If you are into meditative music, the question: “What does mindfulness sound like?” has for sure crossed your mind. Since mindfulness is a personal experience, it is hard to define – and “translating” it into sound is even more challenging. But now, music label myndstream presents a collection that almost single-handedly establishes and ratifies “the sound of mindfulness.” It is far from the pretty and unassuming New Age music of the 80s and 90s. It is sharper and closer to ambient in sound, with a focused yet non-judgmental vibe. Top international artists such as Mark Isham, four-time Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Daniel Lanois, Dream Theater’s keyboardist Jordan Rudess, Academy Awards winner Gustavo Santaolalla – and many more – make this into a reference work for the future.
Get the album here: Fanlink.
Another frequent question is: “What role does music play in mindfulness?” For many, silence is necessary to meditate. But since mindfulness is about the present moment, the here and now, music may be helpful to adjust focus and block out other noises and impressions quickly. This is where myndstream Collection Volume 1 comes in handy.
1. Daniel Lanois “Blue Steel” (3:13)
2. Mark Isham “Song of the Firefly Harmonium” (5:27)
3. Gustavo Santaolalla “Realize” (3:35)
4. Lisa Bella Donna “Parting of the Ways” (5:13)
5. Kathryn Bostic “Sierra Dreamscape” (4:45)
6. Michael Brook “Garish” (2:44)
7. Jordan Rudess “Whispers of Hope” (2:42)
8. David Torn “And Then There Were no Words…” (3:53)
9. Rick Wakeman “The Sunflower Ghost” (4:39)
10. Michael Whalen “Always Returning” (4:38)
11. Marcelo Zarvos “Circles” (4:54)
12. Cliff Martinez “Ambient 2” (5:27)
Looking at the above list, it seems natural to conclude that no collection in the meditative/New Age music realm has ever had this many “outside, A-list talents.” This alone makes myndstream Collection Volume 1 incredibly interesting!
The collection takes off from the very first notes thanks to Daniel Lanois’ pedal steel guitar. Many meditation albums have a too soft opening, which is not very listener-friendly. On the other hand, Blue Steel makes it easy to speed down and adjust from whatever you are doing. Blue Steel is dreamy and airy but also surprisingly sharp. It is a fascinating piece that evolves and moves.
Mark Isham’s Song of the Firefly Harmonium is a five-and-a-half-minute-long masterpiece! The gentle arps and carefully crafted melody take the listener to ambient heaven. It is beautiful, but it also has an edge, an attitude, that is very much in tune with the overall “What does mindfulness sound like?” atmosphere.
Next out is Realize by Gustavo Santaolalla. It has some of the same atmospheres as Blue Steel, calming and relaxing, but with more depth and textures. It is, however, not so deep that you lose track of the here-and-now, which is the idea behind mindfulness. Lisa Bella Donna’s Parting of the Ways is a darker and slower piece. With a Blade Runner-ish lead synth and some genuinely spectacular sound design, Donna delivers one of the most delicate pieces on the collection.
Taking a small break from the ambient sound, Sierra Dreamscape by Kathryn Bostic adds a touch of piano elegance. It is a pretty composition with a neoclassical sound that feels refreshing after four ambient tracks. But it is not to last; Garish by Canadian guitarist, producer, and film music composer Michael Brook is a short but great piece that you have to listen to a few times before you “get it.” I guess it is because of its light structure with a hint of improvisation.
Whispers of Hope
The piano is back with multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Jordan Rudess’ positive and radiant Whispers of Hope. The piano sounds incredible! At this stage, its warm sound is like a vitamin injection. Its effect lasts long, even when the way colder and experimental And then there were no words… by David Torn comes on. Believe me; What this piece lacks in words, it makes up in atmosphere.
The list of music gods on this collection is, as stated above, phenomenal! Now prog-rock artist Rick Wakeman enters the stage with The Sunflower Ghost. Its analog sound and playful vibe are delightful. I guess it is a nod to New Age music of the early 1980s, or perhaps Jean Michel Jarre. I found myself looking for the replay button, wanting to get a better glimpse of the ghost hiding in the sunflower…
Michael Whalen’s Always Returning binds it all together with ambient synths, romantic piano, and sharp steel bells in the middle. It is myndstream Collection Volume 1 – or mindfulness for that matter – distilled into one track. Nearer the end, Circles by Brazilian pianist and composer Marcelo Zarvos makes the listener reflect and breathe. It is a true solo piano jewel!
Legendary composer and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Cliff Martinez rounds off the collection with Ambient 2. It is a dark piece that would go well in a Hollywood blockbuster movie. It has a haunting melody with eerie textures. As you can tell, the compilation does not end on a high note; It makes it easier to return to the real world.
In conclusion: Listening to myndstream Collection Volume 1 with the “What does mindfulness sound like?” question in mind, it is tempting to say: “I wish such a work had existed in the late 1980s, answering the question “What is New Age music” too.” Many labels tried, issuing compilation after compilation, but none answered that question thoroughly enough. Hopefully, myndstream’s new collection will make the sound of mindfulness a lot easier to understand. That in itself is a triumph! I almost can’t wait for Volume 2.
For more information and music samples, visit myndstream.com.