Bliss of Being is a cross between a collection of tone poems and classicalist meditations, but wrought of a classicalism traversing ground twixt de Machaut and Romanto-Impressionism with various stops in between. The opening cut, for instance, The Bliss of Healing, is Pachelbelian with a bit of Saint-Saens tossed in while its folllower, Beginning the Journey, is much more Satie-esque, embodying the peaceful lassitudes that made Eric famous. The song slowly wells up, starting in Richard Shulman's celestially dolorous piano with Adriana Contino's cello raising the keyboard off the ground and gently into the clouds as the rest of the ensemble languidly wraps rays of warm morning sun around the two (and I could swear there's a flugelhorn in there, though it isn't credited).
Bliss was written with the intent to relax and heal the listener, and God knows we need a lot of that right now, but, myself being a bit of a rough-hewn interne in the holistic arts, I'll eschew that aspect, which I've never been terribly taken by, especially since Steven Halpern, and concentrate on its artistic virtues, which are many and not often explored elsewhere by other composers. One could, I think, regard this entire disc as a succession of largos, adagios, suspensions, and washes, a farflung coastline upon which to dally and become object rather than subject, a figure in nature, not a director or despoiler. Heading Home probably best exemplifies that, a moodier fugue-ish contemplation with a complex set of subtle emotional interactions.
Flautist Kate Steinbeck wisely keeps largely to the lower register of her instrument and forms a more grounded, rather than airy, element in the compositions, leaving the stratosphere to Dielle Ciesco's melismatics, an earth angel looking down from the skies. Bob Hinkle, though, may be the most unique band member. While he wields crystal bowls here, as mellow as mellow can be, he otherwise has played, managed, and recorded with Etta James, Harry Chapin, motor city Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, and even the drunken rave-up J. Geils Band. Yow, talk about a spectrum!
Nonetheless, Bliss of Being is a hybrid, not quite the New Age release its cover art makes it seem, more an extension of the Impressionism which gave birth to that selfsame movement in a strange mercantile invention that largely failed but is here redeemed, even to the extent of having elements of Copland and Dvorak, both of which can be detected in Remembering the Bliss and elsewhere. So, if like me, you're kind of a hard-ass when it comes to New Age thingamajigs and find yourself thinking "Oh hell no!" when you see the swirly cover artwork (oddly centering on a Star of David), I strongly counsel you to restraint. There's a good deal more here than meets the eye, you just have to be open to it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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