I have been involved with music throughout my life both personally and professionally. There are hundreds of amazing, deep and transcendent recordings of all periods and types of music. What I have listed here are a few unique and treasured recordings that speak to the heart and soul. Some of them are from friends and colleagues of mine, others from musicians I do not know, all of whom bring music flowing from their heart and soul. All recordings are currently on CD. Some may also be available as aac/mp3 downloads.
Hildegard von Bingen: A Feather on the Breath of God
Hildegard von Bingen (Composer), Emma Kirkby (Performer), Andrew Parrott (Performer), Kevin Breen (Gothic Voices (Performer)
Eternal music that sings in the soul
Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was born the tenth child to a noble family and was dedicated at birth to the church. At age three she began to have visions of luminous objects, but soon realized she was unique in this ability and kept these visions secret for many years. Hildegard’s religious education, which began at the age of eight, consisted of an ascetic life of prayer and contemplation. At a time when few women were accorded respect, she lived to become a highly respected writer, poet, composer and visionary sought after for her counsel by bishops, popes and kings.
At 38, she became the head of a vibrant convent where later her musical plays were performed. Music was extremely important to Hildegard as she considered it a way for mortals to experience heavenly, or spiritual ecstasy. According to Hildegard, before the Fall of Man, Adam had a pure voice and joined the angels in singing praises to God. After the Fall, music was invented and musical instruments were made in order to worship God appropriately. Perhaps this best explains why Hildegard’s music most often sounds like what we imagine angels singing to be like.
Elgar: Introduction and Allegro / Serenade / Elegy / Sospiri / Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis / Fantasia on Greensleeves
Edward Elgar (Composer), Ralph Vaughan Williams (Composer), John Barbirolli (Conductor), New Philharmonia Orchestra (Orchestra), Sinfonia of London (Orchestra), Allegri String Quartet (Performer)
In the Vaughn Williams Tallis Fantasia Barbirolli catches the sense of mystery and ecclesiastical grandeur to perfection and the effect of the quietest possible pianissimos is magical. Vaughan Williams’s wife said that this was the best recording ever made of the piece and it isn’t hard to see why; the double quartet and soloists are perfectly balanced against the larger group of players and this adds immeasurably to one’s appreciation of Vaughan Williams’s scoring with specific antiphonal effects in mind. The CD contains performances that have never even been approached of some of the finest works by two of England’s greatest composers- all overseen by a conductor who remains unbeatable in this repertoire.
Arvo Part: Tabula Rasa
Gidon Kremer, Arvo Pärt (composer)
In his liner notes to this recording, Wolfgang Sander quotes Part relating a conversation he had with a Russian Orthodox monk; Part asked the monk what an artist can do to become better–write more prayers, for instance?. The monk told him that he could do nothing: “All the prayers have already been written. You don’t need to write any more. Everything has been prepared. Now you have to prepare yourself.”
It’s tempting to read the title of this recording as Part’s signal that he is ready: He no longer writes out of a tradition or even in response to one. He is ready simply to receive. And indeed, the music here is such that it has that just-revealed quality. Here’s Sander again, writing about the extraordinary title piece: “What kind of music is this? Whoever wrote it must have left himself behind at one point to dig the piano notes out of the earth and gather the artificial harmonics of the violins from heaven. The tonality of this music has no mechanical purpose. It is there to transport us toward something that has never been heard before.” Additionally the ECM sound quality is not to be matched.
Hearing Solar Winds Alight – David Hykes & Harmonic Choir
Beginning in 1975 David Hykes developed his chant of wordless multiple tones with a small choir of friends. The purity and structural soundness of this recording which, though nothing like it existed before, sounds like a tradition already centuries old. Inspired by the central Asian overtone or diphonic cultures none of them sound like this. One to seven voices carve ringing echoes in a 12th century French abbey, so complex in there interaction that other composite images appear high above them at times like holy apparitions. This group uses only their voices and the immense space of a stone cathedral, to make a moving, one-of-a-kind passage through soul time. Hykes’ solos find the heart like a sapphire laser and illuminate it into surrender, peace. Deep, cavernous, sometimes perilous, at others sublimely beautiful beyond lingual reckoning, this is without doubt their single greatest contribution to the choral arts. The CD version includes the complete sessions which were edited for the Radio France vinyl original, adding nearly 8 minutes. A fantastic acoustic document and essential find for seekers of sonic medicine.
