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/