ALEKSANDRA TAKALA EXPLORES A WIDE SPECTRUM OF INSTRUMENTAL SOUNDS
VISIONS & EMOTIONS
Keyboardist and composer Aleksandra Takala weaves a rich tapestry of sounds together to create music deep with feeling in her debut album, Visions & Emotions. Part of her instrumental palette includes piano, strings, brass horns, guitars, koto, bass, percussion and effects, woodwinds, plus voices both angelic and haunting. Her music is a full-bodied instrumental presentation ranging from new age, to occasional ambient and neo-classical.
Takala’s background includes years of singing in choirs and as a duo with guitar accompaniment. She also has a college degree in classical music theory, performance and composition and has followed this with private tutoring in studies of electronic keyboards, music computer programs, and the current technological aspects of recording, including mixing and mastering. Takala also hosts a four-hour weekly radio show on Sonoma County’s KOWS radio station devoted to the past 60-plus years of swing, rock, soul, R&B, and new age music.
“Although I have been writing and recording music for decades, ” Takala explains, “only recently have I felt ready to release my first album. I have a large backlog of compositions in varying stages of readiness to make future recordings closer to realization. I have been involved with music all my life in one-way or another. I was born learning the lyrics sung by my four sisters’ favorite artists. I’ve always been an avid listener. It is exciting to take personal art created over the years, and send it out into the world. The music comes from my soul and reflects a lifetime of experiences. I feel certain that listeners will tap into the content and emotions of the music even without lyrics.”
The Visions & Emotions album opens with the tune “World Traveler, ” a “tribute to my mother who always dreamed of traveling to exotic places. She finally did it at age 65 when she and her twin sister toured Africa, China, India, and the Amazon River, which is what I pictured at the very start of this piece. I want to bring awareness to our planet because I worry about the earth and the delicate ecological balance that humankind seems bent on upsetting.”
Alek’s sister named the next piece, “Enraptured”. She felt that it envisioned afterglow, “the sacred space of lovers embracing as one.” Takala honors her sister’s memory by holding on to her interpretation. “Japanese Maple” was so-titled because Takala loves the simple beauty of the leaves unfolding in bright spring green to the mired of colors in autumn. Musically it incorporates a Japanese koto. “I have a great appreciation of the pentatonic scale used in Asian music. After visiting Hong Kong, I came back listening to classical Chinese music which greatly influenced my style.”
The next tune is “Ocean Swells.” After completion, Alek pictured indigenous people of South Sea Islands enjoying the swirling movement of the water as it bubbles and sways wrapping gentle waves around their legs, as they sing together. “The oceans are such a vital part of our planet, they need our loving care now more than ever.” “Road Trip (Hurry Up and Slow Down)” is Takala’s tongue-in-cheek ode to the difficulty facing today’s vacationers. “Most people are uptight living in cities, so they often choose a laid-back place to spend vacation time in natural settings. They make daily plans so they won’t miss any sites, and in a frenzy to fit it all in, they miss out on the relaxation part of it. Hence the sub-title, ‘Hurry Up and Slow Down’.”
The composition “Melancholy” came from “a very difficult period in my life, ” explains Takala. “Everybody goes through times when tough decisions have to be made. The piano part is my pleading for change in the beginning. It is time to risk the unknown. The fork in the road is never easy, but staying status quo became impossible. The passage repeats, but the second time there is firm resolve to do what I must.” All the music for “Groundwater” is the rich sound of a string orchestra. “Although this version is instrumental, this was my first attempt to write music with words to be sung by our community choir. The lyricist’s story was about a commune in the forest, sitting circling a campfire in the redwoods as the fog drip made its way to the ground around the trees. Her lyrics helped me envision what was needed for the music to fit her story.”
“Cascading Pools of Crystal” continues the water theme. This tune, a somewhat ambient piece, was inspired by the Seven Sacred Pools on Maui. A surprise marriage proposal at sunrise, on the top of Mount Haliakala, began a happy marriage of 21 years, thus far. “This is one of my favorite songs, it opens with electric guitar using a pitch bend. I love to bend notes, and I love the sound of guitar, so this is a twofer. This piece also includes piano, bass, drums, and you guessed it, strings! This song travels in 12 minutes. I love this ability to play with time. No clocks in my studio. No room for time here, but lots of room for eclectic world art. This room holds the huge world map I made for my mom with colored pins and string connecting the myriad of places she visited in her twilight years. I’m so happy she lived her dream, and I am living mine. She’d really love ‘World Traveler’!
The 10-minute song “Passing Clouds” is more than a reflection on watching clouds cross the sky. Takala says it also is an analogy for passing moods. “In a society of instant gratification, social media, and antidepressants, it is important for people to know that life changes and so do emotions. If you are in a dark place, you need to know that it will not always feel overwhelming. Young people have very little experience with life, they haven’t been on the planet long enough to process dark moods. When difficulties came up for me, I remember they seemed to last forever. The key word there is ‘SEEMED’.” The album ends with “Moonlight Over Havana” featuring a light Caribbean orchestral feeling and romantic Cuban rhythms, ending with some punctuating horns. “I picture a lone couple moving to the beat very close together under a full moon. This brings in the ‘Vision’ part of the music. In all ten songs, the mind’s eye sees all, and emotes with it.”