Robert Rich – Somnium (DVD Audio)
This album is, so far as I know, unique in the annals of recorded sound. It uses the extra-long capacity of the DVD-Audio format to present one long 7-hour composition, sliced into three tracks of 2:34:10, 1:59:00 and 2:31:08.
Based on Robert’s famed “sleep concerts” where the audience is encouraged to doze while he weaves gentle drones from the stage, the music here is a combination of gentle electronics with sound effects: crickets, frogs, distant birds, dripping water. If the idea of seven hours of drones sounds boring to you, if you listen you will discover it never gets tiresome, repetitive or boring, as it takes you deeper within.
Constance Demby – Novus Magnificat: Through the Stargate
This is the most amazing music for deep transformative energywork. When you relax into the music it will assist you in clearing energy and other lifespaces. There are two tracks but there’s a smooth energy transition from 1 to 2 so it’s not jarring or disruptive to the energywork or to people in altered states.
Constance Demby – Aeterna
“This music is born there, in the harmonies of pulsing spheres and transparent-weightless streams, shimmering with wonderful colors. It comes to us from the far-away worlds. From the forgotten worlds of harmony and natural beauty. It comes from the world of free spirit and creativity. And this music is very emotional. It releases deeply hidden feelings. This music gives them a way out. And it revives. It cleans. It washes up and carries with a strong stream away, to an infinite ocean of joy and bliss, to the infinite ocean of love. Where one can just be. Where one can just be all this… Where one can be himself. Because this music brings you back to yourself. It brings you back to the depths of your real self. This self, which is in the very core of your existence. This self, which is real love, real joy. This self which is inseparable from the ocean, which has become nothing and at the same time has become everything”. – Serge Kozlovsky
Jennifer Berezan – ReTurning
The music is a ritual in itself — invoking the Mother Goddess and honoring her with different names. The music was recorded in the Oracle Chamber in the Hypogeum at Hal Salfieni, built by the Neolithic peoples of Malta. It starts out with tones sung through an aperture in the rock that causes sounds to resound throughout the Hypogeum. Then Jennifer adds her guitar and chant: “Returning, returning, returning to the Mother of us all.” Other voices weave in and out with a chant to Yemayah, the African ocean mother goddess, a Navajo chant for Mother Earth, and a chant from the Buddhist Heart Sutra to evoke the Goddess of Perfect Wisdom.
Henry Wolff & Nancy Hennings Tibetan Bells – [Original recording remastered]
Henry Wolff and Nancy Hennings use Tibetan bells, gongs, and singing bowls to orchestrate crystalline echoes of the mind. There are no tunes or melodies here; rather, this is a shimmering aurora borealis of sound that’s diaphanous and reverberant, like windows opening up into an altered state of sound. High chimes ring against a backdrop of sustained glissando from a singing bowl. Deep gongs call out from a hidden abyss. Released in the waning days of psychedelia, Tibetan Bells was the deep chill ambient album of its time. Decades later, it resonates. –John Diliberto
This album is a digital re-mastering of the original Tibetan Bells released in London, England during 1972. A milestone recording event, this superb state-of-the-art CD makes available for the first time the full wealth of sound captured by the 1972 studio master tapes. Not quite a new recording, but far more than the “old”, this brilliantly re-mastered CD restores the pristine textures and the unheard shades of an elusive music living on the remote edge of the audible.
Djivan Gasparyan – I Will Not Be Sad in the World
This is without a doubt one of the most hauntingly beautiful recordings I have ever heard. This CD is of such powerful yet understated quiet beauty and grace, and listening to it you cannot help but feel moved by the sheer beauty and emotion conveyed. This music has such an incredible pull of hypnotic qualities, and of such rare and exquisite beauty – that I find serenity again whenever I listen to it.
