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Peter Phippen & Arja Kastinen | Forest of a Thousand Songs | Review by Dyan Garris

peter phippen album cover“Forest of a Thousand Songs” by

Peter Phippen and Arja Kastinen

Album Review by Dyan Garris, New Age CD, Zone Music Reporter, and “Spirit Seeker Magazine

A thousand accolades for this calming, truly healing album. – Dyan Garris

“Forest of a Thousand Songs” is the second album collaboration from Peter Phippen and Arja Kastinen. The album features Peter performing on Shakuhachi bamboo flute and ocarina with Arja on kanteles.

Peter Phippen is a multiple award-nominated performer and recording artist specializing in traditional flutes from around the world. He has a penchant and a great talent for creative and artistic musical improvisation. Peter has been Grammy® Award nominated, as well as being nominated multiple times for the Native American Music Awards, the International Acoustic Music Awards, and the One World Music Awards. Over the last three decades he has researched the history and performance technique of flutes, both ancient and modern. On this album Peter plays the Shakuhachi bamboo-flute and the ocarina.

His collaborator on the album is Arja Kastinen. She was the first Finnish folk musician to take the Doctor of Music examination at Sibelius Academy (December 2000). In 2018, she was awarded a 5-year state artist grant (Arts Promotion Centre Finland). Arja specializes in historical kantele instruments and in 19th century Karelian kantele improvisation.

The soundscapes on “Forest of a Thousand Songs” are built from the flute, ocarina, kantele, nature sounds, and the sounds of the ringing stone, Klockarsten, found on the island of Nötö, Finland. (A short video of the ringing stone can be seen on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BaBQotM5HfQ)

Most of us know what a flute is, but we may never have heard of a kantele. A kantele is a traditional Finnish and Karelian plucked string instrument belonging to the southeast Baltic box-zither family. In lore, it was said that the music from the kantele draws forest creatures to wonder at its beauty. The kantele has a distinctive sound.

Here, on this album, Arja plays several different kanteles, including the 11-string alto kantele made by Jan-Anton Kallioinen on tracks 1-3, the 15-string kantele made by Keijo Säteri (Leppävirta, Finland) on track 5, and also the following kanteles made by Rauno Nieminen: The 10-string kantele with bronze strings on tracks 4 and 7, the 5-string kantele with bronze strings, on track 8, and the 5-string kantele with viscose strings on tracks 6 and 8.

The album title and the track titles are taken from ancient Finnish runosong texts translated into English. The aim of the musicians was to connect the tracks in a way that they would build a story.

Now, all that said, the album is simply and serenely, “Wow.” In my opinion, there is a lot of “healing” music out there these days that isn’t really so. Here, you can literally feel the healing oozing out of every note on this album. Every.

The story begins with the almost 6-minute “Night Born.” Meditative, relaxing, and definitively healing, this is beautiful, with absolutely haunting flute and kantele drawing us ever so deeply into the peace. “The Water’s Mistress” is equally peaceful, with calming water sounds. Masterful, languorous flute and kantele both call us to simply relax. SO beautiful. At 2:26, I wish it was a little longer.

Have you ever been to Aspen, Colorado? Aspen forests are mysterious, magical, and special, as is the song “Aspen Meeting.” Here, we are almost one with the ancient mysteries. Love this.

“Why Do You Weep, Wooden Bark?” is spectacular with nature sounds, 10-string kantele, and again, haunting, otherworldly flute that seems to emanate from a collective soul. Perfect for meditation, we may wonder why we weep at all. Magnificent.

“Sun-Bird” follows. Tranquil perfection, there is a freeness about this piece. We can feel our spirits soar. A 5-string kantele with viscose strings is combined with the awesome sounds of nature and a calming flute melody on “And the Great Oak Sighed.” I found this very serene and healing to the psyche.

Calming water sounds, a 10-string kantele with bronze strings, and ethereal, perfectly incorporated flute, bring immense and almost instant peace to the soul on “Risen From Stone.” At 5-1/2 minutes, I found this a perfect length. Fully and deeply immersed in the peace, we don’t want this album to end. But, “Ten Seeds” is the perfect piece to close it out, if end it must. It’s okay. It’s 6 more minutes of quintessential quiescence.

In this album, we feel as if we are part of the forest, part of the whole, and an integral part of a thousand timeless, eternal songs.  A thousand accolades for this album. You will want to get the whole thing.

This album is available digitally only. Get it wherever music is sold/streamed.

Peter Phippen: https://www.peterphippen.com/

Arja Kastinen: http://www.temps.fi/en/arja-kastinen-2/

Credits:

Recording: Ivar Lunde and Arja Kastinen
Editing and mixing: Arja Kastinen
Mastering: Taito Hoffrén
Graphic design: Petri Lampela

 

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