Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Moving Through Life

 


This is a great time for something brighter and lighter, something that brings some ease to the weary listener, who is seeking feelings of harmony and simple respite from our troubled world. The gifted composer, singer, and pianist Fiona Joy Hawkins has just the thing, a new album titled Moving Through Worlds.  I hear an enchanting and amazing exploration of themes such as land, water, fire, climate change and the vanishing of souls into the wind. The 14 tracks feature mostly solo piano, some are duos with violin or cello, some have a more full range of accompanists. The sound has a way of traversing lots of moods, rich with dynamic energy. In places the sound is delicate and slow, in places the feelings build and gain velocity and then gently recede. 

Fiona Joy Hawkins is a mainstream Composer/Pianist/Vocalist with an international following, whom she greets weekly with pandemic-inspired, live-streamed concerts from her rural home in NSW Australia. The event’s growing popularity may be attributable to a combination of her musical talent, a love for her fans, and her disarming Aussie humour.  A prolific composer, she has always been interested in creating music that evokes images, emotions and tells stories. 

“My wish is to open a few more hearts to the power of music. I believe music is a gift from another world, from ancestors of the past communicating to inspire and give us hope,” Hawkins said, reflecting on the world’s current challenges. “Music is a universal language that connects us without prejudice, it speaks to us all equally, yet is received with great variation. Now more than ever we need the connection to our past to find the pathway to our future.”

As per her usual style, Hawkins defies genre by bringing classical, contemporary piano, ethereal vocals, and lush new age instrumentals together to create a sound that is uniquely her own. This mix of solo and instrumental pieces reflects some of the worlds that she has moved through so elegantly while this powerful music gathered in her soul: granddaughter, nurse, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, friend, lover, painter, pianist, composer...cue the many lives of an artistic woman. 

Jonathan Widran, in a review for JWVibe, wrote “While fusing the old and new on these tracks to help her come to terms with the past and “put her ghosts to bed,” Fiona places a dreamy, easy flowing coda on this era of her life with “All That is Left,” blending piano, violin and flugelhorn to create a final confrontation with these issues – and a sense of hope that she is on her way to healing.”  

Fans watching her weekly Fiona Live Living Room Concerts often comment on her balletic piano performance style, which comes from a childhood spent learning classical piano, dance, and painting. In her music, one can hear the inspiration of Felix Mendelssohn and Frédéric Chopin, and yet her music is likened to modern composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Michael Nyman, Liz Story, and George Winston. Hawkins regularly tours China and the USA, and is also a member of the award-winning contemporary instrumental group, FLOW (Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt, Jeff Oster, Will Ackerman). 

Hawkins began recording and conceptualizing Moving Through Worlds three years ago, yet she describes it as an album over 44-years in the making. One of the classical-crossover pieces is “For the Roses” which a 12-year-old Hawkins wrote and performed for her Grandmother’s funeral.  The song “Calling County Clare” reaches even further back to her family’s Irish roots, called forth with Irish whistle by Paul Jarman, Hawkins on piano/vocals, and Will Ackerman (guitar/hopi), Tom Eaton (accordion), Jeff Haynes (percussion) and Tony Levin (NS bass). 

County Clare Ireland has a strong history of traditional music, with many seasonal music festivals. One of the legends for the origin of the county name Clare, sometimes also called the Banner County, comes from the settlement of Clare (now Clarecastle), whose name Clár, or plank bridge, is a place for crossing over the River Fergus. The first track on Moving Through Worlds, "Calling County Clare" (5:06) is a haunting bit of a quiet easy dance with piano, percussion, acoustic guitar, bass, Irish flute, and vocals floating ethereally. There is a new video that is based on this song: 


She has been very busy recently giving interviews and generously sharing her time with us between tours and recording, here are three articles that have recently been published:

Best Ever You: Meet Fiona Joy Hawkins

Stories of Inspiring Joy: Fiona Joy Hawkins

Australian Pianist and Composer Fiona Joy Hawkins Explores the Now Through Her Music

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Music From the Expansive Sky

 


The music of John Gregorius blends a love of both acoustic and ambient electric guitars, resulting in a wonderful sound that is easygoing and engaging, a mixture of acoustic and amplified instrumental music that ranges from refreshingly simple finger style guitar to the emotional resonance of layered textural soundscapes. The sounds that result grow out of life’s mysteries, and through this process continues a search for meaning within a highly dynamic environment that is tightly focused on the volatility and transience of listening. For the tracks on his newest album, Full of Life, Gregorius employs New Standard Tuning, which was developed by Robert Fripp. Five consecutive open-notes of new standard tuning are spaced seven semitones apart on the chromatic circle; the highest interval is only three semitones apart, which places some of the guitar strings under greater tension than standard tuning. Standard sets of guitar strings do not work well with the tuning as the lowest strings are too loose and the highest string may snap under the increased tension. The body of the instrument seems to focus a heightened sonic awareness of what falls within the listener's contextual perception, filling the space with a sound that we appreciate and enjoy, thus prompting a rich and satisfying mode of experiencing the music.

