Music of the spheres

I love music and rarely a day goes by when I don’t listen to something. I’m quite eclectic in my tastes ranging from classical to jazz to 70s progressive to heavy metal to Britpop. Very occasionally music appears to connect you with another dimension. Recently I listened to a couple of old Kitaro CDs. This led me to order some more from Amazon and I want to talk about those.

Kitaro is famous for his Silk Road soundtrack. When I had a record collection, I had the first double album. Unfortunately this is difficult to get on CD, so I ordered the “Best of Silk Road”, which is a re-recording of some of the best tracks. I also took the plunge and bought “The Sacred Journey of Ku Kai” vols 1 & 2. If you like slow moving meditational music with an oriental slant, then you will appreciate these, especially Ku Kai vol. 2.

On a roll, I bought his live album “Daylight, Moonlight”, which is a double album of live music at Yakushiji Temple, Nara, Japan in 2001. I was blown away by the beauty of some of the tracks, particularly “Mercury” and “Heaven and Earth”. This album is an SACD disc. I have a fairly expensive system, which has a Denon multi-format player and the detail and atmospherics are gorgeous.

There is a heartbreaking sadness about Kitaro’s music that is difficult to explain. Part of it comes from an oriental culture where beauty and symmetry are appreciated in a way that is alien to the West. Having read a bit about Chinese and Japanese history recently, what strikes me is the juxtaposition of beauty and order with extreme cruelty and violence in the Orient. Perhaps it is this paradox that produces the haunting quality of some of the music not just from Kitaro, but Takemitsu and Joe Hisaishi. Both the architecture and art of China and Japan have a similar fragile beauty.

This made me think of other musicians/composers who can move me in the same way. In the West, some of Vaughan Williams’ music has a similar quality as it evokes a sound picture of a more innocent England before WW1 (The Lark Ascending, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Symphony No.5). Strangely for a country that has contributed so little to the pantheon of classical music, England has contributed a handful of composers who have composed some of the most beautiful music in history (adding Finzi, Bridge and Butterworth to Vaughan Williams).

From outside this green and pleasant land, Arvo Part, Sibelius and Shostakovich touch into a similar vein of inspiration. Of modern musicians I would highlight Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Enya and Tangerine Dream as well as Kitaro. Before I listened to classical music, I thought it was a world apart, but the more I hear, the more similarities I hear, especially when in comes from the “spheres”.

What has this got to do with backpacking? The same rapture grips me when I see Newlands Valley or Wasdale in the Lake District or Glen Tilt in Scotland. I can’t wait to see Knoydart and other treasures in Scotland. Why do we go to remote places? We go to see beauty and re-connect with something inexplicable. Backpacking helps us do it physically; music can take us there in our minds.


2 thoughts on “Music of the spheres”

  1. Robin, I know where you are coming from with the relationship between the feelings you get from thought provoking music and the feelings of being in the wild places. I love nothing more than listening to classical soothing music while I’m driving through Scottish Glens, for me its the irrelevance they both give the world as they take you off to special places where the daily toil of life no longer exists.

  2. I’m glad there’s another sensitive soul out there! Thanks for the feedback. I’ve added your website to my links.

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