Thursday, September 27, 2007

In Review--(Archival), Anders Rogg & Audun Myskja

Anders Rogg & Audun Myskja
Kirkelig Kulturverksted
My former reaction to sound healing recordings was a great big yawn. This wasn't because I did not believe in the healing potential of sound and music, but that most of the sound healing music I had heard was filled with clichés. 

However, Anders Rogg and Audun Myskja of Norway have delivered an intriguing double CD, Videre of healing songs that entertain my mind, soothe my body, and allow my soul rest for a bit. Now, I have an extremely short attention span. For those of you who know astrology would know that someone with a mutable T-Cross and a Grand Trine in the water element is not the type of person that can sit still for long. Yet, I have found myself sitting through both CDs a couple of times now and the subtle music took the restless edge off of me. Is this healing? I think so.
So why are these CDs different than the usual new age healing music? First of all, the music here is extremely sophisticated and arranged in such a way that one German music site called the recording "Ambient Symphony and sound poetry." And this journalist was not being arty because that is exactly what you have here, a true healing art. The music is similar to what you would find on the German label ECM, elegant ambient musical arrangements with a variety of European and traditional instruments ranging from piano, tuba, the Armenian duduk, harp, strings sans the violin, Tibetan bells, celeste, an Indian santoor, percussion, a wordless choir, tin whistles and low whistles, mandola and accordion. Trygve Seim brings in saxophones and on the second disc and all of the instruments are arranged in intriguing ways.
Second, you will find many of the elements of sound healing such as harmonics, vocals coming from the heart chakra, Tibetan bells, harp and warm tones in a major key. The sounds are so quiet and subtle that you really must concentrate and not allow your mind to wander off in meadows of daydreams. Also this slow and moody music married sounds from my environment, the crackling of the heater, buzz of the refrigerator, the neighbor attempting to start the reluctant engine on her car, an airplane flying overhead, rain dropping onto the roof, and the ticking of a clock reminding us that all sounds musical and mundane are part of a grand symphony of our lives. And well, focusing on sounds in general depending on our perspective can be meditative and relaxing.
Finally, this recording was carefully thought out to bring healing to its listeners. The packaging features soothing green, the color of the heart chakra and violet, the color of the crown chakra as well as a white background which to me represents a clean slate and a new beginning which is what some healing is all about. Both discs feature different instrumental arrangements. Disc 1 represents ambient chamber music with harp, strings, piano, celeste and accordion. Beethoven's Arietta appears twice on the disc, on the second track in which it features strings and piano and on the final track which features celeste and strings. In fact, the piano tracks on this disc are reflective of Beethoven's nocturnes and sonatas.
Disc 2 could be called more adventurous and the composer moves away from the chamber arrangement and plays around with different timbre while never leaving the ambient atmosphere. This CD features 13 tracks and it's fun for the mind to guess what sounds its hearing at any given time. In 2001, Anders Rogg released, The Sound Of Light in Norway where to date has sold 10,000 copies and has had a healing effect on various ailments including, insomnia, distress, muscles and joint pain, seasickness and tinnitus (ringing of the ears). Videre has the potential to do more as far as healing goes because all the instruments are acoustic. It's my belief that acoustic instruments possess a higher vibration than synthesizers and other electronic instruments.
"We may not know what music is, but we know something about what music can do. For indigenous people, music has always been part of their curing rituals. In recent decades in our own culture, music is enjoying a renaissance as medical therapy." (Liner notes). But you do not have to be sick or stressed out to enjoy the music on this recording. Just let it sink into you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In Review--Earth Chants

Marjorie de Muynck
In The Key Of Earth
Sounds True

Diana Rogers
Love Reigns (Kirtan Chants)
Sounds True

In the liner notes of her CD, In The Key Of Earth, sound healer and musician, Marjorie de Muynck (de monk), tells us that "Ohm" is the vibration of the earth. She cites, "Ohm (aum), exists in the harmonically rich valley between the musical notes of C and C sharp, an alternative, or "cosmic," tuning that predates keyboards or modern Western music. Ohm is felt in nature, in the cycles and rhythms of the Earth, and the movement of the cosmos."

Marjorie de Muynck combines her background as a jazz performer, (Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet), with an MA in music education, and her own therapeutic work, (she is the creator of Ohm Therapeutics ™). Her lifelong journey with the earth's sounds, music, and vibrations began at an early age and her life story presented briefly in the liner notes proves immensely fascinating to me.

In The Key Of Earth features all acoustic instruments performing "primordial vibrations" and overtones. The ambient music sets a meditative atmosphere that grounds the a meditation practitioner, and the earth spirits seem to enjoy this music too, although I have no scientific proof of this, just happy flickers, (woodpeckers), responding in my backyard throughout the duration of this recording. I found that I am able to take the high of a mediation and ground it into my lower chakras, my feet and the earth, while listening to this atmospheric music.

