Seventh Album From Keyboardist Meg Bowles Is One Of The Best
EVENSONG: CANTICLES FOR THE EARTH
The ambient orchestral soundscapes on the new Meg Bowles album, Evensong: Canticles for the Earth, are her tribute to all aspects of nature, including the earth and its place in the cosmos, especially exploring the concepts of personal spirituality, time, light, and shadows, as well as the cycle of life and death.
This recording follows The Shimmering Land which went to #1 on the annual Top 100 Chart published by Zone Music Reporter (the industry’s leading international site for new age music) and was voted ZMR’s Best Ambient Album for that year. For the past several decades Bowles, a synthesist, has been a leader in the ambient music genre with all her recordings which also include Inner Space, Solstice Dreams, Blue Cosmos, From the Dark Earth and A Quiet Light.
To understand Bowles’ inspiration for much of her music, especially the new Evensong: Canticles for the Earth, picture her where she lives on an island in a lake in Western Connecticut high on a hill with the sun setting through the trees. The first track, “Hymnus, ” begins the meditation with a droned invocation, calling one into a sacred space before moving into “joyful thankfulness for the land and especially for rain which nourishes all life.” Bowles then takes her dogs for a walk down to the lakeshore, surrounded by tall pines. “The patterns of the water in the lake, the wind making waves and the light reflecting colors are all textures that I absorb into my music, ” explains Bowles. “There is a time here on the lake very late in the day when the sounds of human activity wane and the air becomes extremely still. Sometimes you can hear the sudden rush of flapping wings across the stillness of the lake as a flock of birds takes off into the distance, a magical sound. It’s a ‘Migration at Dusk’.” In the third tune, “The Ridgewalker, ” she watches a solitary figure slowly and softly walking over the mountaintop through a multidimensional space, before disappearing beyond the horizon.
As darkness descends, inky shadows appear (“Chalice of Shadows”) and, as Bowles states, “It is a time to drink in the darker edge of twilight which can be perceived as haunting and mysterious, especially as the fading light casts shadows into strange shapes, making familiar things look alien. While evening can be an invitation to face one’s own shadow, it is also a numinous time of awe when colors deepen and the sky slowly opens up to reveal a myriad of stars.” This contemplation of the cosmos leads into her “Berceuse for a Star Child.” “A berceuse is a lullaby; this particular one is really for the ‘soul child’ in all of us, because we are all star-seeds from afar. Everything is stardust, which connects us all to each other and to the Earth, and the Cosmos beyond.”
Although the word “Evensong” (the title track on Bowles’ album) most often refers to the traditional Anglican church service dating from the 1500’s, various forms of prayer and song at the end of the day have been practiced by humankind across cultures for thousands of years. Bowles’ poetic interpretation includes outpourings of passion, grief, and longing as well as praise. “Despite the suffering in the world, and despite whatever personal struggles I may be carrying, ultimately I return to a feeling of gratitude for being alive to witness the beauty of nature and for the experience of a shared reverence for the earth and sky, aware of my connection with others who are also taking in the magic of evening in contemplation, celebration or simple observation.” As thoughts turn to the mysteries of the universe, consciousness “transitions from an acute awareness of ‘chronos’ time, or clock time, into more of an eternal, floating dream space, ” as reflected in the last piece, “Time and Light.” “In this track, there is a tension between metered and free elements, between major and minor harmonies, and between consonance and dissonance. Slowly the pulse of linear time yields to textures which reflect an eternal, radiant space of peace, wonder, and appreciation for the Earth and our place on it.”
Bowles’ foremost influence is classical music. She began playing flute at a young age and studied classical music throughout her school years, eventually earning her B.A. degree in music from Boston University. After getting her degree in music, Bowles earned an M.B.A. in finance from Columbia University. She then decided to pursue her interest in analytical psychology and graduated from the Westchester Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.
“I love Bach for his transcendent clarity, Prokofiev for always putting the wrong note in the right place, Handel and Arvo Pärt for their sacred choral music, Aaron Copland for his talent as an orchestrator, and Stravinsky for his overall genius. As a child I also had a fascination with electronic music which came to the forefront in my life in the 1980s when I started listening to Steve Roach and also to the Music from the Hearts of Space radio show. That started me on the road to composing seriously.” Bowles also admires other composers such as Robert Rich and Jeff Pearce, as well as film score composers Elmer Bernstein, John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Max Richter, among others.
There are other influences in Bowles’ music as well. She is a licensed psychoanalyst
specializing in working with dreams, creativity, and trauma. She has extensively studied both Jungian psychology and shamanism. “Jung wrote that the psyche strives towards wholeness and consciousness. One of the questions I always ask is: How do we want to express our creativity in the world? On a personal level, my interest in the psyche cannot be separated from my interest in creating music.”
Bowles goes on to explain, “I try to help people reconnect to their inner life by giving them a space to listen to the deepest parts of themselves, and to tell the stories that emanate from that authentic place of soul. That is what gives the outer life meaning. This has a lot in common with creating and appreciating music which also is most meaningful with deep listening. With my music I build layer upon layer to come up with the finished artistic endeavor. I’m a synthesist in more ways than one because I pull threads together from many different sources, places and feelings.”
In addition to her seven full-length recordings, Bowles’ music also has appeared on two compilation albums, The Other World and Soundscape Gallery 2. In addition, Bowles contributed the opening and closing pieces for the Zodiac series of recordings, a 12-CD classical-crossover set released by Angel/EMI. One of the ambient music’s most ground-breaking and genre-stretching events was when Bowles accepted commissions from David Bilger, Principal Trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra, for new works combining trumpet and synthesizer which became From the Dark Earth with Bilger as soloist. In addition to her instrumental composing and recording, Bowles has spent the past six years as a professional choral singer.
“During the subtle shift from daylight into the deep blue glow of evening, the time-bound bustle of day fades into the timeless dream space of night. For me, to take a walk in the waning light along the lake where I live, has become an informal yet sacred ritual practice to process the day and re-center myself, either in solitude or with my husband, most often with a dog or two. My heart becomes calm when I listen to the evening songs of birds and the soft rustlings of animals, and I never tire of observing how the water glimmers and reflects the softening colors of dusk. Often I will find myself gazing at the deepening sky, filled with a profound sense of gratitude for our planet Earth and for the gift of being present to witness all of her ever-changing beauty.”
Evensong: Canticles for the Earth, released on Kumatone Records, can be purchased as a CD or digital downloads at a variety of online sales sites including CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes and many others. The music also can be heard (and Bowles can be followed) at many major streaming platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Google Play and more. For more information about Meg Bowles and her music, visit her website, megbowlesmusic dot com.