Sunday, August 15, 2010

In review--Meditative Waters

Riley Lee
Shakuhachi Water Meditations
Tranquil Sounds of the Zen Bamboo Flute
Sounds True

It’s not often that a title of an album succinctly describe its musical content. Zen bamboo flute player Riley Lee’s album Shakuhachi Water Meditations actually conjures images of a flute player sitting next to a body of water with perhaps a bamboo forest responding in the background. Lee hails from the West and I’ve heard at least one of his other recordings released on Narada many years ago. I don’t fully recall his journey into Zen Buddhism or his original attraction to the Japanese bamboo flute (with origins in China), except that anyone wishing to learn this instrument must take on the role of a disciple with a Zen master and it is a years-long process. And at the beginning you perform chores for your master teacher, the flute playing comes later in the journey.

According to the liner notes, “Every shakuhachi begins as a stalk of yellow-green bamboo swaying in the wind…Although the shakuhachi has fewer finger holes than almost any other wind instrument (four in front, one in the back), it can produce an unbelievable wide range of sounds.” Lee experiments a little with this ancient instrument (hails from the eight century), in that in some instances the flute resembles instruments from Central Asia and even Scandinavia when he experiments with the flute’s rich overtones.

All the tracks prove relaxing and as the title would imply, meditative. The album lends itself well to relaxing before bedtime or waking up slowly with the music playing in the background the following morning. This is also the type of music you would want to listen to when you feel tense, coming down with a virus, or need to get your mind off of your troubles. The music can also be listened to for sheer pleasure or to take in another culture or spiritual practice. It creates stillness and does embody images of the ocean, a pond, or a still lake. In fact, I’m thinking of a beautiful lake in north Bellingham, Washington.

I highly recommend Tranquil Sounds of the Zen Bamboo Flute for hospice workers, massage therapist and other energy workers, as well as, hospital music therapy programs, and for those who meditate. Perfect for relaxation therapy and a wonderful cure for insomnia.

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