I agree with Marjorie in that this music is best utilized in a meditative state and it also helps with such practices as creative visualization in that it grounds a vision. The album includes 4 long tracks, which employ different combinations of Ohm tuning forks (4 octaves), bass, vocals, baritone saxophone, Native American flute, Berimbau, and Ohm crystal balls. Ryan Montaño brings in jazz trumpet on the track, Breath.

The music here tends to fall into dissonant chords that are often followed by release. Yet, this grounding music, even without flights of fancy can appear whimsical at times. This might be a good remedy for people who get stuck in their minds, or people who have a difficult time meditating due to wandering minds. Certainly the flickers enjoy this recording, often calling out from the trees. And since I am a bird lover, I have found heaven on earth. Let this one be your calling card to the natural world & its Spirits.

You can find out more about Marjorie and her work at Sound Healing Tools

You walk into a yoga studio, watch a small group of musicians set up, possibly on a small stage, and people from various backgrounds sift into the room. You might expect a concert in the traditional sense, but instead you experience a fusion of spiritual devotion from the Hindu tradition, call & response chanting between the musicians and the active viewers in the room. What you would experience has been an emerging trend for some time, with kirtan chants growing in popularity among people from varying spiritual backgrounds.

Some of the popular names of this tradition include, Deva Premal & Miten, Jai Uttal, Diana Rogers and others. Diana Rogers who hails from a diverse musical background, (Gregorian chants, renaissance music, and opera), possesses an amazing voice that lends itself well to kirtan chanting. She handles lead vocals on her recording, Love Reigns, and is backed by gorgeous melodies performed on acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, harmonium, ektar, bass, drums, percussion, bamboo flute, shakers, banjo and other instruments.

Musicians Ben Leinbach, Carolyn Ross, Sofia Ross, Jai Uttal, Manose, Daniel Paul, and a long list come on board creating a vibrant atmosphere. Even though this music lends itself to active meditation, I am listening to it while I type this review and it lends itself well to other types of activities. This music would also lend itself well to creating a mood for a healing circle, spiritual conversation group, or even for a gathering of friends. The music lifts moods and inspires us to move past our egos and go with the Divine flow.

This CD employs active listening, and you might end up, responding vocally during any call & response phrases. I am pleased with this recording from start to finish, but one song in particular has quickly become a favorite, Jai Jagandambe with its descending phrases. Another track, Jai Radha Madhava features Diana reciting in Portuguese--something I would not have expected on a kirtan chant recording! But then, this one can also be catalogued with global or world music.

Each devotional chant is sung to a Hindu deity, sometimes several at one time. I cannot talk for those folks that listen to kirtan chants on a regular basis. However, I find that when I listen to these chants, even without being a devotee of this spiritual tradition, that I can engage in a flow that allows me to magnetize positive events in my life. This music helps me to stop clinging to obsessive thoughts, or ideas that are long past their sell-by date. In other words, this music has the potential if a listener is willing, to let go and surrender to The Divine, however you define it.

For more information on these artists and release dates visit Sounds True

In Review--The Power of Butterflies & Peyote Songs

Clark Tenakhongva (Hopi)
Po'li (Traditional Songs of the Hopi)
Canyon Records

Clinton Denny with Gerald Primeaux, Sr. (Chippewa Cree)
Prayers for My Father
Canyon Records

I find listening to Hopi renaissance man, Clark Tenakhongva's chants to be an immensely enjoyable experience. Clark's gentle spirit comes through in all of the chants, as he pounds on a large drum with one hand (which resembles a Mexican bombo), and shakes a rattle with his opposite hand. His songs act as prayers to Butterfly and other helpful Spirits.

Po'li marks the third of Tenankongva's recordings that I have heard. And well, how do you describe a spiritual listening experience? I could tell you the facts of the Hopi tradition in which I am only vaguely familiar or I could send you to Canyon Records' site where you can learn more about the artist. And if you Google "Hopi" you should be able to glean information online, including information about Hopi Prophecies.

My own experiences with all Native American or sacred music is that I have to be in the right place, and right frame of mind/heart to enjoy it. Sometimes, I listen to this music when I already feel joy in my heart. And other times, I listen to it because I have fallen into a dark place via my own negative thoughts or experiences. As far as the philosophy of which comes first the thoughts or the feelings, I will leave that for the French café society to discuss (joke).

This particular recording features prayers, love songs, and dances, (Hopi Two-Step). It offers lightness of being with plenty of joy to spare. Think of the butterfly as it dances upon summer flowers, and listens to the heartbeat of our Earth Mother. How many times have you witnessed the flight of a butterfly and not felt joy? This recording provides vibrant colors, beautiful rhythms, and soulful vocals.

