Saturday, January 5, 2008

In Review--Nawang Khechog & R. Carlos Nakai

R. Carlos Nakai & Nawang Khechog
Winds of Devotion
Sounds True

It has been less than a year ago when Tibetan musician and former monk Nawang Khechog suffered injuries from an automobile accident in India. In fact, the musician and two of his family members were on their way to celebrate the Tibetan New Year. The driver of the car and Nawang's niece died in the accident. Nawang suffered a head injury which he miraculously healed. Perhaps that healing reflects on the power of prayer, compassion, and positive thinking. And certainly that former monk experience along with the power of music also proves helpful.

Sounds True finally released, Winds of Devotion, a collaboration between the Ute-Navajo flutist R. Carlos Nakai and Nawang Khechog and as you would imagine if you are familiar with these two phenomenal human musicians, that this is a meditative work. American classical cellist David Darling, percussionist Geoffrey Gordon, vocalists Chris White, bassist Wade Mathews and keyboardist Peter Kater bring in their gifts as well. Native American flute, Tibetan flute, universal chants, mezzo-soprano vocals, cello and percussion create a long-play backdrop for meditation.

In fact, there are only 4 tracks on the recording with each track lasting around 18 minutes, enough time to go into a deep meditative state. This warm music filled with compassion and dripping with honey-heart wisdom would work wonders in a healing-therapy environment or for sit-down meditation. I listen to it just to relax and to remind myself to breathe. But I can see businesses playing this in the background to create a warm and inviting environment for their customers and employees. And who wouldn't want to listen to this beautiful music while waiting on hold. (I certainly prefer it to all those brash solicitations we have to listen to when we call to pay a bill or deal with another service).

Music has the power to create or destroy an environment; to heal or damage our cells, to invite us to participate on this earth walk or to frighten us into submitting to defeat. Listening to the music on Winds of Devotion proves empowering and healing of the mind-soul-body. In this world, at this time, we need all the help we can get to lift our minds to a place of positive thoughts. And yes, I have discovered that positive loving thoughts do make a difference. I would even bet that Nawang Khechog and his musical collaborators would agree.

Sounds True

Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Review--Iver Kleive's Requiem

Iver Kleive
Kirkelig Kulturversted

It's not that I want to end the year listening to a requiem and in the past couple of months, I have listened to two of them. Norwegian pianist/organist/composer Iver Kleive composed a Requiem for the death of his son, Alexander, for the victims of the attack on the Twin Towers of September 11, 2001 and also the fallen in Iraqi war. "Based on requiem text in Latin, it is composed for choir, organ, and two soloist." Requiem was recorded in Ljubljana, Slovenia last spring and was released during the fall.

Although the work here which includes the illustrious choral voices of the Oslo Bach Choir, Mimas chamber choir, APZ Tone Tomsic, soloist Marianne E. Andersen (mezzo soprano) and Trond Hallstein (baritone) and booming organ, it is not an easy listen. As you would guess the music falls in a minor key with many descending lines and often times the organ takes on a dissonant journey. The music might feel cathartic to some listeners, especially those grieving their own loss. To others, such as myself, it might help to listen to work by Bach or other somber classical music before putting this CD in the player. I listened to it in two sessions and in the end found it worthwhile and healing. But I am reminded of a painful therapy session that most of us would try to avoid.

Requiem acts as a powerful healing journey to those who delve into its deep and turbulent waters. The work itself can be compared to the selections that appear on Greek composer/pianist Eleni Karaindrou's Elegy of the Uprooting or American composer Ingram Marshall's Savage Altars in that we are reminded of human suffering, that which none of us can avoid. We are reminded of the losses the world-at-large has faced and individual ones. And we are reminded that the beauty and grace found in our artistic expressions lead to rebirth of the human soul. KKV