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Coming to America Concerto [EP] by Lisa Swerdlow
- posted by Robin James on 9/17/2021
A Journey of Hope
This is a story told using musical notes rather than words. The sound is instrumental, a piano orchestrated into a broad horizon of expression and emotion. The orchestration and inspirational support accompanying Lisa Swerdlow was created in collaboration with Doug Hammer at Dreamworld Productions.

Between 1880 and 1920, more than two million Russian Jewish immigrants came to the United States. The years before the Holocaust were an era of rapid change for Russian Jews, leaving behind the dreadful poverty of the Pale of Settlement. This is the very personal story of Lisa Swerdlow's grandparents who fled Russia to find a way to survive the harsh conditions.

The music begins with almost a Klezmer feeling, woodwinds and piano joined by strings, solemn and uplifting. The emotions range from darkness to confidence and positivity, portraying a confined place where the displaced persons struggled to survive, they left with their best hopes for finding safety for their families.

"Home of My Ancestors" (3:36) is the first section, a feeling of looking back, with your head held high. An emotional remembrance of the mass exodus of Eastern European Jews, with piano, woodwinds and strings to witness the sadness.

The second section, "The Crossing" (3:41), and mere moments of music here portray the feelings of loss and the slow process of healing during the long voyage. The melody weaves a powerful tragic fabric with strings, woodwinds and piano, the spirit is both melancholic and persistent.

Sad themes that weave together and build into an uplifting resolution, the third section is "The Arrival" (3:42), heralding an optimistic light, the sun comes out and you can see the harbor, with the Statue of Liberty slowly getting closer. The orchestra grows and crescendos with a strong positive resolution.

Music is often something mystical, intangible and supernatural. To what extent should an understanding of history shape our lives now? One of the lessons of the past few years is that the unthinkable is indeed possible, the banished evil only needs a banner and a shouting crowd to return. Our best defenses are vigilance, keeping alert to the sliding tide, and keeping our spirits nourished by things like good music and creative optimism.

Lisa Swerdlow is a composer and pianist living in Grass Valley, California with her wife, Lucie, and her three horses and one cat, Tuxedo. Lisa studied classical piano from the age of six playing Fur Elise by Beethoven for her first piano recital at seven. In the 1980's she performed at the West Coast Women's Music Festival and for three years, she toured Northern California with a ten-piece all women salsa band called Las Malandras.
After exploring both classical and jazz, her musical focus began to shift to the New Age and Windham Hill Records styles of music. Some of her influences include Laura Nyro, Michele McLaughlin, Carole King, Keith Jarrett, George Winston, Jean-Pierre Rampall and David Lanz. All of these different artists have informed her unique sound. She shares some of her intentions as a composer: “I want people to find an emotional and perhaps spiritual connection when they listen to my music. I hope my music serves as a vehicle for healing the heart.”

"Home of My Ancestors"
"The Crossing"
"The Arrival"
Buy, stream or download the Coming to America Concerto by Lisa Swerdlow from the platform of your choice:

