There is something disturbingly beautiful about this song. Perhaps it is the concentration on the voice; it sounds as if it is a cappella yet there is a synthesised sound played homorhythmically with the voice. Harmonically it uses primary triads coloured with extensions. All sounds rather straightforward – yet this music fits the text so well. The music remains incredibly innocent and subtle enough to make the text the focus, and equally striking is the use of dynamic contrast – something often lacking in the normalized recordings often heard.
A bit of YoiTube searching revealed quite a few choral versions of the song. This seems fitting as the original is very much an essay in vocal timbre – albeit manipulated electronically. What is immediately heard in such choral arrangements is a lack of that timbre that I think creates the beauty of the original – that singular voice multi-tracked and subject to electronic manipulation. Hearing a female/male voice choir somehow lacks the ‘grain’.
A single sex chorus can get closer to the intentions of the original I think – such a performance I felt retained something of that ‘grain’ that makes the song so compelling. Regardless of the ensemble I believe the harmonic content is what makes this song so effective – and it is that suspended resolution of the dissonance of the second phrase that is what clinches it for me. Choral arrangements keep this harmonic power – some seem to smooth out the dissonance – and make the words too clear for me. I like the original where the grain of her voice dictates the focus more than the actual text.