The instrument is the duduk, an ancient oboe-like instrument that is made of apricot wood and capable of sustaining drone notes for long periods of time
Alan Stivell – Renaissance of the Celtic Harp
I have been a fan of Breton harpist Alan Stivell from the very first time I heard his music. I have had to purchase several analog copies of this album over the years as it would go “missing” from my record collection. This is an album that will wash all the dust and grime from your soul.
Mare Imbrium – Oophoi
Oöphoi is the musical project of the Italian artist Gianluigi Gasparetti, a long time avid music collector. He started his own music experiments in 1995, with a basic instrumentation, trying to explore the shores of deep space-ambient.
Challenging music to drift away with, a deeply atmospheric listening experience inspired by the most obscure Sea of the Moon, Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Storms. Dark synth washes, subtle noises, the distant voice of the Goddesses and deep slow resonances create a trance-like soundscape which asks for a careful listening to uncover its secrets.
Steve Roach – Quiet Music: The Original 3-Hour Collection
Quiet Music is the essence of pure, meditative ambience.
A collection of pieces created between 1983 and 1986 out of respect for
silence; the gentle electronics of Roach s synthesizers mix with flute,
electric piano, and nature sounds to flow like breath, enveloping the listener
in a sustained, delicate, translucent atmosphere.
Much of this music began as a series of early- 80s recordings commissioned
by healing-arts programs, and later used for everything from personal
meditation to birthing music. Today the pieces still stand as a cornerstone in
bodywork, yoga, and healing therapies.
Steve Roach – Structures from Silence [Enhanced, Original recording remastered]
Owing a healthy debt to European synthesists like Klaus Shulze and Tangerine Dream, Structures from Silence is perhaps the best of Roach’s early outings. Though it lacks the organic feel of later albums like Dreamtime Return or Well of Souls, it exploits sounds and compositional techniques that Roach would continue to refine: flowing sheets of near-choral synth sound; long, slow melodies drawn out of overtones and partials; implied rhythms built from pulses of electronic tone. Made up of only three pieces, including the epic 29-minute title track, Silence found an audience among meditators and musical therapists; no wonder, since its reflective properties echo what Roach has called the music’s essence: “What [you feel] when it ends, a returning to the silence.” –James Rotondi
Seconds Before Awakening - Albums 1-9 (to date)
Seconds Before Awakening (the nom de disque of one Michael S. Waller) is an ambient sound project that is the soundtrack for dreams and dreamers alike. Seconds Before Awakening was formed in 2008 and all the dreams are created in New York, NY USA. All albums are available for free download from archive.org
Toumani Diabate & Ballake Sissoko, – New Ancient Strings
Music from the soul of Africa given to the world
Toumate Diabate and Ballake Sissoko have brought an ancient time and an ancient instrument, the 21-stringed kora, to us. They employ traditional rhythms, never losing sight of the heritage they seek to share. Their virtuosity is top-drawer. Their expansion on simple themes is worthy of great composers. Rarely will you hear anything, in any genre of music, which so fully weds the exuberance of joy and the calmness of effortless playing.
The kora is exquisite and I know of no other instrument that can lull me into equally peaceful and ecstatic states, as it does.
Baaba Maal & Mansur Seck – Djam Leelii
Recorded in 1982 and originally released in 1984, Djam Leelii reappears in 1998 with all its graceful glory intact–and a little added on. Adorned with three previously unheard remastered tracks from the original sessions, this atmospheric masterpiece is carried along by the complementary voices and guitars of Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck, two of West Africa’s leading lights. A sense of mystery permeates this classic of acoustic world music
This CD has so many haunting melodies. It can take you to another place, a place you want to be. It is soothing and stimulates a warm happy feeling at the same time. It almost sounds like something from another time, a simpler time.
Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke – Duality
Duality is at once sacred and playful. It is both dark and light, organic and refined, masculine and feminine. Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard partners with Pieter Bourke, formerly of Aussie band Eden, to create this compositional dance of partnership that is classical, ancient, and thoroughly modern. Gerrard’s voice is multitracked at times, conjuring a cathedral choir and the droning chants of monks. Drums and synth snake from desert to brilliant stormy sky to shaking earth and the bodies that inhabit those spaces. There are lush multiple layers of strings, bagpipe drone, and, quite literally, the laughter of children. The vocals sans “real” words and multicultural instrumentation will be familiar to Dead Can Dance listeners. Yet there is something more exclusive, more womblike about the music of Bourke and Gerrard; rather than two distinct bodies making music, like mother and in utero child sharing blood and breath, they are mutually dependent. –Paige La Grone
Streaming music: 24/7 365 music: just click and listen, some shows you may even download.
