My thoughts on music and a quick review of some of my favourite albums.
Music speaks to the soul. Listening to beautiful music instantly lifts, calms and transforms. This isn’t just me saying this, a study by the University of Maryland (Positive Emotions and the Endothelium: Does Joyful Music Improve Vascular Health?) has shown how joyful music may promote heart health by relaxing the blood vessels and increasing blood flow. Interestingly, when study volunteers listened to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, producing a potentially unhealthy response that reduces blood flow. Which would explain why I can feel stressed watching a documentary that has a background soundtrack with a certain tempo that is designed to create tension and drama. I can feel almost sick and my chest tightens and I feel on edge, even though it is technically beautiful music beautifully played!
It really comes down to what you like and that could be anything as long as you find it stirs feelings of joy. Jim Brickman writes in his book “Soothe: how to find calm amid everyday chaos”:
Set your [phone] alarm to let beautiful music fill your house at different times throughout the day. For instance, why should that last 10 minutes you have at home before you rush out the door for work be a totally frazzled experience? Why not set a timer and have a beautiful song usher you out the door? Why not make sure your phone goes off with soothing sounds during that walk to the bus or when you’re in the tub every night? [JB]
Jim Brickman is an American pianist and song writer and I bought his book after hearing his wonderful album “Soothe”. So now would be a good point to list some of my favourite music that I love playing. And in no particular order except that I will be adding to this list as I acquire more beautiful music.
I can’t stress enough the importance of listening on a great set of speakers. I confess I have always been one of those people who made do and it has taken me to my 50s to discover that playing music through a tiny device does not do the music justice. The following albums may not sound as great without the additional layers revealed by a good sound system turned up loud!
Kerani Equilibrium Powerful acoustics in an orchestration that lifts and inspires. The whole album honors feminine energy which, to my feelings, is epitomised in the almost mystical yet persevering and ultimately pressing beats of Bouddica, Heart On Fire. Listening to that track takes one on a journey and is so inspiring. Kerani says, “As I created the music for Equilibrium, I felt the power, passion and presence of all the women who have populated our planet through the millenniums. I felt Hildegarde’s faith and vision, Bouddica’s strength and determination to save her people, Quan Yin’s love and compassion, Hypatia’s intellect and fascination for science and the universe, and the religious devotion and solitude of the anchoresses. The male-female equilibrium was in perfect harmony at the time of Creation. I hope and pray for its return.”
Emliano Toso Wingprinting The sub-heading for this album is “Translational Music: Listen to your cells flying beyond beliefs” and I have to say there is something to that. Piano and cello weave a story from pre-birth through birth, childhood, motherhood and beyond and there are phrases that repeat and each time you feel like another wave of energy lifting and lifting you until you feel so free. There is an ebb and flow and definitely a journey as it includes the gentleness and grace of older age. There are moments which on occasion can bring a tear. It ends with the playground sounds of childrens laughter which is rather fun and reinforces the circle of life.
Jim Brickman Soothe Vol. 1: Music to Quiet Your Mind & Soothe Your World Nature sounds and tinkling ivories draw you in and float you away on a gentle cloud of loveliness that lifts and restores. There is a gentleness and joy to this album and I find the notes are so well placed and seem so perfect. The book of the same name is a neat little read with easy tips (such as the one above) and is inspiring.
Arabesque Duo Tranquil Classics Well, I would be biased as this is my lovely sister Lauren Scott playing harp and the charming Russell Gillespie on flute! But even if I didn’t know them, this is such a beautiful album of 22 tracks that stroke and ease the soul with some familiar classics and favourites including Satie – Gymnopedie No.1, Bach – Air on a G String, and the traditional Danny Boy. It is a well thought out collection and such a bargain at only £5 from Lauren’s website!
Enya Dark Sky Island (Deluxe) This is the first album I had to await and bought on the first day of release! Not that I am particularly a fan of Enya (though I will review The Memory of Trees at some point) this one winked at me and rightly so. So Enya in sound: haunting, beautiful and you can feel it in your heart and chest. The Forge of the Angels has a feel of Middle Earth and Lord of the Rings about it; a couple of the tracks have lyrics in a made up language of Loxian which adds to that feeling. Enya has a sense of humour and on her website says about the transcribed lyrics she has added, “If you copy them without giving credit, a chorus of alleluias will get stuck in your head for eternity.”
More album reviews coming as I have plenty that I love and play!
* Illustration: Seasons of the Year by okalinichenko/Fotolia