Home #newagemusic Meg Bowles – Pilgrimage Review

Meg Bowles – Pilgrimage Review

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In our culture, we seem to have lost touch with the idea of going on a pilgrimage. Somewhere along the road to modernity, people in our part of the world stopped taking spiritual journeys. But we are all seemingly pre-programmed to understand that such travels, usually by foot to a sacred place, are deeply existential and meaningful in nature. This is perhaps why Meg Bowles’ album Pilgrimage, which is being released today, seems to trigger a deep sense of déjà vu. The here-and-now, or the human viewpoint if you will, is morphed with a spellbinding, larger-than-life perspective – going back and forth in time. Pilgrimage is, in short, a sublime and well-crafted release by one of this genre’s finest performers. 

Connecticut-based composer-synthesist Meg Bowles began her musical journey as flutist and completed formal studies in classical music performance at both Northwestern and Boston Universities. She earned an M.B.A. in finance from Columbia University in 1984. Meg’s first two CDs, Inner Space and Solstice Dreams, were released in 1993, followed by the critically-acclaimed Blue Cosmos in 1996. Her musical association with David Bilger, Principal Trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra, resulted in several commissioned works for trumpet and fixed media in the years that followed. Meg’s fifth release, A Quiet Light (2011) – a collection of six contemplative ambient works which explore reflections of the numinous in nature – was followed by two award-winning releases, The Shimmering Land (2013), and Evensong: Canticles for the Earth (2018). Meg’s co-producer and mastering engineer for all of her recordings is her husband Richard Price, a Grammy award-winning producer.

Ancient Paths
The album opener on Pilgrimage is called Ancient Paths. It starts slowly featuring rich pads, sharp strings and gorgeous textures. It is as if we can see millennia pass before our inner eye and strong, prehistoric people walking on long-forgotten paths. The ambient melody is beautiful beyond words; It is as if a secret is being told, making the listener hang on to each note. The analog-sounding synths are, as usual, terrific. Ancient Paths is in every way a fabulous start to this sacred journey! But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself:

Sample the album and find it on your favorite streaming service:
Even without looking at the title, it is easy to tell that we on the next track are entering a dark and damp place. Cave of Secrets develops carefully, and a lot of attention is on the chamber itself. Gentle piano, keys and heavenly voices are heard, giving the impression that this is a holy place – a site humans would go on a pilgrimage to in ancient times. If these stone walls could talk, they would tell about long-forgotten belief systems and rituals. It is a fascinating thought, and an equally fascinating piece – thanks to Meg Bowles’ brilliance.

Cloudburst Over a Parched Land
At this stage, Cloudburst Over a Parched Land takes the album into new and quite hostile territory. Something that sounds like insects are heard; lots and lots of them, and biblical torrents of rain too. Then it is all over. Empty silence is all that is left. It is a striking, Daliesque presentation.

I’m happy to report that the insects are gone on the next piece, Mountains Reaching For Stars. A gorgeous Vangelis-like synth is heard, playing a larger-than-life melody; it is as if we can see the mighty mountains being formed and reaching their monumental arms against the enormity of the cosmos. Here and there are some quite surprising twists and turns. It sounds spectacular!

Luminous Garden of Repose
My favorite piece on the album is Luminous Garden of Repose. It is a silky-smooth, elegant and soft-spoken melody. The arp synth sounds playful (notice the change around five minutes, where one arp is seamlessly exchanged with another), taking us on quite an adventure into an unknown and strange dimension – showing once again that Bowles is on par with the biggest names in ambient music.

We have reached our sacred destination as Source of Enduring Light comes on. Its warm atmosphere fills the listener with a deep sense of peace and gratitude. It is a large and complex soundscape, almost overwhelming. But still, it is highly approachable and rewarding from the first listen. Source of Enduring Light fits well with any human conception of divinity, from the stone age to the space age, or anything in between. One word: Bravo!

In conclusion: There is a deeper truth about Meg Bowles’ Pilgrimage that I find deeply fascinating. When listening, I found myself drawn to texts about people who have set out on pilgrimages. They all tend to describe the journey itself and the spiritual side of things – both underway and when arriving at the sacred destination. They all seem to conclude that the pilgrimage gives deep insights into human existence, from birth to death. In other words; It is not just the journey, life itself is a pilgrimage. That, to me, seems true about Bowles’ Pilgrimage too. It does not just capture one journey from start to finish, but the many overlapping journeys we all experience as living and thinking human beings. Time itself loses its meaning, we are all connected.

Many find Berlin school-inspired ambient music a bit cold and complex, especially on first listen. Meg Bowles’ music, on the other hand, is very accessible – and that is true about Pilgrimage too. It greets the listener like an old friend, telling stories that anyone can understand (or perhaps sense is a better word).

Meg Bowles’ new album is, in short, a pilgrimage of the mind – and a metaphor on life. It is not a journey anyone should postpone.

For more information and music samples, visit megbowlesmusic.com.

Pilgrimage is now playing on New Age Stars Radio!