A multi-layered musical mystery, waiting to be discovered and unraveled by the listener. – Dyan Garris
No doubt about it, the isolation periods of the 2020 pandemic were strange. A lot of music was borne from that period of emotional turmoil, some of it quite interesting, indeed. “Music For Hard Times” is one of those albums. One thing we learn here, apart from how truly creative and playful musicians can be, is that there is always some kind of “music” going on around us whether we are consciously aware of it or not.
The 1 hour 15-minute, collaborative album between composer, Danny Clay, and the contemporary chamber duo known as The Living Earth Show, was recorded in isolation and is in two parts. Volume 1, consisting of 8 tracks or “parts,” was recorded at the beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020, in the home studios of guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist, Andy Meyerson of The Living Earth Show. The collaborators used various instruments, field recordings, some voices, and “found objects.” One intention of the album is to give the listener “calming strategies.”
Volume 2, recorded in 2021, consists of 7 tracks or “parts,” and incorporates musicians from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as well as members from the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Altogether, this album, released on the Earthy Records label on January 18, 2022, is what we can call, “New Age experimental” and all in all is sublimely and profoundly artistic.
To go along with the album, visual artists Nick Ross and Brandie Grogan created a limited-edition book, and artist Jon Fischer produced a full-length film. An accompanying score is available as well, for all who wish to take on Danny Clay’s “calming strategies.” The liner notes contain and explain the 8 different “calming strategies.”
As we delve further into this album, I must say that I actually do not think mere words – mine, at least – can truly do justice to this work of art. The album is something you have to experience for yourself. Volume 1 (8 parts), is meditative and abstract, but not also without its purposes, intentions, melodies, and wonderful expansions. I think this, from the liner notes, says it better than I ever could: “As we listen, we are lifted out of our claustrophobic quarantine apartments and into the wider world, alongside the musicians themselves.” Indeed, no matter where we are, even in an illusion of separation, we are still connected.
Volume 2 (7 parts), consists of over 1200 very interesting sound files, recorded by over 100 musicians, and incorporates also teenage voices from members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, as well as musicians from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra, as previously mentioned. The liner notes describe it best: “Volume 2 is essentially a catalogue of individual spaces united in time – in many cases, recordings made literally during the same hours of January 2021, all over the world, then Dropboxed to (Danny) Clay’s home studio in San Francisco.” Now how cool is that?
The album has broad appeal from a variety of perspectives. If you are a musician, you may find your sense of well-being kind of magically enhanced here. And if you are not, you may very well find this to be true as well. The album is akin to a multi-layered musical mystery, waiting to be discovered and unraveled in depth by the listener. Fascinating, truly.
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Sherry Finzer/Higher Level Media