Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Eleven Earth Day CDs

April 22, 2014

Today is Earth Day.  Tonight on Echoes we’ll celebrate with an Earth Day Soundscape, but you create your own soundscape any day with these 11 recordings that are drawn from nature.

Sonic-Seasonings1 Wendy CarlosSonic Seasonings
Released in 1972,  Sonic Seasonings was ambient before ambient was coined. Taking the form of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” Carlos orchestrated four side-long soundscapes designed to be “part of the decor.” Carlos weaves gentle, often reedy synthesizer melodies through chirping birds on “Spring,” phase-shifted church organ drones across crystalline bells and wind on “Winter,” and she seems to simulate an alien space landing on “Summer,” mimicking nature with her synthesizer.

Nest2 Robert RichNest
It was close between this album and his 1989 album, Rainforest. On that album, Rich synthesized his own virtual rainforest, but on Nest he uses environmental recordings he made in Australia where he was inspired by the nesting of tree frogs there. He weaves synthesizer textures, spare piano, gongs and flutes in a slow motion dusk that floats like mist on the forest floor.

Range 3 S. CareyRange of Light
It’s hard to bring naturalistic imagery into song without sounding like John Denver, but S. Carey does it on his ethereal second album, Range of Light. The title comes from the writings of naturalist John Muir and many of the lyrics are drawn from his inspiration, even when Carey is writing gorgeous love songs to his family like “Alpenglow.”

Aquas 4 UaktiAguas da Amazonia
The collaboration of composer Philip Glass and the Brazilian new music group, Uakti, is a natural. Uakti plays instruments that are a cross between the PVC pipe percussion of The Blue Man Group and the exotic sound sculptures of the late Harry Partch. They play PVC pipe covered with skins, a wooden box with latex strings, marimbas made from glass bars and violins made from gourds. Marco António Guimaráes created these instruments and arranged them for Glass’s charming compositions inspired by Amazonian rivers.

Driftwood5 Rena JonesDriftwood
Rena Jones’ 2007 album, Driftwood, follows the life of a tree from “From Star to Seed” to “Driftwood.” It’s an entrancing album that’s as much about Jones’ translucent laptop compositions as her gifts on cello, guitar, violin and clarinet. Compositions like “Photosynthesis” and “Driftwood” have an almost classical flow as her strings and clarinet articulate Arvo Part-like lines of liquid inevitability while rhythms pulse, shudder and ping through the melodies.

Equator 6 Bernie KrauseEquator
Bernie Krause was one of the early pioneers merging electronic music and environmental sounds, most famously done on In A Wild Sanctuary by Beaver & Krause in 1970. But in the 1980s, Krause committed himself to sonic ecology, recording environments across the globe. He would orchestrate these natural sounds into compositions, sometimes purely natural sounds, other times reinforced with some gentle synthesizer underpinnings ala Sonic Seasonings. That’s what he does on Equator.

Earth-Voices7 Paul Winter Earth Voices of a Planet
The Godfather of environmental music, it’s hard to pick a CD from Paul Winter. But his 1990 album, Earth-Voices of A Planet seems a perfect merging of Winter’s chamber jazz folk sound merged with environmental sounds. Spotted owls, elephants and whales (many recorded by Mickey Houlihan) are joined by Winter’s soprano sax and musicians like Glen Velez, Rhonda Larson and Eugene Friesen in ecstatic songs like “Cathedral Forest.” Winter rises above New Age clichés for this genre.

Bali8 Jalan JalanBali
Jalan Jalan was a studio project from the Japanese Pacific Moon label. They took the sounds of Balinese gamelan and combined it with pianos, flutes, small percussion and environmental sounds into gentle refrains.  It owes much to Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, with its sense of elegiac repose and resigned melancholy, particularly tracks like “Firefly Sanctuary.” The canon form in which most of these pieces are written and the stately pace they follow make this music seem like it could go on forever, and you wish they would.

Our-Beloved-Land9 R. Carlos Nakai & Keola BeamerOur Beloved Land
In this meeting of Native flute and Hawaiian slack-key guitar, these two artists create a music born of their native landscapes. Though most of the tunes are Hawaiian in origin and largely arranged by Beamer, he lets Nakai take them out into the deepest southwest desert, tumbling them through canyon echoes and ancient chants of his own. Nakai and Beamer’s voices, despite intoning different sounds, come together as one. The rhythms, played on percussion instruments from Hawaii, the southwest and Africa are trance-like and ceremonial.