His first album is titled Under the Ice, and was released in 2000, from his studio, Sound Art Recording. In his own words, "From this, I discovered my music created a space for people to live, travel, pray or even sleep with. Under the Ice was followed by Heaven and Earth, which was picked up by Spotted Peccary Music, and that was followed by Still Voice, which features electric and acoustic ambient guitar with piano, cello, upright bass, drums, programming and vocals." Yet, with all of these new instrumental layers and dimensions, there remains a sense of minimalism and mystery. "The music I create is part of a larger spiritual quest. I'm learning that being still and listening is important beyond measure and my hope is that my music will facilitate a deeper and more real experience of what it is to be awake and alive. Ultimately, if one sees a glimpse of the source of beauty and love from the music then I am greatly blessed."


Full of Life has an awakening contemplative spiritual sound that invites mystery and joy to flow together, the listener experiences a series of smooth and polished instrumentals, exploring a deep spiritual space with layers, atmospheres and melodies that feel much like being up in the Sonoran Desert mountains with breezes blowing through the trees, discovering spiritual connections in nature and the spirit of love. John Gregorius invites you to watch the evening light change the distant mountain's rocky slopes and high-desert washes as it flows, creating deep channels of shadows and mirages, "painting" the music. The listener can become awake to the divine presence, which is how music can become prayer.

Full of Life was mastered by Howard Givens, and is available for physical purchase in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats. The CD version of Full of Life arrives in a factory sealed 6-panel gatefold package that includes vibrant artwork, liner notes, a 4 page booklet, and exquisite package design by Daniel Pipitone, incorporating photography by Micayla Gregorius.

 

Tracklist:

1 The Expansive Sky 05:45

2 Unfolding Beauty 05:08

3 Full of Life 05:49

4 Path of Renewal 05:22

5 Blanket of Stars 04:51

6 Winds of Change 05:21

7 Wellspring 04:28

8 Early Reflection 05:01

9 Monsoon Clearing 04:49

10 Painted Vistas 03:19

11 Catalina 04:15

12 Rincon Fading Light 04:00

 

Links:

Spotted Peccary Album page: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/full-of-life/

Album unboxing video: https://youtu.be/iJ64GiL3Nzs 

Bandcamp: https://ambientelectronic.bandcamp.com/

Spotted Peccary Artist Page: https://spottedpeccary.com/artists/john-gregorius/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spottedpeccary/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/spottedpeccary

Artist website: https://johngregorius.com/


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Dancing in the Sky

 

The Groove Project 

Volume 1: Flights of Fantasy

Prepare for take-off to destination GROOVE -- the latest from the global group The Groove Project, with guitarist and producer Arun Shenoy landing the newest smooth jazz music video “Beyond the Atmosphere” from the new album Volume 1: Flights of Fantasy.  The music is wheeling and soaring, an  airworthy cruise as a concept album exploring man’s fascination with flight. 



The Groove Project was formed in Los Angeles, California in 2016 as a 14-piece group by  Shenoy, who earned a Contemporary Instrumental GRAMMY® Award nomination for his debut album, Rumbadoodle. Soon after, the original lineup released A STAGEY BANK AFFAIR in the same year. The record was chosen as a top Album of the Year by Jazziz Magazine’s Critics Pick and dubbed “an explosive, exotic, jazz-funk-rock-barn burner” by noted American journalist and reviewer, Jonathan Widran. 

The lineup for the new album: Volume 1: Flights of Fantasy is fronted by Shenoy. The 3 principals along with saxophonist Marcus Mitchell and keyboardist David Joubert are collectively credited with songwriting. As part of their international lineup, the rhythm section is locked down by Glenn Welman from UK on the drums and Hector Ruano from Venezuela on bass. Guitarist Samituru from Norway brings his maverick guitar work to the music.  The vocalization by Park adds a unique signature sound to the high energy sound of the group’s music. Park also serves as the mix engineer for the group, while Shell was a primary songwriter for this album. Special guest Vahagn Stepanyan appears on two tracks playing piano.