Takala explains, “While I am composing, the music comes singing out of my fingers. I tend to converse with myself a lot. This is also a form that my compositions take on. It may start as a question, followed by an answer. In other songs a statement is made, followed by a reply.”
Aleksandra is a born and raised Californian. “There came a point when it was impossible to hear myself think in the city, and I knew it was time to ‘get outa Dodge’. I think the Universe agreed, because within one month of visiting Sonoma County we were in escrow. I listened to my intuition, and said to my husband, John, that we get ready to move soon. If we hadn’t, we would never have found this perfect place surrounded by redwood trees. I have learned so much by simple observation here, and I clearly see that it is imperative that we give our planet the respect and care that it deserves.”
Takala started listening to music at a young age and at 12 things began to happen. She had a girlfriend who taught her some classical pieces on a horribly out-of-tune spinet piano, but Aleksandra practiced anyway. She started writing poetry, began singing in the school choir, and went to see the infamous rock-musical stage play “Hair.” “I absorbed all those nuances of a critical moment in music -- Crosby Stills and Nash, Simon and Garfunkel, the Moody Blues, Jimi Hendrix, The Hollies, Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Beatles, John Lennon, Elton John, Gentle Giant and above all Pink Floyd, my fave.” Aleksandra married a guitarist/composer when she was 21, began writing lyrics and singing with him, sometimes just the two of them at weddings and parties. Because of his influence, they explored fusion, jazz-rock and progressive-rock. “I was introduced to bands like Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jack Bruce, Yes, and Jeff Beck.
“I began playing piano at 25 years of age, when my Aunt Mable (the same one who took me to see “Hair”), gave me her player piano that didn’t even have a full 88 keys. I began lessons with a little old lady in Sierra Madre for $6.00 a week. She was a great teacher of classical music. At the end of a year with her, I composed my first song, (which I am now turning into a musical). I now needed a full size piano, so I traded the player in for a beautiful studio upright with a shiny black finish.
“I figured that if I was composing already, that a two-year music program at my local junior college would be my next goal. I was right where I belonged, and I kept on composing. Now I sit at my KORG Triton Workstation, and the next thing I know five hours have passed in the blink of an eye. This IS my passion.”
“By the way, Aunt Mable died thinking she never accomplished anything…NOT SO!! We never know the impact we have on those around us, so just do it. If you ever tell yourself that it’s too late to start, then you need to give yourself a new story. ‘If you build it, they will come.’ If you’re still breathing, you are not done yet. So get on it, whatever IT is.
“I gained a huge appreciation for classical music -- Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Grieg and the rest. I wrote a classical suite for my final, both pieces I wrote for college received A-grades.” Alek recorded rough demos of her music and gave some of them to sci-fi author Ray Bradbury who was very encouraging. “Classical music still leaves a great influence on me, but in the Eighties and Nineties I also began getting into new age music, seeing bands like Shadowfax and guitarist extraordinaire Michael Hedges, and listening to Windom Hill label artists and Narada Collections.”
She is not sure she would have taken the road of composition had it not been for the marriage that did not work as she thought it should. “I didn’t know it then, but he was heading me in a direction I wasn’t even aware of at the time. I made some lemonade from that.”
Takala spent the next few years in spiritual groups, meditating, and reading inspirational books. “I wanted a different and better life. I was preparing myself for future relationships. Thanks to all of that prep work, when I found the right partner, I recognized him. John has been, and still is one of the main reasons that I have managed to come this far. His help, love, and support are invaluable, and he’s a real left-brained genius too. He is the photographer, creator of the physical packaging, and CD designer of Visions & Emotions. I couldn’t have done this without his help.”
In addition to her journey of self-discovery, Takala also began an intense path of study of music technology including synthesizers, electronic keyboards, samplers, computer music programs and other software to allow her to more fully realize her musical visions from composing all the way through arranging, producing, recording, mixing and mastering. “Oh yeah, I’m not a left-brained person, I’m totally right-brained creative. Yet everything I work on today is a computer of one form or another. I still remember back to the time when I thought ‘I will never need to learn to use a computer, I’m too old to start, and besides it’s too hard for me.’ I started with a small laptop, and a keyboard tech teacher 15 years ago. With John’s guidance and Tim’s teaching, my left-brain is still working for me helping me release all the right-brained creative projects awaiting completion. But this right-brainer has certainly come a long way to actually release a good work of art, and it’s out there being played on radio, thumb drives, and CDs worldwide. WOW!
“I turned to creating new age music because this genre is especially good about imparting feelings and pictures to the listener, be it joy, hope, love, sadness or spiritual uplifting. It is what comes out when my fingers touch the keyboard, and it leaves interpretation up to the listener.”
More information on Aleksandra Takala is available on her website (aleksmusic.com). Her CD -- Visions & Emotions -- and digital download tracks from that recording are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic and many others. The music also can be heard (and this artist can be followed) at many major streaming platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Google Play and more.