Friday, May 1, 2009

In review--All the buzz

Marjorie de Muynck
Vibrational Healing Music
Sounds True

When it comes to psycho-acoustics and sound healing integrity, healer-musician-composer Marjorie de Muynck is at the top of the list. Her recording, In the Key of Earth (Sounds True), proved time again, to lift vibrations from my home environment. And de Muynck does so by recording only acoustic instruments, including overtones from those instruments. Her latest recording, Vibrational Healing Music represents another pioneering effort. The recording offers a fabulous marriage between nature spirits (not just the sound of waves and birds chirping), and acoustic instruments. But de Muynck takes this musical venture even further by setting moods that she experienced as a child in the Midwest and Oklahoma.

We can be thankful then, that de Muynck’s Native American grandparents did not own a television set and they would sit on the porch with their granddaughter in the evening listening to the music of the natural world. The composer captures this natural world of childhood past, by including bees, cicadas, bats, a hummingbird and a crow, along with the lonely prairie sound of a harmonica, pedal steel guitar and a dobro. Her other inspiration, also a lofty one, comes from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. De Muynck even includes a quote from that symphony.

De Muyck’s background includes research with the effects of electromagnetic fields on animals and humans, acupuncture, working with sound healing tools such as tuning forks (Ohm tuning forks), composing and performing jazz, classical and other types of music. That’s the short list of her accomplishments. And all of that has been brought to her work with Vibrational healing Music.

However, this is not only a sound healing recording. The field recordings of non-humans, the inspirations of John Cage and Antonin Dvorak and Dick Orr’s recording of a barrel cactus, suggests an experiment where the natural world, nonhumans and humans vibrate as one being. The last track, One Vibration hints of this connection. This track includes a two minute sample of Jim Wilson’s God’s Cricket Chorus, which sounds like a human choir!

While some of the field recordings of bees, cicadas, etc have been speeded up and slowed down, and while no recording is completely free of EMFs, (especially when I play the recording on my laptop), acoustic instruments and overtones prove healing and the sound of the birds and bees, feels harmonious. Definitely, add this one to your music medicine chest, but also listen to it for the sheer pleasure of it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

In review--Soaring Plateau

World Village

When Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo performed at WOMAD USA in 1998, she introduced me to Tibetan music. Her perilous journey across the Himalayas and her stellar vocals captured my attention. Vocalist Soname also hails from Tibet and she also fled Chinese-ruled Tibet, via Nepal, then India and finally landing in Brighton, England where she cleaned houses for a living. In 1998, she made her vocal debut and in 2000, she recorded her first album with borrowed money.

Plateau, to be released on World Village this May, showcases this mezzo-soprano’s gorgeous and powerful voice. I could make a comparison between Lhamo and Soname, I would say that Lhamo’s vocals soar in the ethereal realm and Soname’s vocals feel earthy. And on Plateau, table beats punctuate and bansuri flute frames Soname’s amazing vocals. The opening track combines the best of India and Tibet, musically speaking. The closing track features some of the most passionate vocals I have heard in a long time, if ever. Wow!

The songs on this album focus mostly on the natural world, but even so, we as listeners are reminded of the plight of the Tibetan people. It’s impossible not to hear Soname’s personal triumphs in these songs. Therefore, this relaxing album provides inspiration to anyone who faces obstacles, financial or otherwise. Most of us will never have to cross the Himalayas with Chinese soldiers in pursuit, nor will we have to leave a precious child behind with relatives in order to make this dangerous journey. And how many stories have you heard lately about a cleaning lady making it to the world music stage? Soname’s story is the stuff of dreams made reality.

World Village

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In Review--Those darn walls

Songs across Walls of Separation
Kirkelig Kulturverksted

Norwegian record producer and founder of the label, Kirkelig Kulturverksted, Erik Hillestad and I had previous conversations about a project involving nations with walls that keep loved ones apart. Similar to an earlier peace project, the album, Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, Hillestad set out to make a political statement via music.

He found vocalists from both sides of several national walls, from countries as far-reaching as Morocco and Cyprus to Kashmir, Palestine and Mexico. While some people thought that the crumbling of the Berlin Wall was the end to this type of divide and conquer practice, need to reassess the type of world where we choose to reside. Once Hillestad found these vocalists, he asked them to sing the same songs then later he would meld those vocal tracks together, thus bringing loved ones torn by politics-as-usual and social conditions, together again. In the case of Palestinians Rim Banna and Jamil El Sayeh connected over the Internet.

So Hillestad found musicians from the countries divided by walls and he also enlisted some of the same musicians that appeared on Lullabies from the Axis of Evil along with such luminaries as the Egyptian-English Natacha Atlas.

While the recording acts as a perfect cultural exchange and peace project, as someone into sound healing, I don't necessarily find this recording healing for the mind-body, even if it acts as a cathartic experience for those divided by walls of separation. I say this because I find that programmed music, (drum machines, Pro-Tools and synthesizers), to create disturbances with the nervous systems of sensitive people, such as myself. The opener track, the rocker, The Only Passport You Have/Shalaban feels too tense to me. While I understand the frustration people feel around the planet, do I really want to invite that tension into my body?

We not only preach at the choir, we shout at members of the choir too. I don't want to feel angry, just because others do, but listen to music that creates a peace of mind so that I can go out in the world and provide some healing from a centered place. (This is a general statement that I make towards all forms of media).

