, in the music and on screen, that we always found something new to discover beneath layers of sight and sound. Each tiny element of this work feels like a beautiful piece of an ancient or maybe futuristic puzzle. Wahlforss and his team’s Ecclesia creation present the church not just a place of worship, but also a time capsule of an endless history.