Crash Chords: Good Vibrations (music for healing)

Sound is composed of waves, vibrating air particles that strike our bodies and ears, affecting our minds and flesh. Tuned to the right frequency, sound can influence our moods, thoughts, and health. And some scientific studies have proven that this is more than just new-age-y gobbledygook. It may not be possible to accurately quantify how much of a boost to one’s well-being good music can bring about, but I guess it’s alright to hope that the more tasteful tunes make for more effective therapy. Here are a few suggestions for albums you can put on to do yoga, get a massage, light a scented candle, or transcend this plane. Om, everyone.

Recognized as a landmark work in the modern instrumental genre, Natural States by pianist David Lanz and guitarist Paul Speer draws on the energy of the lush forests, dramatic waterscapes, and majestic mountain rages of the northern Pacific coast of the American continent. Building on a minimalist framework, Lanz and Speer layer tonal colors from jazz and rock, over which woodwinds soar and hover as grace notes. This spatial epic is a milestone in the evolution of New Age, ambient, and early progressive electronic music. The duo’s second collaboration, Desert Vision was meant to harmonize with the stark vistas and lingering sunsets of the American Southwest. Imbued with the vigor, subtlety and edge that characterize Paul Speer’s compositions, Desert Vision’s subtle and melodic soundscapes feature the strikingly delicate interplay between Lanz’s piano and Speer’s electric guitar. Desert Vision rises above most elevator music by evoking not just the splendor of the natural world, but also its dark and melancholy corners. These two albums would work best as a soundtrack to someone’s personal spirit quest, be it a road trip or a head trip.

Sweet Lullaby

Sweet Lullaby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deep Forest, the creation of French keyboardists and programmers Eric Mouquet and Michel Sanchez, treads the middle ground between world music and electronica known as ethnic fusion. Marrying traditional ethnic folk tunes with cutting-edge electronic beats, Deep Forest’s first hit Sweet Lullaby fused ambient techno with the chants of African pygmies. Their second album, Boheme explored the more temperate tones of Mongolia, India and Hungary, held together thematically by the voice of Transylvanian singer Marta Sebestyen, resulting in effectively eerie mood music for inducing trances. Comparsa continues with an emphasis on Latin and Caribbean grooves, lusher and edgier arrangements, and hushed vocals.DeepForest’s dance club roots align their tracks more toward enlightenment of a more physical bent, like power yoga or tantric sex.

With Sirens, Mychael Danna lives up to his work with such luminaries as Ang Lee, Atom Egoyan, Mira Nair, and Terry Gilliam to reign over the ranks of composers of what has been termed as “cinematic spacemusic”. Utilizing electric and pedal steel guitars, bamboo flute, and Scottish Highland bagpipes, the album sounds like a sonic stew of folk sounds from the Orient and the vast Canadian wilderness, rooted in the mysteries of the female psyche. Inspired by the unrelenting monochromatic greyness of the great Canadian skyscape, Danna’s Skys was originally planned as a suite of pieces for orchestra, worked out on an inexpensive digital sampling keyboard. Danna fixated on the sampler’s murky string sound, which conveyed precisely the mood he was looking for. In the final production, oboe, flute, cello, clarinet and trumpet were recorded live using classical musicians, but the digitized string section remains in all its rough glory. The resulting style is what he terms “orchestral romantic minimalism”, where short melodic/harmonic cells are repeated for emotional resonance, painting the immensity of the grim northern skies. Clearly, spacemusic is meant for spacing out, getting one’s head lost in the clouds and the heavens, gazing up at the sky and bidding the world goodbye.

-text by Jude Defensor, first published in Manual magazine, 2006

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