Forest10 George WinstonForest
There are no nature sounds here, but George Winston has always been great at evoking seasons and landscapes with his piano. This was his first post-seasonal CD and it found him exploring new modalities on songs like “Tamarack Pines” where Winston extracts from the minimalist canon of Steve Reich with a nod to Terry Riley’s “In C” in constructing a cyclical journey.  On “Forbidden Forest” he plays with inside-the-piano effects while “The Cradle” draws from the jazz harmonies of Larry “Khalid Yasin” Young, the late jazz organist.

On_Land11 Brian EnoAmbient 4: On Land
This is possibly the most surreal use of environmental sounds ever. Eno used nature sounds mixed with acoustic sounds and some synthesizer, but blended them using musique concrete techniques to create imaginary landscapes. Many of them are named for geographical locations, but in this sonic transubstantiation, the locations are completely in the mind, even when born from nature.

Hear An Echoes Earth Day Soundscape tonight.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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Andreas Vollenweider Announces New CD: AIR

February 26, 2009

After an absence of a couple of years, Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider has announced his return with a new CD call Air. Not much info yet on release dates. But Andreas has a very charming video up on his site.

Andreas Vollenweider at Echoes

Andreas Vollenweider at Echoes

Here’s the press release:

We are very exited to present to you AIR, a very special new album with a very special history; it came as a surprise, even for Andreas himself! For 2008/9 he had planned to take time off to focus on other projects than music.

Andreas: “I actually was going to make room for my passion for storytelling and I was already in the midst of an intense writing process, when suddenly an unbridled desire to play music was rising. So I ended up writing during the day and at night I went to my studio, to completely lose myself in the playing, for hours, very much the same way as in the very beginning, no strategy, no concrete purpose, no plan. After some time it became very obvious; something wanted to come out and I should follow its ‘calling’. I love the line ‘man makes plans for the amusement of the gods…’, how true this many times is ;-)”.

Andreas began to call his friends and invited them for a spontaneous gathering in his studio… and in less than two weeks AIR was recorded.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

A Shaman Enters the Next World: Jorge Reyes’ Last Rattle

February 9, 2009

It’s been a while since we’ve played any music by Jorge Reyes on Echoes.  Something I now regret upon hearing of his passing this past Saturday, February 7, 2009 from an apparent heart attack.  He was 57. There is an obit on-line.

Suspended Memories - Forgotten Gods Jorge was a big part of Echoes during the techno-tribal days of the early 1990s.  I first heard of him when he collaborated with Steve Roach, who recorded a couple of albums with Jorge as Suspended MemoriesForgotten Gods and Earth Island, classics of the techno-tribal years.

At the time, many musicians were trying to get closer to the original source of music by playing ancient instruments.  But whether they were tapping clay pots or blowing into didgeridoos, few went as far as Jorge Reyes, who played stones and bones, among other ancient artifacts.  Jorge released several solo recordings, that are fairly hard to get in the U.S.  They are often marked by a sonic density and rhythmic intensity that could take you into another world or send you screaming from it.  A good entry to his music might be Mexican Music: Pre-Hispanic or Baho El Sol Jaguar, which are more open and melodic.

Pre-Hispanico I first met Jorge in Steve Roach’s Tucson home for an Echoes Living Room Concert in 1992.  Along with Spanish guitarist Suso Saiz, the three musicians conjured up the spirits in set shrouded in throbbing rhythms, and a cross-referencing of sounds ancient and futuristic.  I caught up with him again at Imaginaria 95, a conference in São Paulo , Brazil produced by Mirna Grzich.  Jorge and his friend, Jose Luis Cruz, took me under their wings in the wilds of São Paulo and gave me the best possible time.  My last contact with them was eating breakfast in Manhattan after our red-eye flight back.  It seemed like I’d made a longtime friendship, but sadly that was our last interaction.

