August 31, 2006

CD Review: Elizabeth Reian Bennett - Songs of the True Hand

This is a little different for me. If you know me, I am very much entrenched in the metal genre, and its related sub-genres. Recently, my tastes and desires have expanded to include other styles of music, primarily into the world of film scores. You may be wondering what this has to do with the music at hand, but please, bear with me. Among the scores that I have very much enjoyed are for Memoirs of a Geisha (not a Japanese composer, but the inspiration is there) and House of Flying Daggers. Beyond those two scores, I very much enjoy Asian cinema, and this brings me to the music.

I know very little about Asian music and the various instruments used to play it, but I know what I like. I like the different sounds and rhythms and feelings that are found in it. The music is beautiful and soaring and just a joy to listen to. This brings me to Elizabeth Reian Bennett.

Reian Bennett plays the shakuhachi, an end blown bamboo flute. The instrument has a lot of history behind it, dating back to the days of the wandering monks of Japan. The music played is very spiritual in nature, and the music can take a lifetime to master. Reian Bennett is the first female to be certified as a Grand Master of the shakuhachi, studying for years with Living National Treasure Reibo Aoki, the foremost instrumentalist.

Like I mentioned earlier, I have no real knowledge of this music or its history. I'm not even sure I have enough frame of reference to review this music. Still, it is hard not to be affected by it. The music lends itself to meditation and reflection.

On the surface, the music seems to be very simplistic, but the more you listen to it there is a lot of subtlety and variation within. Her mastery of the instrument is stunning. The music seems to be much more interested in evoking an atmosphere and feeling through inflection and the emphasis chosen by the musician.

What can I say? The music contained on this album is beautiful. It is very strong contrast to other albums I have reviewed recently, such as Katakonia by Darzamat and Sculpture of Stone by Dies Irae, both of which fall in under the black metal banner. They could not be farther apart, those two albums are dense and layered walls of sound, while Songs of the True Hand are solo instrumental pieces in a style at the other end of the spectrum.

Oddly, I think my appreciation of metal, of all styles, helps in the appreciation of other styles of music. Listening to the dense layers of black metal, and pulling those layers apart, is not easy, and bringing that experience to a style with a single instrument allows me to focus more on the inflection and tonal changes of that solo piece.

Bottomline. This is an album that I fully recommend. It is an amazing work of art. The music is beautiful, and lends itself to focused listening, or for use when meditating, or even just relaxing after a long day. Elizabeth Reian Bennett is true artist.

Highly Recommended.
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