Music selections are primarily a matter of taste. There’s a big growth in the production of electronica, music created with digital synthesizers that is sometimes blended with traditional instruments or a fusion of east-west instruments and percussion. Live performers playing real instruments seem to be something of an endangered species.

Bliss of Being is a gorgeous collection of songs recorded by live performers on traditional instruments. This includes composer Richard Shulman on piano and synthesizer, Adriana Contino playing cello, Kate Steinbeck playing flutes, vocalist Dielle Ciesco, and Bob Hinkle playing crystal bowls.

The CD opens with Track 1: The Bliss of Healing. This song is representative of what the listener will find on this album. The vocalist hums a gentle, pretty melody accompanied by flute, cello, and piano. It is utterly tranquilizing. The thematic material of the first track continues through Track 4: Transition to a New Way. The texture, harmony and melodic material become more complex and hypnotic. Track 5: Heading Home is a lengthy song over 9 minutes long. The musicians take their time exploring musical ideas. Instruments join in gradually, drop out, and return. Textures change slowly, giving the impression of a relaxed, gradual unfoldment.

By Track 8: New Openings, the listener should be just about boneless. The pianist cuts loose with soft rippling arpeggios and trills. This introduces Track 9: Divine Connection, the longest song at over 11 minutes. Crystal bowls provide a skin-tingling introduction, with the piano chiming in with delicate chords on the high keys. Once again, the musical sounds and textures build gradually. The crystal bowls continue throughout the track and add an otherworldly dimension. The album winds down through the final three tracks, with the songs and textures becoming simpler.

“Bliss of Being” is one of those rare albums that showcase a perfect intersection of sound, talent, and inspiration. The tracks are seamless and flow through a healing musical journey from beginning to end. If you prefer real instruments and live performances to electronica, this is a very fine CD to acquire. It’s perfect for all healing applications, meditation, and ritual use.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artists: The Pure Heart Ensemble
RichHeart Music 2013
12 tracks, 58:53 minutes

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