We produced a really nice feature on Jorge in 1995, based on my interviews with him in Sao Paulo that also includes a bit of his live performance there.  If you want to hear a musicians who touched the beyond, give it a spin. Jorge Reyes Echoes Interview 1995

I was also surprised to discover some video footage of Jorge on YouTube.  They all find him in a much more primitive, acoustic state than I remember him playing, but then, it had been a while.  The long shots are murky, but wait for the close-ups.

Here’s another video that I didn’t realize existed. It’s a 10:00 excerpt from the 1992 Echoes Living Room Concert with Suspended Memories. There wasn’t much light, so the video itself is pretty dark, but the music is intense.

Jorge Reyes was a remarkable presence.  Gentle, sweet and unaffected offstage, a possessed ritualistic performer onstage.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Grammy Goof: New Age and Polka Dots

February 9, 2009

I skipped watching the Grammys Sunday night to catch a live performance by Jon Hassell that took a deep diving expedition guided by fourth world semaphores and jazz signposts.  (See earlier blog.)

Peace Time

But after I got home, as I booted up my DVR to catch the awards show, I opened an email from Will Ackerman with the news that Jack DeJohnette had taken the New Age Grammy.  It’s a crime that this amazing drummer has never won a jazz Grammy for any of the extraordinary albums he’s authored over the last 40 years or so.  But it’s a sad day that when he finally wins, it’s for a generic New Age album that would’ve been cliched 30 years ago.  DeJohnette getting this award is akin to Jethro Tull getting the heavy metal Grammy in 1988 for Crest of a Knave and Yusef Lateef for getting the New Age Grammy in 1987 for his hackneyed Little Symphony, an album which will be joined by DeJohnette’s Peace Time in the dustbin of forgotten Grammy Award winners.  One would hope that the New Age category may get a bit more respect when a musician of this caliber wins, but not for this album. As a member of the Academy, my regrets to Peter Kater, Will Ackerman, Will Clipman and Ottmar Liebert, all of whom released superior albums.

Random Observations:
Brian Eno, all he does is win Grammys for other bands.  I don’t believe Coldplay even mentioned him in any of their three award speeches.

Steve Wonder playing with the overwrought boy band, The Jonas Brothers:  They can only hope to have a fraction of his genius.

Carrie Underwood had me thinking that there’s no difference between modern country and mainstream rock, but then Kenny Chesney came on, plunging deep into a soulful country vein, complete with cowboy hat, to remind me that there is.

When is Herbie Hancock going to start looking his age?

Why is it that whenever a rap artist came on to perform with a pop singer the song turned to crap.   Jay-Z rapping  on Coldplay’s “Lost?”   Does everything t have to have a rap component or is that just me?

Rappers also detracted from the sightof  M.I.A.’s polka dot leotard bikini over her 9 months and calling very pregnant belly.

How many awards given in a 3.5 hour broadcast? 10  That’s one award every 18 minutes.

Winners at

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echoes Top 25 for January ’09: Kaya Project Tops

February 3, 2009

Kaya Project Tops our January Top 25.

Kaya Project makes it’s way to the top, no surprise since it was our Echoes CD of the Month for January.   Kaya Project’s Seb Taylor actually gets a double hit since his Hibernation album,  Some Things Never Change, also made the list.  But Kaya Project points to a resurgence of World fusion over the last two months.,  The number two selection is Bombay Dub Orchestra‘s 3 Cities.   That was a CD of the Month in November and is still riding high.  Other world fusion exponents on the top 25 list include, Uriel with his electronic Middle Eastern fusion and Ottmar Liebert, still here with his mid-summer Nouveau Flamenco album, The Scent of Light.  It’s nominated for a Grammy this year.

There usually aren’t a lot of new albums on the list in January, but among the newcomers are electronica singer, Jen Pumo with All Over the Moon and bassist Erik Scott with Other Planets.  Look for this former Alice Cooper sideman to top the list next month since he’ll be the Echoes CD of the Month for February.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))



1. Kaya Project And So It Goes Interchill

Read the Review!