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Preview: Coming to America Concerto
Rating: Excellent
Gnosis by Chronotope Project
- posted by Robin James on 8/20/2021
Majestic, cosmic, intimate: GNOSIS (γνῶσις)
Electronic symphonics accompanied by bass and percussion. This is a major work, a solo accomplishment of vast proportions, prepare to be swallowed up in the immensity of the infinite. The pieces on this album span diverse styles and influences: ambient textures, classical counterpoint, deep drones, complex polyrhythms, atonal sound sketches, Berlin-school sequencers, jazz reflections and yearning romanticism. The complexity is compelling and attractive, never dense, always illuminated in the right places, with plenty of rich dark shadows to frame the area behind and surrounding the plinth where the story is continually unfolded.
This is classical science-fiction cinema of the mind within a scholarly framework, six tracks: meditations on the spark of life, on the dreams that vanish, on finding dangerous forms in darkness, on classical pastoral inspiration, on massive caverns with evidence of approaching mysteries, and the parable of the oblivious attempting to interpret perception and illusions.
The album liner notes provide the lectern and the sound proceeds to invoke the entire history of science and the ancient philosophical wonders are the subjects of this musical journey, using the old mysteries to tell a new story, deploying a sound that is primarily electronic, sometimes flavored with acoustic cello, hand percussion, the twenty-four string Marcodi Harpejji and the Haken Continuum Fingerboard.
Life is being brewed in a huge laboratory, see it twitch and awaken, it opens. Mysterious coils unfold, distances are tested, something emerges and we try to bring it closer. The bass is a heartbeat, consistently providing the foundation pulse, while the strings of tones soar and metal is tapped, "Higgs Field, Cauldron of Being" (7:20).
In the mind's eye, deep water has a way of containing movement while appearing still on the surface, in "Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness" (8:53) I hear peace and smooth motion detected in the depths, the dream is of motion that is sparkling, sleep is welcome, the floating spirit is amused by celestial lightplay. Now for a darker drama, "Eidos, Realm of the Forms" (10:22). The speed increases, the tension slowly and steadily spiral into the darkness, percussion decorates the way, there is form in the opaque atmosphere, there is a narrative without words. Until a new story is told, poetry and operatic constructions patiently explain, "The Still Small Voice" (6:19), strings and woodwinds of electronic origin, pastures in twilight, landscapes of fresh possibilities.
I hear strange new sounds, I hear building pulses from enormous caverns, something big is approaching slowly, "Entelechy, Emergent Order" (7:47), the keyboards bring the focus of the night sky into a circle of light, you know there is depth out there but there are gentle immediate details to engage with.
Now for the key to this puzzle, this magnificent journey. This ancient parable has never been exhausted, here is where the journey's whole story fits together. "Myth of the Cave" (11:35), in the cave the dwellers have only seen the shadows, so they have formed conclusions that are based on reflections, never knowing there is a world beyond the cavern, they are apparently content to wear their chains but they must surely wonder if there is more beyond their universe. Here is where the drama and mystery are described.
This album's journey is satisfying, as well as complex, the journey from seeming to sight. There is peace in the flow, addressing the listener at a deep, intuitive level, seducing our quest to know. In depth explanations of the origins of this great work does not in any way change the feeling of the music, which is accessible and enlightening, with or without the program notes, either way , you will find yourself in a very different state of mind. I already yearn to hear it again. I ask that you speak to us again in these lucid and powerful voices, urging us to turn inside again and listen to the voice that was trying to speak through music.
Now, as you continue to read this, perhaps before actually having listened to the work, I suggest that you can just listen innocently or you can open up an entire library to go deeper into the classical wilderness, the trail beckons. Either way, this music is a magnificent way to delight your ears and nourish your mind.
1 Higgs Field, Cauldron of Being
2 Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness
3 Eidos, Realm of the Forms
4 The Still Small Voice
5 Entelechy, Emergent Order
6 Myth of the Cave
Album Overview and links:
Unboxing video:
Rating: Excellent
Auroral Magic by Chakuna Machi Asa
- posted by Robin James on 8/2/2021
A Bridge to the Ancestors
Very peaceful and relaxing songs that promote emotional and physical health, made for meditation, spa sessions, massage sessions, energy healing sessions, and anywhere an overall chill vibe fits, bringing us closer to the spiritual life force or healing power that permeates the universe. The vocals are arranged around the instrumental parts, I hear piano, a little guitar, and electronics with hints of field recordings of nature sounds. These ancestral chants and instrumentals open the door for an important, fascinating, complicated, and unique wisdom that works on a mental and emotional level. The album cover features a powerful woman carrying a handmade staff, on a bright winter day. She is by a frozen lake with mountains in the background. The album title, Auroral Magic, refers to the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights, also the word auroral pertains to the light of dawn and a new beginning. The night sky is filled with magic lights which forecast the future of the earth, and speaks of the spirits of the ancestors.

