Listening to Dean and Dudley Evenson’s new album feels like stepping into the garden of French painter Claude Monet. It is so visual that you can almost see the aging master at work, quietly painting while observing his beloved water-lilies. Monet’s Garden will please both audiences that only have a vague recollection of the artist’s paintings – or if you have a Ph.D. in the life and works of Oscar-Claude Monet. The album is vibrant like no other, rich and complex. But it is still incredibly accessible, making the listener hear – and see! – the similarities between Monet and the Evenson’s art. It all begins with Nature, their mutual source of inspiration.
Dean Evenson is a musician, composer, producer, and videographer. He has a master’s degree in Molecular Biology. He worked in Manhattan as a recording engineer for Regent Sound with many Atlantic recording artists, including Eric Clapton, Mose Allison, Roberta Flack. In 1970, he and his wife, Dudley Evenson, became involved in the portable video movement. In 1979, they founded the independent record company Soundings of the Planet in Tucson, Arizona. Together, they have produced over 80 albums and videos. She has been the Executive Producer, art director in addition to performing her harp and doing guided meditations on many albums. In 2020, Dudley published her latest book, A Year of Guided Meditations: 52 Weekly Affirmations.
Before recording Monet’s Garden, Dean and Dudley spent five days documenting the water lilies, Japanese bridge, wisteria, rhododendrons, azaleas, bamboo, and weeping willows in Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France. See this one-hour video by the artists from Giverny:
Water Lily Nymphs
The album opener is Water Lily Nymphs, which is also the title of a 1926 painting by Claude Monet. We hear, as usual, Dean on flute and Dudley on harp and bells. It doesn’t take long before the listener is entranced by the vibrant and many-layered soundscape. The gardens come to life in vivid colors, birds are chirping, and it doesn’t take long before the listener realizes that this is a piece of heaven! Center stage are the water lilies, who move peacefully on the pond in the purple evening light. Water Lily Nymphs is a perfect album opener! It sets the atmosphere and tone for the whole album. Dean and Dudley’s usual touch of improvisation gives the melody a terrific, free-flowing energy. Bravo!
Few objects in our world are more picturesque than bridges, especially in parks and gardens. Wisteria Foot Bridge has both an alluring mystique and a sense of human craftsmanship. It is all there in Dean and Dudley’s music – and in Monet’s many bridges. I like the way Dean changes flutes in the middle, somewhat altering the melody’s course and making it sharper.
I’m tempted to say that the next part of the album contains landscape design, combining nature and culture into a living and breathing garden. Golden Tones describes Monet’s palette, perhaps the most important thing of all – then the Splendid Irises, one of his favorite flowers, and finally the Water Garden, where the elements meet and blossom. Monet did about 250 oil paintings while in Giverny during the last 30 years of his life. Water Garden sums it all up perfectly.
The ending of the album is a portrait of the aging artist. Cascading Willow makes the listener reflect on the message behind the Weeping Willow series, while Play of Light and Evening in Giverny make us see the over 80-year-old artist before our inner eye. He died on 5 December 1926 of lung cancer, 86 years old.
I will underline that it is possible to listen to the album without focusing on Monet and his art. It is a superb meditation album that might take your imagination somewhere far away from Giverny. That said, the link between the paintings and Dean and Dudley’s music is so strong that they are almost inseparable on an intellectual level. The context is the canvas, the thing that binds it all together.
In conclusion: “My wish is to stay like this, living quietly in a corner of nature,” Claude Monet said. Listening to Monet’s Garden, that wish can be granted to any listener willing to tune in and experience everything this magnificent release has to offer.
One of the fascinating aspects of Monet’s Garden is how it inspires listeners to learn more about this one-of-a-kind artist. I found myself studying pictures in a Monet Taschen book that I have had on my bookshelf for twenty years, taking in the pictures with a brand new interest and understanding much more. Dean and Dudley make the art more accessible, expanding and filling in where the painting stops and the music begins. It shows Dean and Dudley Evenson’s level of dedication, both in Monet’s and their own art. It is, without a doubt, one of 2021’s finest and most memorable New Age music albums.
For more information and music samples, visit soundings.com/product/monets-garden.