ANOTHER RECORDING OF SINGULAR BEAUTY FROM THIS ARTIST
Larry L. Looney | Austin, Texas USA | 08/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stephan Micus' most recent release marks the entry into his musical palette of one of the most singularly beautiful instruments in the world - the Armenian duduk. The sound of this double-reed instrument is like no other in the world - the breath of the performer is joined intrinsically with the melody in a way that conveys life itself, with all of its joys and sorrows.Micus became aware of the unique qualities of this instrument when he came across the music of Djivan Gasparyan - modern master of the duduk. Stephan states in his liner notes that he had long searched for an instruments whose sound would incorporate `the breath of the wind, the screams of human beings, the space of the desert and the sea, and the pure light of snow mountains'. He traveled to Armenia and studied the instrument with Gasparyan - an opportunity to literally `sit at the feet of the master'.Drawing on the reverence for music and the world's people that is at the core of his art, Micus wisely chose, on incorporating the duduk into his work, not to rely on it solely, not to over-saturate this recording with the sound of one instrument alone - no matter how beautiful it might be. Doing so would have limited the scope of this recording. Instead, he features the duduk on four of the eight pieces presented here - one of them, `Padre', a duduk solo - another, the opening track `Before sunrise' a rare piece composed for and performed on the bass duduk, an instrument traditionally used as a drone accompaniment to the standard duduk. Both of these solo pieces - as well as the other selections where he uses the instrument - present its beauty to the listener's ears as nectar slakes the thirsty throat. The album's title, Towards the wind, could be taken as a reference to flight - the cover features a lovely photograph of birds in flight, viewed from above, with trees and rivers below as a background. I think the title could also be a reference to the sound of the duduk itself - a sound that, while always an expression of the emotions and imagination and skill of the player, also encompasses a reaching and yearning deep within: striving towards the power and energy of the wind itself, alternately strong and gentle, but always there, always surrounding us. This is one of the few instruments in the world capable of this - and Micus uses it well.The other tracks on the disc hold up just as nicely. He utilizes instruments as varied as the kalimba (a thumb-piano from Africa), the shakuhachi (the bamboo flute from Japan - another wind instrument capable of incredible subtlety and beauty), the dondon (the `talking drum' of Ghana), the sattar (a one-stringed bowed instruments from western China, with ten sympathetic resonating strings), acoustic guitars (including the one designed by Micus and custom-built for him in Spain, capable of varying string arrays), and his unique style of vocals (the words of which he has said `carry no known meaning', but which are so very expressive and lovely). The overall effect is one that Stephan Micus' listeners have come to both expect and revere - he has an ability to take musical traditions from various parts of the world and combine them in a way that, rather than feeling `forced', seems as natural as if one had walked over a hill and found a village immersed in music and song of their own making, untouched by the outside world.The music that Micus makes - and has made for a thankfully long career, over thirty years and seventeen albums - crosses and transcends all borders, and does so with a genuine respect for the cultures that the world contains. His works can be enjoyed by rapt, attentive listening, as an ambient background, or at any level in between. His work is a treasure - and I hope in my heart that he continues it for many years to come. It is one of the greatest musical `gifts' of my life - and I have been blessed to know many - to have discovered and experienced it.I cannot recommend the amazing work of this artist too highly. His music never fails to remind me of the presence of gentle beauty in the world."
Not quite what I might have hoped for
C. H Smith | Bowling Green, Kentucky United States | 10/06/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have to admit being a tad disappointed by this latest Micus release. While I agree with the next reviewer on general principles (I own every release Micus has put out, including having replaced all the earlier 33s I owned with CDs when they became available), I am having some trouble identifying material on "Towards the Wind" that holds my attention. Micus, while proficient on an enormous number of exotic instruments, is not a virtuoso performer; this puts a lot of pressure on the quality of his compositions and his ability to continually produce new and interesting arrangements. I think the latter two considerations are a bit of a problem here. Moreover, I don't find his duduk playing--whether or not an hommage--particularly interesting. Yes, it is dark and quiet and introspective, but it is also (at least by contrast to a real master like Gasparian) a bit detached-sounding for its lack of technique. The larger pieces are relatively standard Micus fare (but who else could create an arrangement for "3 steel-string guitars, shakhuhachi, 12 dondon"?!), but are somehow less involving than many of his past efforts. In general, the material on the CD sounds just the slightest bit too relaxed to me--perhaps there is less contrast of mood than in some of his earlier works, or...? Still, if you come to this CD as your *first* exposure to Micus, you will find it interesting, and maybe even inspiring, and indicative of a thoughtful and inventive musical intelligence at work quite unlike any other around."