This week, I’ve put together a playlist for relaxation, meditation, or simply for listening pleasure. These instrumental pieces straddle multiple genres—modern classical, minimal, electronic, new age, world—and are songs that I have enjoyed listening to over the years. They’re beautiful, moody, mysterious, abstract, and dreamy—an antidote to the hectic summer days.
We begin with Jóhann Jóhannsson’s 2016 Deutche Grammophon album Orphée, inspired by the Greek Orpheus myth. For Jóhannsson, the album represented rebirth and change, as he moved from Copenhagen and built a new life in Berlin. He is missed by many who have loved his studio albums (like this one) and film scores.
We segue into a classic 1978 recording from Brian Eno, based on an audio and video installation at La Guardia Airport in New York City. As you may have already guessed, it’s called Music for Airports.
Organist Kit Downes traveled all over England to play different types of organs, from small portative organs to large cathedral pipe organs, for his ECM album Obsidian. I wrote a feature about this terrific album when it first came out. We hear the improvised track “Kings,” which features the big pipe organ of London’s Union Chapel.
The popular minimalist composer Max Richter intended his unusual 8-hour long work SLEEP to be a lullaby. We’ll hear just a snippet from the epic recording, but Richter will soon perform the entire work outdoors at LA’s Grand Park downtown, in an all-night affair complete with cots. Einstein on the Beach fans, grab your blankets and head downtown.
I named this playlist after the title of Harold Budd’s 1978 album The Pavilion of Dreams. I love this album and especially the gorgeous piece called “Bismillahi ‘Rrahmani ‘Rrahim,” which is the Islamic invocation for daily prayer. The song includes unusual instrumentation—celeste, glockenspiel, harp, electric piano—and features the late alto saxophonist Marion Brown.
English composer Gavin Bryars wrote and recorded the next piece in tribute to jazz pianist Bill Evans (in particular from his trio days of 1959-1961), from an early and rather obscure album called Hommages. Two pianos play together on this entrancing composition.
Tunisian oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem follows with my favorite track from his ECM album Le Pas du Chat Noir (The Black Cat’s Steps). François Couturier plays piano on this duet track. I love the oud, the Arabic lute that preceded the guitar.
The Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner is best known for his soundtracks for Krzysztof Kieślowski films such as The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colors triology. We hear one of Preisner’s 10 Easy Pieces for the Piano as performed by Polish pianist Leszek Możdżer.
We end this week’s dreamy playlist with woodwind player Jon Gibson, a longtime member of the Philip Glass Ensemble. I first heard this song in the 1970’s on the way home from a show at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. I’ll never forget listening while heading north on Vista Del Mar overlooking the ocean on a moonlit night. It’s a wonderful and permanent memory. Gibson plays the alto flute on this track in a certain repetitive and hypnotic mode.
Finally, a song I really wanted to include (but was not on Spotify) is “Krsna Kantha Kandam” by the Indian bansuri artist (transverse bamboo cane flute) Ronu Majumdar, working with guitar wizard Ry Cooder and quarter-tone trumpet genius Jon Hassell. The album comes from Water Lily Acoustics, a wonderful audiophile label run by Kavi Alexander. They issued some fabulous world music albums in the 1990’s and won a Grammy for the album A Meeting by the River, featuring Ry Cooder and Vishwa Mohann Bhatt playing the Mohan veena, a traditional Hindustani instrument not often heard. Here is the aforementioned “Krsna Kantha Kandam”:
Rhythm Planet Playlist 7/24/18
- Jóhann Jóhannsson / “A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder” / Orphée / Deutsche Grammophon
- Brian Eno / “2/1” (Remastered 2004) / Ambient 1: Music for Airports / EMI
- Kit Downes / “Kings” / Obsidian / ECM Records
- Max Richter / “Dream 3 (in the midst of my life)” / From Sleep / Deutsche Grammophon
- David Darling / “Children” / Cello Blue / Hearts of Space Records
- Harold Budd / “Bismillahi ‘Rrahmani ‘Rrahim” / The Pavilion of Dreams / Virgin
- Gavin Bryars / “My First Homage” / Hommages / LTM Recordings
- Anouar Brahem / “C’est Ailleurs” / Le Pas Du Chat Noir / ECM Records
- Zbigniew Preisner performed by Leszek Możdżer / “A Good Morning Melody” / 10 Easy Pieces for Piano / New Music Productions
- Jon Gibson / “Untitled” / Two Solo Pieces / Felmay Records