By Michael Diamond
In a career spanning over 35 years, ambient music pioneer Steven Halpern is still going strong with his latest CD, Deep Theta which debuted on the Billboard new age chart at number 9. This is no small achievement, being the first album of its kind to place in the top ten of the prestigious Billboard chart.
The sub-title High Coherence Soundscapes for Meditation and Healing, alludes to the fact that the focus is to help entrain the brain waves of the listener into the ‘theta zone,’ which is the second slowest wave pattern, characterized by deep and blissful relaxation. Utilizing his trademarked Aural-Sync technology, the music is further enhanced with subtle sound waves in the theta range.
Deep Theta can also be enjoyed purely as a recording of exquisitely beautiful music, with the classic dreamy sound that many people have come to associate with him from his many recordings. One of the distinguishing features of Steven’s music is the way non-linear time, space, and silence, are integral parts of the music. Deep Theta is a unique meditative journey that blends science and sound to set the tone for deep relaxation and well-being.
While you may or may not immediately recognize Darlene Koldenhoven by name, you may have heard her voice as the featured soprano soloist on Yanni — Live At The Acropolis, which has been seen by over 1.5 billion viewers on PBS, or perhaps in her role as the tambourine-waving choir nun and real-life vocal coach/choir director for the films Sister Act and Sister Act II with Whoopie Goldberg. Other possibilities include The Academy Awards and three American Idol specials.
The major artists she has performed or recorded with include: Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Ramsey Lewis, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London’s Royal Philharmonic, and my favorite, Pink Floyd on their “Momentary Lapse Of Reason” recording, for which she received a Platinum Album.
Given the extraordinary range of her musical resume, it is hardly surprising that this album showcases that diversity, encompassing classical, opera, pop, rock, world music, and more. Accompanied by a host of world-class musicians, Darlene Koldenhoven shines not only as a virtuoso vocalist, but also as a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and instrumentalist. Solitary Treasures is a masterpiece by one of the most truly remarkable vocal talents I have heard in quite a while.
Michael Brant DeMaria
Bindu, the fourth CD in Michael Brant DeMaria’s Healing Sound Project marks a subtle yet intriguing directional shift musically. While his previous releases have reflected an earthy connection with the natural world, this album explores our inner nature with a more introspective ambience, though not surprising for someone with 30 years as a practitioner and teacher of meditation. And speaking of previous releases, Michael’s Gaia CD was not only nominated for a Grammy in 2011, it made it to the final round for Best Album in the New Age category.
Bindu begins on a rhythmic note, while track 2, “Journey Within,” lives up to its name as we enter an ambient soundscape of spacious electronica, choirs, and echoed bells. From this point on until much later in the album, we are journeying through musical dimensions where sonic textures and atmospheres take precedent over rhythms, reminding me of the kind of music often heard on Hearts Of Space or Echoes radio programs, and often taking on the feel of a shamanic journey.
As psychologist, author, and speaker, Michael has a keen sense of music’s healing effect, which is elegantly embodied in his latest release, as it is in all his music.
Sounds from The Circle IV
The New Age Music Circle is an online community with over 1200 recording artists and fans. For four years in a row, they have put out a compilation of member’s recordings and made it available to press and radio programmers on a 40 song MP3 disc as well as to the public as an iTunes playlist from which they can download individual tracks.
The compilation is the work of new age music pioneer, Suzanne Doucet who is also the creator and organizing force behind the community. Also contributing to this project is Beth Ann Hilton, a well-known LA music publicist.
The music on the compilation is quite diverse and covers many New Age sub-genres including meditation, nature, solo piano, vocals, electronic space music, chill, and more. There are too many tracks to go into detail here but suffice it to say that there is some absolutely wonderful music that will appeal to a wide range of tastes.
One great thing about it being available as iTunes downloads is that the listener can preview any track individually and decide which ones they would like to purchase for 99 cents each. A link to the playlist can be found at: http://newagemusik.ning.com
Tim White and Joe Paulino
With a title like inhale slowly, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect an album of serenely spacious music that is perfect for relaxation, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or massage. And that is exactly what it is — an hour and eight minute oasis of calm that is available 24 hours a day.
The creative source of these tranquil tracks is Tim White, on bamboo flute, guitar, sitar, and esraj, and Joe Paulino who plays piano and synthesizers. The music was originally created as an accompaniment for guided imagery projects, after which, according to Joe, “we re-arranged our compositions as pure in-strumentals, freeing them to speak their own truths.”
This album consists of five lavishly lengthy soundscapes — three in the 17-minute range and two are approximately 9 minutes each. These expansive excursions provide lots of breathing room, so to speak, for cultivating deep inner states. For me, the sound of the sitar evokes a mystical air, and it was interesting to hear it in a setting that was more freeform than the highly-structured context of traditional Indian music.
These two musicians have a wonderfully supportive rapport and the interplay of the various instruments offers a nice blend of multi-cultural influences atmospheric ambience.
Michael Diamond is a music producer, recording artist, and music journalist in the San Francisco Bay area with over 30 years of experience writing for nationally-published magazines and more recently worldwide on the internet. He currently has five CD’s including two with new-age music pioneer Steven Halpern. For additional reviews of CD’s, DVD’s, and more, please visit: www.michaeldiamondmusic.com