Atmospheric space music and ambient textures with minimal beats. Music on Drone Zone is all about sonic textures and environments. You’ll hear music by artists such as Pete Namlook, Steve Roach, Harold Budd, and Brian Eno, Stars of the Lid, Dilate and the KLF.
Echoes is a daily two-hour music soundscape, distributed by Public Radio International and broadcast on 130 radio stations from Maine to California. With host John Diliberto, a writer for Billboard, Pulse and other magazines, Echoes brings together a wide array of styles, from acoustic to electronic, jazz to space music, the avant-garde to rock. Echoes is a sound that is cross-cultural and trans-millennial, merging cultures and forms, technology and tradition, the ancient past and the possible future.
Ultima Thule was the term used in ancient times to describe the regions comprising the far northern extremities of Europe – lands lost in the mists of legend, lying far beyond the realms of the known world.
For more than two decades Ultima Thule is the longest running programme of its type in Australia, and is firmly established as one of the country’s foremost alternative music programmes, enthralling audiences with a unique, entrancing melange of ambient and atmospheric music from around the world and across the ages – all drawn from a private library comprising some 6000 recordings.
Each broadcast of Ultima Thule is presented as a 90 minute ambient soundscape narrative, with minimal announcer interruption.
Harmonia is a weekly one-hour radio program, podcast and blog that takes listeners back in history to the cathedrals, fairs, and stages of the past, teaching listeners about history as documented by musicians of the periods.
Through brilliant performances by today’s early music artists and insightful commentary, listeners experience the richness of early music history and culture. From the sublime realm of Chant to the passion of an Italian Baroque violin sonata, Harmonia casts new light on the music of the distant past.
Harmonia is a production of WFIU Public Radio in Bloomington, Indiana, drawing on resources from the Indiana University School of Music’s world-renowned Early Music Institute, and Indiana University’s Thomas Binkley Archive of Early Music Recordings.
Sound & Spirit
Explore the human spirit through music and ideas. Host Ellen Kushner weaves history, myth and spiritual traditions together with specially selected music to take listeners on a journey through time and space. Each episode dives into a unique aspect of the human experience such as love, joy and grief, to help connect cultures and cross generations for a unique understanding of life’s most complicated questions. Produced by WGBH Radio/PRI. Sadly this program is no longer being produced, however the full program archives are available for listening anytime at the link listed.
ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music) is a record label founded in Munich, Germany, in 1969 by Manfred Eicher. ECM has to date issued more than 1200 albums spanning many idioms. After establishing an early reputation with standard-setting jazz recordings by Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and others, ECM began to include contemporary composition – including Steve Reich’s landmark “Music for 18 Musicians” – in its programme in the late 1970s; Eicher’s own background, as a musician active in both jazz and classical music, provided an unusually broad vantage point from which to survey, and influence, the genres.While ECM is best known for jazz music, the label has released a wide variety of recordings, and ECM’s artists often refuse to acknowledge boundaries between genres. ECM’s motto is the Most Beautiful Sound Next to Silence.
The quality of ECM albums at all levels – from musicianship, production and engineering to cover art – has been widely recognised and the label has collected many awards
Hypnos is an independent record label, located in Portland Oregon. Started in 1996 by M. Griffin to release his own recordings, both solo and for his collaborative project Viridian Sun, and has since become one of the most established and respected ambient labels.
The music released tends toward more minimal, dark ambient or drone styles, mostly electronic in basis, though ambient works based upon guitar, tuba, cello, and location recordings have also been released by Hypnos.
Their first release was the CD Washed in Mercury by Saul Stokes in 1997. As of 2012, more than 110 CDs have been released by Hypnos and its sub-labels.
Black Sun/Celestial Harmonies
“The nobility of purpose and the refinement of expression”
A pioneering record label continually active since 1968. With hundreds of recordings of unique music from inner and outer worlds