Saturday, March 29, 2008

In Review--Guitar Sounding OM

Stevin McNamara
Om Guitar
Sounds True

Long-time veteran of the music business, guitarist and producer Stevin McNamara provides us with east-west fusion meditative music on his latest disc, "Om Guitar". He invited an array of guest musicians who brought sitar, tamboura and percussion to McNamara's Indian-sounding guitar. The music provides a wonderful background for meditation, contemplation or for doing work that involves little focus. It is ideal for reading, knitting, and sewing type activities, but would not work well for driving a car.

"May Fortune Smile" might interests a few listeners. According to the liner notes, this track "derived from an early evening raga, "Yaman Kalyan," often used as an invocation for good fortune and abundance." And who does not want good fortune and abundance?

All four long-playing tracks derive from ragas, which represent a certain part of the day. And all of the ragas have been translated into contemporary sacred or meditative music and in this case with guitar as the main instrument.

Also according to the liner notes, "May Fortune Smile is the result of an experiment to compose a complete-sounding piece using only one instrument. Every sound you hear was produced on the nylon string guitar and uses of fingers, brushes, and a violin bow; even the 'bass drum' is the heel of the hand on the back of the guitar."

"Om Guitar" in my opinion, is too meditative for activities that take a lot of energy. The music tends to draw me into a contemplative state, even a sleepy one. Could be good bedtime music or for early morning meditation. You might even play the evening ragas in the evening and use the morning ragas for morning meditation.

May fortune smile upon you.

In Review--Got Bach?

Murray Perahia
Bach Partitas 2, 3 & 4
Sony Classical

It has been over a decade ago when I ran into an old friend that mentioned he was into Bach. I found that friend pretentious at the time and did not listen to any Bach myself. I did not think that I would understand it since most people that I knew that listened to Bach were academic or they were classically-trained musicians.

Then after I started using different types of alternative healing, one of the modalities that I discovered was healing with music. Classical music came up a lot and so did the musical architecture of Bach's compositions. But the real clincher came much earlier when I had heard Glenn Gould performing various Bach compositions. Then I too could see the aesthetic and healing values of Bach. I would imagine listening to Bach everyday for at least an hour would lighten my moods, boost my immune system and offer other positive health effects. (If only I would get around to launching that plan).

Now, another pianist, mastering Bach's repertoire has come to my attention--Murray Perahia on his most recent recording, Bach Partitas 2, 3 & 4. (At some point I would like to listen to his recording of Goldberg Variations). Perahia plays masterfully, while caressing a range of emotions from his piano. His fingers run lightly over the keys and the music that emerges is fluid, passionate, and at times it reflect a lightness of being.

While you can find plenty of information about Bach in the liner notes, you will find no information about the pianist Murray Perahia, which is unfortunate. I am not a classical music aficionado so I have little knowledge of this performer to share with you. However, I recommend this recording to people who enjoy different types of music and are seeking music for healing purposes. I believe that beauty, grace, and thoughtfully composed music can in itself prove healing. And this particular CD has come in handy during stressful times.

I wish I could run into that friend again and tell him that he was right all along, Bach is truly wonderful. And you do not need to be a genius or a church-goer to enjoy Bach's music.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Review--Le Vent du Nord

Le Vent du Nord
Dans les airs

Borealis Records

The traditional Quebecois group, Le Vent du Nord's third album, Dans les airs also features the group's third incarnation. The departure of Benoit Bourque feels missed here. But his replacement, Rejean Brunet, formerly of the Flying Beavers group, provides a new dimension. Besides, bringing his accordion on board, he also contributed acoustic bass and piano to this recording. Nicolas Boulerice took on a stronger role on this third time out, by contributing vocal duties on many of the tracks. But violinist Olivier Demers, the other remaining founding member along with Nicolas, handled most of the songwriting duties.

Despite a revolving door of band members since the debut recording, La Vent du Nord's fare seem tighter than ever and the playing more mature. The traditional fare of songs about drinking, falling in love with sweethearts or losing at the game of love, fills up most of this disc. We are also informed about Nicolas' venture into fatherhood. We are exposed to little tidbits of personal information about each band member and how they discovered some of the traditional material for the recording. Those tidbits add to the sparkle and shimmer of each song or suite of songs that take this toasty CD from start to finish.

Dans les air exudes a zest for life set amongst rollicking fiddle, accordion, hurdy-gurdy, guitar, foot tapping and all the sounds you would expect to hear with traditional Quebecois fare. This collection of songs about drinking, sharing bread with friends, and lifting one's heels up to life certainly hits the spot on a stormy spring day. And then there are those dragons...