On a brighter note, this recording includes more soothing pieces too, such as Same Song featuring Ulviyeh Arsehit, Mikhalis Tterlikkas from Cyprus and Katia Cardenal (Nicaragua), I Go to the Top of the Hill/A'lyadi featuring Natacha Atlas, Eiad Mdah and Esmaeel Mdah (Syria), the folk tune, Lonely Traveler.La Enorme distancia with Amalio Martinez, Leonor Almanza of Mexico and Mimi Goese (US). The Bi-Communal Choir and Peace Choir of Cyprus also bring us a gem, I Love My Country.

What I would like to see with peace project are ones that employ sound healing principles such as performances on acoustic instruments, even traditional instruments and some a cappella performances. The vocals on Songs Across Walls of Separation in themselves prove healing. Some of the most exquisite vocalists in the world music arena appear on this recording and their vocals and the vocals of the other singers carry this album. The programmed elements act only as sugary icing on an otherwise nourishing cake. I would love to hear an acoustic versions of these songs because they provide us with some beautiful melodies and heartfelt emotions.

It breaks my heart to critique the album in this way. But if I am going to take sound healing and music consciousness seriously, I must make these remarks. I have read too many articles and books by experts such as Joshua Leeds and Marjorie de Muynck, that have mentioned the ill effects of rock music and programmed drums. So it is my hope that as musicians and producers, we will eliminate programming from musical production and focus on healing vibrations. It's hard to imagine what that alone can do to healing suffering and dis-ease in our world.

It's time for sound healers and music producers to form a bond to take us into the next era of music. Are there any takers for this proposition?

In Conversation--Norwegian Trumpeter Mathias Eick

Norwegian Brass: Conversation with Mathias Eick

While I was hosting a community radio show, Global Heartthrob, I came across Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Mathias Eick. This occurred around the time when my consciousness towards trumpeters was growing. I had been listening to Miles Davis, Terence Blanchard and other players. ECM Records and Kirgelig Kulturverksted had both sent me recordings featuring Eick's clear tones. Since I received several recordings around the same time with Eick's contributions, I told myself that at some point I would interview the musician. And actually, had I kept hosting my radio show, he would have been a featured artist.

Similar to Blanchard's work, especially on A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina), Eick also pulls colors from an emotional palette. But these emotions feel more like mood changes or perhaps light changes over the course of a day. The musician has in a short time, 29 years, has developed quite an emotional repertoire which can definitely be heard on his 2008 solo recording, The Door, on ECM Records. The opening and titler track in itself contains much of this repertoire. Stavanger feels a bit edgier, with dissonance and then the musicians launch of into the lyrical Cologne Blues.

This lyrical quality should come as no surprise to listeners though. Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett have been cited as influences, as has Norwegian guitarist, Jacob Young in which Eick appeared on two of Jacob's ECM recordings. And while I mostly know Eick as a trumpeter, he plays several instruments including vibraphone, piano, bass and guitar. In fact, on the fourth track of the renowned Norwegian vocalist, Sondre Bratland's tribute album to celebrated Norwegian poet, Olav H. Hauge, you can hear Eick on vibraphone performing Latin jazz, nonetheless.

WME: I could not find anything on your musical background so when did you start playing music, what was your first instrument and who did you study with?

Mathias Eick: My first instrument was the piano. I started playing piano at 3 years of age, and then proceeded to trumpet at age 6. I started studying with a private teacher on the classical piano at 5 years of age and studying with a trumpet teacher at age 6.

WME: I noticed that you perform other musical genres besides jazz and you have also recorded with diverse performers from Norwegian folk singer Sondre Bratland to jazz ensembles and rock bands. Jacob Young’s Sideways combines elements of acoustic folk and jazz. This reminds me of Scandinavian jazz which provides some traditional Nordic folk elements. What comments do you have about your performance and contribution to Jacob Young’s recordings? (I have only heard Sideways).

ME: You should also check out the album Evening Falls by Jacob Young. He is from Norway, and he's the reason I got in touch with ECM records. I think his music is wonderful, and it was a great honour for me to contribute to his albums. He's been studying in New York, so his music has a funny combination of Nordic influences and American standards.
WME: On Sideways you play alongside reedman Vidar Johansen, drummer Jon Christenson, double bassist Mats Eilertsen and guitarist Jacob Young—the playing is seamless. Do you want to comment on that recording and working with that ensemble of musicians? Did the recording sessions include a lot of improvisations and how much freedom did you have as a contributing musician?

ME: Jacob had written all the heads (melodies), of the music, and in all the songs there were parts where we improvised. It's great and pretty easy music to improvise, because it's very lyrical.

WME: You join up with pianist Jon Balke, bass/guitar player Audun Erlien and drummer Audeun Kleive on your solo jazz album, The Door. Again, I hear a rich palette to your trumpet playing and this time you are playing your own compositions. How big of a role do emotions play when you compose and when you record with other musicians? You seem to have a deep well which you draw.

ME: Emotions play a big role in my life and my music. All the songs on my album The Door are made in different places around the world. Maybe that caused the songs to have certain characteristics that seperated them a little, from each other. Some of them were composed in bed in the morning or in the evening, some during the day, some when I had been alone with a piano.

WME: Since my blog is about the healing effects of music, have you had any experiences healing yourself through music? And have others mentioned that they find your music healing for them?

ME: I've heard people say my music has had a positive effect and caused them feel like they were taken to another place; another state of mind. Someone once told me that listening to my music was like being tucked in a blanket.

WME: Final question, if you could assemble a band from musicians past and present, who would you ask to join this band? (Some of these musicians might have already passed on).

ME: I'd love to play with Keith Jarret´s European quartet from the 70s : Palle Danielsson, Jon Christensen, Keith Jarret, Jan Garbarek.

Some of Mathias Eick's work can be found at and