Sunday, May 10, 2015

Global Meditation: Authentic Music from Meditative Traditions of the World

So, the title sounds very New Age-y and the label, Ellipsis Arts, which issued this four-disc box set in 1992, was devoted to products that emphasized the deeply spiritual in a highly earnest, if dated, manner.

However, the musical content and the sound quality of Global Meditation is top-notch.  The set is divided thematically, with the first disc dealing with "Voices of the Spirit: Songs and Chants."  From Norway, Albania, Australia, Bali, Hawaii, the pygmies of Central Africa, Japan, Tibet, and Russia are a broad array of vocal music that, philosophizing aside, represent a fantastic cross-section of sounds from around the world.

The second disc, "Harmony and Interplay: Ensembles," takes on large group performances from the Gnawa of Morocco, gamelan from Java, African group playing, the amazing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Pakistani qawwali music, and Indian and Egyptian pieces, as well.  Putting gnawa, gamelan and qawwali on one disc is reason enough to hear this amazing music.

"The Pulse of Life: Rhythm & Percussion" provides a wide range of pieces that should make any percussion lover very happy.  African, Indian, Haitian, and Japanese taiko ensembles predominate here, with a New Age selection by Glen Velez tossed in, though it is a pretty good piece.

Finally, the box ends with "Music of the Heart: Melody," including works Ireland, Turkey, Korea, India, Armenia, China, Egypt and Japan showcasing instruments like the Celtic harp, the Indian bamboo flute, the duduk, and the shakuhachi, among others.  Much of this is solemn, contemplative and very beautiful melodic work.

There is a 32-page booklet giving concise, but very useful, information on the performances, players and traditions from which they developed, as well as some photos of musicians.   Compiler Brooke Wentz and associates did a remarkable job in finding and licensing from many record labels such a diverse range of material and, as explained in the booklet's introductory note, should be congratulated for doing so despite the project representing "a sizable task for our lean staff."

Global Meditation is a great survey of some of the world's most interesting and compelling music.  For those not spiritually oriented, but are interested mainly in the musical quality of the set, there is a bounty of great performances here that are well worth hearing if a copy can be located.

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