The singer knows that his musical gifts come from The Creator, and this gratitude can be heard throughout. He is a man of many talents, including teaching and preserving the Hopi traditions, and giving back to his community by assisting military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And he himself is a military veteran. Now, whether he sings to those suffering from this disorder during therapy sessions, I do not know. (That would be an interesting future topic for this blog).

I personally, endorse Clark's recordings, and find them healing on a personal level.

I have noticed recently the great number of hits that the peyote medicine and music article has received on both this blog and also Cranky Crow Whole Music. So for those folks interested in peyote songs and its spiritual components, please add the new arrival, Prayers for My Father by Chippewa Cree Denny Clinton. The Harmonized Peyote Songs performed act as a dedication to Clinton's late father, Bill Denny Jr., proponent of the peyote ceremony of the Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana.

Clinton Denny marks the third generation, which started with his grandfather, William Denny, Sr., in 1932. The history of this lineage and its involvement in bringing the peyote rite and its songs to the reservation appears in the liner notes. In fact, you will find all the educational information you need in the liner notes to thoroughly reap rewards from this recording.

The entire CD playing time runs close to an hour. The psychedelic beats of the Native American water drum, and constant shakes of a rattle, set the space. Singers, Clinton Denny and guest artist, Gerald Primeaux, Sr. sing the harmonized chants. Nine sets of 4 songs comprise the recording and help listeners ground themselves to Mother Earth.

Harmonized Peyote Songs are traditionally sung during a peyote rite as part of the Native American Church. But the recordings also can be relaxing to some listeners outside of a peyote rite, and certainly in my opinion, it is healthy to explore the music of other spiritual traditions, outside your own. This allows us to relate to people outside of our traditions, to open new doors and understanding of others. Not to mention, that the spiritual and musical traditions of indigenous peoples ground us to the earth, help us relate to earth spirits, and heal ourselves in the process. If our heads get lost in the clouds, we cannot heal the Earth Mother so we need music to ground us.

And by the way, Prayers for My Father, is a wonderful follow up to the recording, In The Key of Earth by sound healer and musician, Marjorie de Muynck. Here is an example of 2 different spiritual practices that compliment each other.

For more information about these recordings, please visit Canyon Records

By the way, animals (both domestic and wild), enjoy these sacred music traditions. So share the joy and healing with other creatures.

The beautiful artwork that graces Prayers for My Father was created by Nathaniel Pete.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gregorian Chant Recordings

Here is a brief list of Gregorian chant recordings in my collection. If you would like to see reviews of the following CDs you have two options. Some of the recordings were reviewed at World Music Central and all were reviewed on the pages of Cranky Crow Whole Music.

1. Peregrine, Gregorian Chant, independent release, Seattle, Washington
(Peregrine gives a contemporary interpretation of Gregorian chants, in that this choir embraces other spiritual practices which the chanters blend with the Gregorian chant. And sometimes they sing the chants in English instead of Latin).


2. Medieval Women's Choir, Margriet Tindemans, Director, River of Red, independent release, Seattle, Washington
(Although the Medieval Women's Choir does incorporate the chants of the medieval German Benedictine abbess, Hildegard von Bingen in their work, this choir goes beyond just singing Gregorian chants. Some of the choir's work includes modern compositions, and also polyphony).


3. Rex Olavus, Schola Sanctae Sunnivae, Kirkelig Kulturverksted, Norway
(This choir from Norway are the most traditional sounding of Gregorian chants in my collection. This particular collection reflects on the life of Norway's Saint Olaf).


4. Officium Ed Missae in Nativitate--Sancti Joannes Baptistae, Schola Sanctae Sunnivae & Hartkeriana, Norway/Netherlands, KKV
(On this recording, a double-disc, the Norwegian choir teams up with an all-male choir, Hartkeriana of Amsterdam. They honor Saint John the Baptist. By the way, Schola Sanctae Sunnivae is an all-woman choir that specializes in Gregorian chants).


5. Keur Moussa, Sacred Chants & African Rhythms from Senegal, Benedictine monks in Senegal, Sounds True

(Imagine Senegalese traditional instruments and atmosphere blending with traditional Gregorian chants compliments of a Benedictine monestary in Senegal. Really a beautiful recording! And perfect for those who like blending different traditions and love African music).


6. Women in Chant, The Choir of Benedictine Nuns at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, Sounds True
(I think the title pretty much sums up this recording. It feels like stepping into a church during choir rehearsal. It is vulnerable, fragile, and gorgeous--nuns caught in the moment of spiritual passion and contemplation).