Overall energetic and upbeat, a "flight of fancy" is defined in dictionaries as an imaginative but unrealistic idea. This music realistically brings the listener high into the air over the amazing landscapes of the earth, lusty and brilliant, richly melodious and memorable, full of passion and life. I am always happy to chill out on occasion and listen to this longtime musical love, smooth jazz that will consistently engage our grooving spirits while inspiring us to chill and reduce the stress in our lives.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth to ride the highway that is above the clouds, to know how the clouds feel. I highly recommend Volume 1: Flights of Fantasy.  Official artist website: http://thegrooveproject.band/ 

TRACKS
1. Home In the Sky 4:25
2. Beyond the Atmosphere 4:24
3. Ocean of Air 4:31
4. Gravity (feat. Vahagn Stepanyan)  (6:49)
5. Shadows  (3:31)
6. To Be a Bird  (4:18)
7. Never Touch the Ground  (5:03)
8. Leap of Faith  (3:15)
9. Pilot  (4:19)
10. First Flight  (4:19)
11. Bird on a Wire (Song for Mo)  (4:59)
12. Dreams (feat. Vahagn Stepanyan)  (4:46)
13. Imagine (9:50)

LINKS:
Spotify album link: https://bit.ly/TGP-FlightsOfFantasy
Official artist website: http://thegrooveproject.band/
Facebook: https://facebook.com/TheGrooveProjectBand
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thegrooveprojectband

#ArunShenoy #TheGrooveProject #SmoothJazz #MatthewShell #LonniePark #MarcusMitchell #DavidJoubert #GlennWelman #HectorRuano #Samituru #VahagnStepanyan



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

New Music Review

 Ride into History -- HERITAGE by Masa Takumi

Travel fans whose wings have been clipped will find a fanciful escape in the new music by Masa Takumi.  The new album HERITAGE balances a journey into the past with modern beats and melodies; it is said to be reminiscent of the gorgeous work of June Kuramoto in the legendary Asian-influenced band Hiroshima.  The expansive and exotic works of Keiko Matsui also come to mind upon hearing Takumi’s soaring, high energy piano and keyboard adventure, artfully blending intense, earthbound rhythms with transcendent flights of fancy and rich sonic detail.

On Takumi's 2016 album, his solo debut Stars Falling, he composed and performed all the instruments, a sparkling orchestral dreamscape. This was followed in 2017 by the album Deep Down, which won both  Akademia Music Awards and Global Music Awards.  His artistic music video for “Deep Down” achieved a nomination at the 2018 Hollywood Music In Media Awards. Takumi is also an accomplished magician and a member of the world-famous Magic Castle, an exclusive, private club in Hollywood, California. Takumi has recently found a new home with the Domo Music Group, which is the label known for the esteemed Kitaro.

"Heritage" (3:30) opens with a bouncing boogie done in a gakaku style, which soon breaks into an icy cold bridge, then takes it back to the bounce. Decorated with traditional spooky instrument sounds, and there is that modern funky beat. I dig the thematic transformation, with lots of popping around old school imperial court music mixing with the drums and the piano, you can feel his music bringing the past to life in a symphonic way. 

Tracks:
1 Heritage (3:30)
2 Hanamachi Girl (5:12)
3 After The Nightmare (4:50)
4 Bells In Summer (4:27)
5 Toki (3:06)
6 Bamboo Forest (4:15)
7 Sakura River (3:36)
8 Midwater Night's Neo Dream (3:34)

#MasaTakumi #Heritage #JapaneseMusic #DomoMusicGroup #TheBCompany #gakaku #contemporaryinstrumental #GRAMMYNominee #Japanese #magician #musician

Thursday, March 19, 2020

BEING Editor in AWARENESS Magazine



BEING Editor Beth Ann Hilton says "It's not like me to openly share my "spiritual path" -- not only because it's a rambling one -- but simply because I'm usually writing about other people's works, music, organizations, et cetera."

But, she adds, "sometimes we are moved to testify.  When I shared news of Ram Dass' passing with some friends, it was with great love and sadness, which brought me to a realization of just how much Ram Dass' messages -- his very BEING -- had gently enhanced my life throughout the years. My friends at Awareness Magazine asked me to share the story in tribute, and I was honored to do so."  

Enjoy one woman's journey in the time of Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle and the new Millenium. Simply click over to Awareness Magazine, and scroll to page 11...the issue is currently on newsstands across the Western U.S. and Hawaii.  


Hear "Mystic Poetry"...


"We're all just walking each other home."
- Ram Dass


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Sound Thinking in a Toxic World




Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst
We all agree that we are on a rough road here in the U.S., both politically and health wise, and that many things must change. ALL of us need to shift...a little or a lot...it's up to you to be the judge of how happy/unhappy you are about certain issues, and to assess your mindset. Are you thinking clearly about the issues? Are you open-minded to solutions? Do you have all the facts...or know where can you find the facts? To form solid opinions about important issues, it falls upon each of us to set an atmosphere for clear thinking, to employ solid reasoning tools, and to think things through in a logical way.

