There is always something exciting happening in my musical world, and anyone who is anyone knows that I am usually at the center of it. Want to know what I’ve been up to? Check out all of my press coverage and news updates right here.
Phoenix of Atlantis - Kathy Parsons
November 22, 2019
A lot of the music I review is intended for relaxation and stress-relief. Phoenix of Atlantis is not one of those albums! It is a much more challenging work that tells a story that is also a bit of a puzzle, allowing for a variety of interpretations. To quote Nadeem Majdalany, the composer: “Phoenix of Atlantis is a multi-movement contemporary classical work that takes the listener on a metaphysical journey through space and time where one experiences creation and destruction, birth, life and death all in one complete work.” Sound extraordinary? I’ve never experienced anything quite like it! The eleven movements tell a story or a series of stories that are included in the liner notes of the album and on the album’s website. A wide variety of musical instruments are featured throughout the album, and vocalists appear in some of the music with lyrics in several languages. The fifth movement is a 16-minute piano solo called “Seven Deadly Sins,” and the piano appears in several other movements as well. In addition to more traditional orchestral instruments like strings, woodwinds and brass, instruments such as hammer, conch shell and wooden wolf are also listed.
All of the instruments played in Phoenix of Atlantis are acoustic (except electric guitar) - something that has become more and more rare in this age of digital music. I really appreciate this quote from Majdalany: “I've always challenged myself by building constraints and composing for acoustic instruments rather than programmable machines. I have come to understand that technology is like a Swiss army knife and should be used as a tool not as a crutch to lean on.” The Canadian-born Majdalany studied piano, music theory and history at the Royal Conservatory of Music and later earned a degree in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music. He made his orchestral conducting debut in 2005 with the Athens Symphony Orchestra. Since then, he has composed music for a variety of notable filmmakers, bands, solo artists, dancers, engineers, producers, ensembles and orchestras. He has written and arranged more than 10,000 pieces and is on the faculty at California State University, Northridge.
“Seven Deadly Sins Suite” tells the intriguing story of a picnic in a park with a gathering of animals. The story begins with the preface: “Crystallized on paths set before us and born into this, each step from birth has been an act of destruction for us to enjoy.” The picnic itself is described as a sumptuous meal “that would rival any royal feast.” After eating, the animals still wanted more and that desire “slowly transformed these delightful beings into a most horrific feuding group.” Those who weren’t involved in violence against the others engaged “in the most disordered chaotic loveless orgy.” In the meantime, the protagonist sat back in the sun and watched as the animals destroyed each other. This colorful and multi-faceted piano solo is performed by Jason Stoll, who truly gives it his all as he makes each segment of the story unique and emotionally powerful.
All eleven tracks are intriguing and quite different from each other, so if you are looking for a bit of a musical adventure, give Phoenix of Atlantis a listen. It is available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes as well as various streaming sites.
Soliloquy of Eden - Lynn René Bayley
September 3, 2020
Los Angeles-based composer Nadeem Majdalany, who received his degree at the Berklee College of Music, presents here a five-movement piece based on cosmic reverberations, steadfast warriors and the threshold of life and death, none of which really means anything in terms of just listening to the music, which fortunately is interesting enough to rise above the New Age philosophy.
Majdalany’s music is simultaneously lyrical-tonal and modern-edgy, alternating between these two worlds to create a fascinating tapestry of sound. Judy Kang, our solo cellist, has an exceptionally rich, warm tone, yet can negotiate the sometimes strange demands that Majdalany puts on her, including distorted notes, bouncing the bow off the strings and other such devices. What I particularly liked about the music, however, was the fact that none of these modern devices sounds forced or precious; they are simply elements in the ongoing cello monologue that is this fascinating suite.
Nonetheless, it is precisely these edgy moments that keep the score from sounding too much like New Age pap. For the most part, Majdalany’s music is slow-moving and does not have a strong sense of structure per se, but that isn’t important. The important thing is that every note and phrase captures your attention and holds it. In the third piece, “Memories Keep Time Awake,” the slow pizzicato progression of notes almost sounds like the slow ticking of a clock in an atonal manner. Majdalany’s text for this movement in the liner notes runs like this:
Now is the time of release. Old habits must depart
for new opportunities to be welcomed. The heart is open,
and now the stage must be set for growth…
This is how you set boundaries; this is how you love.
This is how you create the stage for a new person;
and this person will love your home and help you decorate.
By contrast, the fourth movement, “Mystic Magenta Tree,” presents more lyrical melodic lines with edgy bowing amidst them. There is also a rising, slow chromatic passage that simulates the growth of a tree, balanced later on in the piece by one descending chromatic glissando.
This rather short suite ends with “Harmonious Hominem Fountain Fortuna,” which consists primarily of long, slow chords in thirds played on the cello, but yet again it is the departures from this structure that are interesting.
It’s rather a pity that this short but fascinating work, released by the composer and available here, will undoubtedly fly under the radar of most listeners. It is indeed a fascinating work, worthy of serious listening. It is sincere music without gimmicks, written without pandering to mass listening tastes.