Over the years of listening to and collecting meditative music, three recordings have captured my attention more than any others: Djivan Gasparyan’s recording titled I Will Not Be Sad In This World, Ulla Suokko’s Bridge of Light, and most recently Arja Kastinen and Peter Phippen’s Lavender Calm.
Released this month, Lavender Calm brings together the spontaneous improvisations of two very disciplined musicians. Arja Kastinen, a graduate of the folk music department of the Sibelius Academy, plays several different small kanteles on this recording, and Peter Phippen, a Grammy Award nominee, plays numerous flutes on the 11 tunes. “Meditative” music is a term I’m using here to differentiate Lavender Calm from other recordings of a similar nature which are often referred to as “new age” music. Unfortunately, this recording is tagged “new age”. Lavender Calm stands apart from all the rest in that genre: it is not a mix of shallow sweet sounds designed to relax the listener as is the usual case with music in this category. Lavender Calm is so much more, so much deeper, than new age music.
Instead, Arja and Peter have created 11 marvelous journeys based in solid and interesting musical ideas. There are musical progressions and turning points in the recording that surprise and delight a listener. We will relax while listening, but not fall asleep.
Since Arja resides in Finland, and Peter in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the process of making the CD began with Arja recording improvisations on her kanteles at a studio in Finland, and sending those to Peter. Arja reports to New World Finn that Peter “then chose the parts he wanted to use and played on them. The final result was then edited by Ivar Lunde Jr. at Skyline Studios www.skylinestudio.com I gave free hands for Peter and Ivar to use the material as they wish.”
Peter told New World Finn that, “After improvising over the kantele pieces for a while, I went into the studio with three big cases full of flutes, every key, antique, vintage, new, whatever I thought would go along well with the improvisations Arja sent over. I also took a bunch of “other flutes” (just in case). The funny thing was, when I got into the studio and began to improvise along with Arja’s tracks that day, I wound up playing three quarters of the album on the “other flutes” that I did not plan on playing on this recording. They seemed to work better for my improvisations that day ...Go figure! ... I feel this is a good thing as it kept the recording fresh. Everything I played was improvised, nothing was “worked out” on the flutes. If you hear something that sounds “worked out” it was not.”
Peter adds, “...often there are two or more flute parts, I would improvise over the same piece two times. Parts (or all) of the second improvisation were used in the background along with effects such as reverbs and echoes to give the recording more depth. I asked Ivar to select the proper background improvisations for the flute parts as I was way too close to the work ... Ivar was also responsible for cleaning up the overall recording, a very time consuming job.”
Lavender Calm can be purchased at: http://www.promotionmusicrecords.net/new-age.php
Lavender Calm is also available at iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lavender-calm/id466082592