2. Bombay Dub Orchestra 3 Cities Six Degrees Records
3. David Helpling and Jon Jenkins Beyond Words Deep Exile Music
4. Sumner McKane What A Great Place to Be Don’t Hit Your Sister Records
5. John Gregorius Heaven and Earth Spotted Peccary
6. General Fuzz Soulful Filling Self Released
7. Motionfield Optical Flow Somnia
8. Uriel Culture Shift AD Music
9. Anja Lechner and Vasillis Tsabropoulos Melos ECM Records

10. Michel Banabilia Precious Images Streamin’ Sound
11. Jen Pumo All Over the Moon Brother Hum, LLC
12. Erik Scott Other Planets Self Released
13. Neil Jacobs 12 String Guitar Adena Productions
14. Hibernation Some Things Never Change Aleph Zero
Amazon MP3

15. Ottmar Liebert The Scent of Light Spiral Subwave Records Int’l
16. Johann Johannsson Fordlandia 4AD/Touch

17. Sounds from the Ground Brightwhitelight Waveform Records
Amazon MP3
18. Ian Boddy Slide DiN
19. Dante Bucci Reminiscence Self Released
20. Wolfert Brederode Quartet Currents ECM Records Amazon MP3
21. Jeffrey Koepper Luminosity Air Space Records
22. Thomas Newman Towelhead Lakeshore Records
23. Carl Weingarten Lost in the Air Self Released
24. Cam Newton Oregon Outback Summit Records

25. Sentieri Selvaggi Plays Gavin Bryars and Philip Glass Cantaloupe Records

Kaya Project’s

was the Echoes CD of the Month
for January 2009

Ambient Improvisations

January 30, 2009

This is off the Ambient list, a very cool blog called Live Ambient Scene .  Much of their materiel is generated from another site called Ambient-Art-Lounge. It’s all in German, but they’ve got a host of live performances, videos, video art and more.  Interestingly, a lot of it seems like actual “live” ambient performance with improvised jam sessions as opposed to laptop jockies staring into screens. You can check out the numerous videos or dial up some of their long audio streams.  They have tons of videos on their site, but here’s one of them off of YouTube.

Here’s a link to one on their site:  Ambient Art Lounge 1 year celebration from Martin on Vimeo.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echo Location: Blooming Buddhas with Eno and FM3

January 14, 2009

Back in the 1960s, Max Mathews, one of the pioneers of computer music, reputedly proclaimed that one day, even your plumber would be able to create music. His dream was realized sometime ago with computer programs and electronic keyboards. Now a new generation of music generating toys is upon us that makes it even easier. Late last year a couple of interesting products were released that make creating music as easy as tapping your fingers.

(You can hear an Audio Version of this Blog with music.)

A few years ago, a device called a Buddha Machine was developed by Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian, who work in China operating as FM3. The Blue Buddha MachineBuddha Machine is like a cheap transistor radio from the 50s, but instead of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, it plays a random set of 9 ambient loops at very lo-fi resolution.
Now they’ve transferred that program to the iPod as well.iphonebuddha1 The screen is filled by a Buddha Machine whose color you can change by shaking your unit. The only controls are volume and a single button that let’s you swap the loops around.

But much cooler than that is the Buddha Machine Wall. It’s a free on-line application with a 3 by 7 Buddha Machine grid filling the screen. Each machine has the same 9 sounds and patterns with two labeled B1 and B2 and the rest all in Chinese characters. You can layer these in infinitely looping soundscapes.  Here’s a piece by Echoes’ Jeff Towne:  Buddha Wall Improv

More interactive is Bloom, an iPod Touch and iPhone application created by ambient avatar Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers. I wrote about Bloom when it was released last fall (Brian Eno’s iPhone Music). Bloom is an elegant program. It displays as softly shimmering screen of shifting blues, purples and greys emanating a gentle drone until you touch it with a finger tip, then a soft, bell-like tone sounds out while a pastel colored dot expands outwards like a water drop on a placid pond. Touch it more and more tones and dots emerge, higher tones at one end, lower tones at the other. The tones cycle, creating layered musical loops. You can get a look at it here.

You can play your own ambient opus. Here’s one of mine: Echo Bloom #1

Or, if you’re very lazy or keenly unmusical, you can listen to a generative composition by Eno that’s different every time you play it.

Eno once claimed he was a non-musician and now, a real non-musician like me can make music that’s in tune and in time. Although I did find it impossible to play an actual melody or scale, it’s a great way to zone out on a long trip.

You can get Bloom and Buddha Machine as iPod and iPhone applications. There’s also a physical version of Buddha Machine. The Buddha Machine Wall can be found on-line at

This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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