Kirsten Agresta Copely’s “Around the Sun” is a spellbinding album! It pulls the listener into its orbit, glowing and brilliant. I experienced a deep sense of musical déjà vu while listening. To me, “Around the Sun” is a rediscovery of the harp – an instrument we all know well but somehow have lost touch with. The album is brimming with artistry and the recording itself is worthy of a reward or two. It is only July, but “Around the Sun” is for sure one of 2020’s finest New Age music releases.
“Around the Sun” is Nashville/New York City based harpist Kirsten Agresta Copely’s first as a composer. Her debut album, “Dream World”, was released in August 2001. In May 2019, she released “The Covers Album” – twelve hit singles spanning decades from Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac to Radiohead, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. Copely received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Indiana University Bloomington, and is currently a Professor of Harp at Vanderbilt University. She has collaborated with many hip hop, R&B, and pop icons, including Enya (“Dark Sky Island” 2016 live performance on ABC’s “Live With Kelly & Michael”), Jay-Z, Beyoncé Knowles, Kanye West, Alicia Keys and many more.
“Daybreak” is the name of the album opener. I love how the sound seems to contain a question, as if the daybreak itself is wondering how this day will turn out. Is it a good day, or is it bad? Time will tell. Another thing you’ll notice right away is the rich and warm reverb. It gives the sharp sounding harp much more depths and details. It is extremely difficult to do right, but on “Around the Sun” the soundscape is mixed to perfection. The reverb creates a “room of sound” (or perhaps “universe of sound” is more accurate) – which makes the album ideal for meditation. It is a fabulous album opener!
The voyage around the sun continues on “Wind Made Moan”. The melody is magnificent! The cry of the wind is something we can hear and almost feel on our skin, like a sorrowful embrace. I also enjoy how “Wind Made Moan” seems to move, first slowly – then it picks up speed, becoming a sublime representation of the wind.
My favorite piece on the album is the brave but gentle “Persephone Rising”. An ancient Greek myth of tells of Persephone and how she became the rightful wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld. It is a story that still awes and inspires, almost three millennia later. I’m impressed by how Copely brings Persephone’s beauty to life. I could listen to the piece all day, it is amazing.
“Surya” is a Sanskrit word that means “the sun”. It is a meditative piece, dreamy and tranquil. Almost six minutes seems to fly. If there is one thing Copely is 100 % right about, is that we don’t realize how important the sun is. Everything that’s ever happened, has in some way been depending on the sun. “Surya” is a wonderful tribute to the life-giving – but also dangerous – sun. I love how the composition deals with this complex duality.
The Silver Swan
Summer is close, and the piece “The Silver Swan” is all about grace. Before our inner eye we can picture the silver swan gliding effortlessly on a still lake, a mirror reflecting one of nature’s most beautiful creatures. We are still in the wet element on “Water Lilies”. It is impossible not to be moved by how Copely portrays this magical plant. We can sense both its colorful nature and how they gently move on the water surface. Bravo!
Riflessioni (Reflections) is, as the title implies, a contemplative piece. Notice the fantastic reverb. It creates, as mentioned above, a vast and complex soundscape. Again and again, I’m amazed by the technical quality of this album – something that is quite unusual in this age of spotless (and quite lifeless) digital recordings. Suddenly the seasons are changing. “Fall Leaves, Fall” is a jewel. Just close your eyes, and you’ll see colorful leaves falling, making it clear that fall might be the most beautiful season of all.
This year-long journey around the sun ends with “Winter’s Bone”. Each note is like a snow crystal, unique and wonderful. The presentation of winter is so believable that it is as if the temperature in the room is falling. It is quite remarkable, and a statement of how impressive and versatile this album is. If you feel cold at this stage, simply locate the replay button and take another 365 day journey – in 40 minutes!
In conclusion: “Around the Sun” by Kirsten Agresta Copley is in many ways a milestone album. Looking at the world, it seems essential that we all need more harp music in our lives – and “Around the Sun” is a phenomenal place to start. I’m also impressed by the quality of the compositions. “Daybreak”, “Persephone Rising” and “Riflessioni (Reflections)” are small masterpieces, melodic jewels that will illuminate any playlist. The recording, mixing and mastering are flawless – it sounds utterly gorgeous. “Around the Sun” is, simply put, an essential New Age music release – and Kirsten Agresta Copley is definitely an artist to follow in the years to come.
Score: 96/100 – See our scoring policy
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