Looking Within

As Rev. Michael Beckwith shared at Agape recently (and I paraphrase) "If there's an area in your life where you are unhappy and dissatisfied or stuck, then there is a lie you are telling yourself somewhere along the evolution of that situation."

For instance, when you are disappointed in your child's college of choice, where is the lie you're telling yourself in that situation? When a person feels justified in abusing you, verbally or physically; what is the lie they are telling themselves? When we are disappointed in our nation's leadership, how are we also lying to ourselves?

Our age is one of rampant global data redistribution on the news and in social media, and we are increasingly overwhelmed by the need to "make sense" of situations at many levels. From stories of abuse, to leadership struggles, to health scares, to school shootings and even just family challenges...how can we possibly process it all to find smart solutions for our lives and for our country. How are we to get there? And why is it so difficult to figure it all out?

Mindfulness

I say this without blame: begin with yourself. Take some quiet time for a re-examination of your heart, mind and body. We usually believe our "heart is in the right place" so perhaps our MIND needs addressing...are you of a clear and healthy mind, toxin-free? Our environment, substances, and medications often affect our brain synapses, and our ability to think, so take stock of your brain health and adjust as needed, with your doctor's help if necessary.

As for our thought processes: are we thinking clearly about all the issues before us? What is our bias, are we wearing blinders? Are we being "bandwagon" thinkers, taught to mimic our elders' or tribal/teams' beliefs even if they no longer serve us? Are we "reactionary" speakers blurting out defenses to make a point, rather than listening and considering the whole picture? Are we "considering the sources" of our information? Take it from a publicist...there is more propaganda than ever at play in all of our media platforms...learn to recognize the 10 forms of propaganda, and you'll have fun recognizing manipulative messages every day of the week.


On a positive note, there is a huge trend toward embracing yoga and mindfulness for betterment of our selves and our communities.

Why it Matters

I'm concerned that several generations of people in our country have not been taught how to think critically. Why isn't critical thinking - a tool crucial to intelligent decision making - being taught at the middle- and high-school level? In the past, there was an assumption that non-college bound individuals would be laborers, military personnel, or homemakers, and therefore not in need of such information, a convenient assumption at a time when conformity and belonging were emphasized over individuality.
However, today's younger generations are the most individualistic and globally-minded that we've ever seen. At the international level, it is crucial that they, and we, develop our critical-thinking skills to co-exist peacefully and to compete in the world marketplace. On a personal level, we must engage these skills to help our family, friends, co-workers and others to have a better understanding of the world, and to not be guided by propaganda, anger, fear or intimidation. And, case in point, with the pandemic of COVID-19, we must each weigh potentially life-changing choices about work, travel and healthcare in a measured way, without panic.

Finally, even our nation's unity and our civility is at stake until we learn how to intelligently debate, argue, and dissent, or accept as the future status quo the current assault of ranting, raving, seething commentary that bombards our screens today. The latter option is simply too depressing to accept.

Thinking Critically
Want to think better, smarter, faster? Begin by absorbing the easily digestible guide to critical thinking skills from College Info Geek. If you enjoy the info, there is much more to explore on the topic at http://www.criticalthinking.org/.  

Digging in and learn to think differently (and smarter), will probably help you to put things into perspective, resulting in being less easily "triggered" by a comment on Facebook or a story on the news. And, you'll be able to reply to others in a well thought out and intelligent way. Consider, if just a few people in your life were to interact in more measured and helpful ways, wouldn't it improve your relationships and overall quality of life?

With a few new tools, and more open mindedness, we can all engage with less emotion, and with more purposeful response. As the saying goes, "Let it begin with me."

Atmospheric Sounds and Thoughts
My final tip is to curate a sense of calm in your surroundings, especially in stressful times. In addition to exercise, adequate sleep, and meditation, a serene atmosphere contributes to one's ability to relax and think clearly. For some, it's classical music, for others it is nature sounds, ASMR, or space music. While reading or resting, I prefer ambient music with a slightly melodic approach, as found in Spotted Peccary's Positive Vibes/Pure Bliss playlist. If you enjoy piano, flute, guitar, or violin-based music, I suggest checking out the music of Blue Landscapes, Lawrence Blatt, Ann Licater, Fiona Joy Hawkins, Masa Takumi, Jennifer Thomas, or compilations by Sounds from the Circle or the Mindful Music Association.

I hope you'll find some uplifting new music, clarity of thought, and peace of mind!


- Beth Ann Hilton