A look at some of the best New Age music releases by Rene Wadlow.


Celtic Voices CD Celtic Voices: Women of Song
Mary McLaughlin, Emma Christian,
Connie Dover, Mairéid Sullivan

Narada Productions, 4650 North Port Washington Road
Milwaukee, WI 53212-1063, USA

{mosgoogle}The Celts, as linguistically-related tribes, were once spread throughout much of western Europe and in a dominant position. With the start of a new world cycle around the year one of the Common Era, they began to be pushed to the margins and to mountainous areas which could be more easily defended. Today we think of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany as Celtic. The Celts had little chance as a group to influence the development of Europe. Yet there were always strong individuals who left the margins to play a role in the political or cultural life of the center. In Celtic rural areas, there continued a folk culture—often transmitted via the women—with its interpenetration of the spirit world. This was often covered by a blanket of devout but narrow Christianity.

Some of the Celts see their marginalization as a form of colonialism, and so there have been movements for political independence using culture as one justification. Celtic culture also served as an appeal to the Diaspora—the Irish in America being a key example. Thus in listening to Celtic music or folktales, one must also see a spiritual tradition other than orthodox Christianity and the echo of a socio-political struggle which cannot be expressed directly.

Mary McLaughlin is from Northern Ireland and so her song "Bring the Peace" is both personal and political. "Can you bring the peace that we’re all aching for?" Her "Sealwoman" incorporating a traditional Hebrides chant evokes those, both spirits and people, torn between the land and the open sea.

Connie Dover, an American of Celtic descent, studied Celtic folk music at Oxford. She composes her own music but largely on the basis of traditional music. Her "Cantus" based on medieval plainsong used in honour of Mary and the sacrifice of Jesus is moving, an interesting example of the adaptation of church-related music.

Mairéid Sullivan is Irish living in Australia. Her songs about separation both from loved one’s and from the country are a recurrent theme.

Emma Christian is from the Isle of Man whose small population has kept alive a Celtic tradition. She sings in old Irish, also on church themes and separation. Her "Goodnight Song" ends the CD- "It is time to go home and go to bed, the stool beneath me urges me to leave." This collection is a fine selection of the range of Celtic songs and themes; well worth knowing.


Notes from the Tree of Life, CD Notes From The Tree Of Life
Nancy Rumbel
Narada Productions
4650 North Port Washington Road
Milwaukee, WI, 53212-1063, USA

The tree of life is an oft-used but deep symbol of the nature of the person and the cycle of life: root, trunk, branch, leaf, flower. Nancy Rumbel uses the tree as a metaphor to celebrate the diversity and interconnections which enrich our lives. She has composed a wide variety of melodies, some directly linked to her life and feelings, others which are variations on folk or traditional music from different parts of the world. She plays a number of wind instruments with a rich variety of sounds and is accompanied by a small group of musicians.

In one piece, she has adapted a round "Dona Nobis Pacem" and is accompanied by a choir. Her work is very expressive though I had the impression that each segment, while enjoyable in itself, lacked a connection to the next: more the impression of a forest than a single tree of life. She has recorded for Narada before in duos with the guitarist Eric Tingstad. Her work is well worth knowing.
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Luna by Gabrielle Roth

Gabrielle Roth
Raven Recordings
744 Broad Street, Newark, NJ 07102, USA

A surprisingly harmonious recording given that Gabrielle Roth is largely surrounded by percussion instruments of different types and has as her motto a quote from Nietzsche "And I say unto you, one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."

The equilibrium between rhythm and melody, between variation and repetition gives space to the listener to explore his own sensibility with the help of the music. There is a certain North African sound in these pieces, a subtle blend of styles, arising in part from the combination of drums and strings. A pleasant listening experience.
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And So To Dream
Mike Roland

Oreade, Postbus 101,
NL-21 10 AC, Aerdenhout, Netherlands

Mike Roland’s music is among the best and most widely known of New Age music; known largely by people having been moved by it and telling others. It touches a deep inner emotion, simplicity without sentimentality. As we move from the Piscean Period to the Age of Aquarius, we move towards new beginnings. The old ways have served their purpose: now we seek to realise our inner divinity. We must learn to love and to heal our past hurts with compassion. To do this, we first need to become aware of what we think and feel, to know who we really are.

Some music, such as Mike Roland’s, can be a door to such self-knowledge and healing. Obviously, there are many forms and purposes to dreams, but all have the function of setting aside for a while the "everyday mind" which is logical, analysing, and continually dividing reality into smaller segments with which the mind is familiar. The "everyday mind" is necessary for us to function, but the dream -the intuitive—the holistic vision provides us with guidelines as we seek new ways of being. Mike Roland’s music is highly recommended.
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Lakes and Streams
William A. Mathieu

The Relaxation Company,
20 Lumber Road, Roslyn, NY 115 76, USA

As the 11th century Taoist poet Tao Cheng wrote "Of all the elements, the sage should take water as his preceptor. Water is yielding but all conquering. Water extinguishes fire, or finding itself likely to be defeated escapes as steam and re-forms. Water washes away soft earth, or when confronted by rocks, seeks a way around. Water corrodes iron till it crumbles to dust; it saturates the atmosphere so that wind dies. Water gives way to obstacles with deceptive humility, for no power can prevent it following its destined course to the sea. Water conquers by yielding; it never attacks but always wins the last battle. The Sage who makes himself as water is distinguished for his humility; he embraces passivity, acts from non-action and conquers the world."

William A. Mathieu celebrates on his piano many of the serene aspects of water, especially brooks and streams. There are no floods here! Mathieu is influenced by Sufi thought and has elsewhere composed music for the songs of the 13th century Persian Sufi Jelalludin Rumi and directed a Sufi choir. His views are developed in a 1994 book The Musical Life: What it is and How to Live it published by Shambhala in Boston, USA. His piano music is calm and deep. It is more than just relaxing and merits close attention.
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This article was published in New Renaissance, Vol. 9, Number 4 and posted on the web in July, 2000.