"Blood of Our Ghost" (4:03), is a chanted poem which sets the tone for the album, connecting to the sacred ceremonies of remembering and honoring the past. In the time of our grandfathers, in America, immigrants were required to stop speaking their tongue of origin and asked to not pass down their traditions and customs, their children were cut off from everything about the old country, causing their family spirits to become lost, like ghosts that remain in the dark unknown places. This song is about bringing these spirits home, to once again lead the way, as ancestors traditionally have always done. "Blood out our Ghost" is about stopping everything that you are doing to breathe and just listen. When you pause and center yourself you can begin to sense that you are being guided and supported by your inner nature, your angels, guides and ancient ancestors.

With a synthesizer, delicate piano and water splashing, "Dancing Reflections" (2:41), the philosophic nature of the energy between the sun and moon, and makes me think of those who send their mind forth in spirit form to do tasks outside of their body, shadows in motion. It is also an interpretation of the experience of the way the sun reflects on a body of water.

Both the will of the magician, and magical winds, could be visualized as something spun, such as a thread or a ball of yarn, magic manifesting as wind, which in turn associates the spirit with breath. "The Wind" (6:40), brings the sound of wind chimes, piano, and growling synthesizer winds, vocal sounds, and breath. "I often stand outside and allow the wind to move through my body as I breathe, meditate, commune with the wind and give her energy that I no longer need."

A meditation about about the cyclical energy of creation, death and time, "Time Womb" (5:45) has a complicated and thought inspiring title, gestation is a long slow process, the mother surrounds her growing new life and gives her love and light. I hear strings and piano, and the synthesizer swells within.

My favorite track is titled "Our Escape" (7:46) and features a piano at the foundation, accompanied by a synthesizer, very delicate, with vocal growls and low intonations in order to evoke the sounds of spirit journeys into other lands. The escape is an adventure traversing unknown places of danger and uncertainty. It is about moving beyond suffering into a love based consciously evolved co-creative reality.

The title track closes this album, "Auroral Magic" (4:51), with full synthesizers, bells, chimes, wind chimes, piano, sometimes shimmering, a haunting melody. I think of exquisite crystals, the dawn, and something like a new beginning. Chakuna leaves us with this reflection, "The final track, 'Auroral Magic,' is in honor of my life, my musical gifts, my angels, guides and my Nordic ancestors that are supporting and helping me. This song is a giving back from my heart to the universe in so many ways to honor everything that has been given to me. It represents my experience of the Northern Lights and a feeling of hope that I have carried very strongly in my soul for a very long time. I hope that it brings about these feelings in others."

01 Blood of Our Ghost (4:03)
02 Elven Magic (3:07)
03 Planet Xeron (6:19)
04 Dancing Reflections (2:41)
05 The Wind (6:40)
06 Time Womb (5:45)
07 Blue Moon (6:20)
08 Space Shift (5:02)
09 Our Escape (7:46)
10 The Whale Song (5:45)
11 John (7:28)
12 Auroral Magic (4:51)

Chakuna Machi Asa is an artist, composer, singer, and producer of sound healing music, chakra music, new age music, ambient piano music, and relaxation music. The Michigan-born artist graduated with a BA in Psychology from Michigan State University with specialized studies in abnormal psychology, philosophy of love and justice, shamanism and world religions. She was a member of the competitive audition choir Michigan State Singers, which was part of the MSU School of Music. Her multifaceted post graduate studies included Peruvian Shamanic Healing, Herbology, Guided Meditation and Natural Health. She also holds certifications in Massage Therapy, Reiki III, Therapeutic Kinesiology, Crystal Healing Therapy, and Reiki Drumming. Her practice transcends the ancient tradition of overtone chanting and shamanic drumming. Throughout her life, she has skillfully used sound vibration to activate the awakened natural state of universal being and to inspire personal transformation. She offers music, chant, video teachings, and high vibe energy healing tools such as crystals, handmade wands and jewelry to encourage individuals to explore their spiritual energy.

The Artist:

The Music:
Rating: Excellent
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