It is a hallmark of great New Age music that you’ll never know exactly where it will take you. Instead of reminding us of everyday life and its problems (like most genres), New Age music takes us on a journey of the mind. Kenneth Hooper’s debut album “Directions” has this quality in abundance. Playing a total of 14 different flutes (Native American, Pueblo style and Chinese Xiao flutes), and a large dose of improvisation, Hooper is our guide into the unknown. It is a very promising debut with almost limitless replay value.
Kenneth Hooper was born in 1965. He is, according to himself, “a late bloomer to music.” In 2003 he and his friend Garth D. Brooks formed a duo, Elysium Calling, and released two albums (“Shapeshifter” in 2004 and “Imagination,” released a year later.) Closer to today, Hooper contributed three pieces to Gian Berselli’s album “Journeys in Sound Healing“ (2017). Two experiences inspired Hooper to record “Directions”: In 2014, his life-partner Kari’s mother was dying. “I was there the night [she] passed. I was able to play flutes for her at her bedside and I saw the power of the flute. This helped me to chart my course for the kind of music I wanted to play.” Soon after, Kenneth discovered a certificate program in San Francisco called Sound, Voice and Music in the Healing Arts Program. At the end of the program, Kenneth’s father passed away, and as he did with Kari’s mother, Kenneth played flute at his bedside, easing his father’s transition at the end of his life.
In the below video you can learn more about Hooper and his music:
The title track is a masterful introduction to the world of “Directions”! The slow, deep drum and the sounds of nature are the stage from which the flutes sing their songs. Almost immediately we sense the improvisation; We suddenly just know that this piece of music comes to life in a natural, free-floating way. The male and female voices connect us with a distant past, as the hypnotic rhythm and rich textures block out all other impressions. The 8 minutes long song is gone in an instant.
“All Who Wander” starts gently with a teel-string guitar. It is a nice contrast to the previous track. It is tempting to ask, “Are we back in modernity?” before the flute answers that question with a definite no. Its sound seems to come from Mother Earth, sending her regards to all who wanders upon Her and wishing them bon voyage. It is a warm, positive, and breathtakingly beautiful song.
“Directions” is both traditional and innovative at the same time. There’s a healthy dose of Nicholas Gunn and Mehdi inspirations here, yet, Hooper has a fresh take on it – especially the combination of flute and steel string-guitar is trailblazing this soundscape into a new decade. “Trailblazers” also happens to be the title of the next song. Its joyous sound tells a story of freedom, nature, and creation itself. It is one of the most beautiful songs here, a real winner. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself:
Now the album gets a bit more contemplative. “Springtime Dreaming” has a delightful, slow rhythm and a matching melody that makes you want to embrace the Spring and all its colorful wonders. Kenneth Hooper is a world-class flutist, no doubt about that. We are still very much in dreamland while listening to “Within,” the last song on the first CD. The bare flute, the sounds of nature, and the gentle synth are mesmerizing, reminiscent of Tony Scott and Paul Horn.
The second CD starts with something of an awakening, as we arise from the deep and into the sunshine as waves are crashing around us. “Coming Home” is a highly meditative, 12 minutes long piece. I love the gentle piano and the complexity of the textures. The ending is magnificent!
“Graceful Expanse” contains some beautiful visualizations. Just let your mind wander, and you’ll see and experience a graceful expanse before your inner eye. “From the Deep” is an 11 minutes long meditation. The sound of the flute seems to come from the bottom of the deepest oceans, an ancient voice of wisdom. “Omens of Change” is the hopeful album closer. Its warm sound gives a positive feeling that will stay with you well after the album is done playing.
In conclusion: Kenneth Hooper’s debut album is a magnificent 2 CD release, perfect for meditation, relaxation, or active listening. 1 hour and 20 minutes seem to fly while listening. It might sound like a cliché, but we all need “Directions” in our lives. Highly recommended!
Score: 95/100 – See our scoring policy
For more information and music samples, visit kennethhooperflutes.com