Basiani's program features a mix of sacred music and folk songs that include achingly mournful ballads, festive wedding songs, and rambunctious traveling songs. Many are polyphonic, meaning that lots of melodies are going on at once, with lines interweaving in gorgeously rich textures. The liturgical songs can be traced to traditions more than a millennium old and are related to the music of the Byzantine Church, and the music's very distant roots account for its raw, primordial remoteness. At the same time, its complex, sophisticated harmonies and use of extended vocal techniques make it sound surprisingly modern. Stravinsky cited Georgian song as the music he considered "really modern and contemporary."
Basiani's only previous appearance in the U.S. was in 2010 at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, where it was widely praised for its freshness and vigor. The group's Ann Arbor performance, on October 4 at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, sponsored by the University Musical Society, marks its Michigan premiere.
[Originally published in October, 2012.]