Greenville bookstore hosts CD release, live performance for local musicians
GREENVILLE — Sometimes, music is a deliberate process, one rife with planning, writing, rewriting, revision. Sometimes — as is the case with Collecting Consort’s latest CD release, “A Peaceful Place” — the music simply flows and evolves organically, taking on a life of its own.
According to Gary Wakenhut, who together with his wife, Anne, form Collecting Consort, the group’s new CD is a departure from the 16 earlier recordings they have made since coming together in 1986.
Both Anne and Gary, who live in Lakeview, are Certified Music Practitioners; their music is intended not just to please the ear, but the soul.
“This can vary from providing music for hospice patients in transition, to people with stress related difficulties, trauma victims, chronic pain, blood pressure difficulties,” Gary said. “This new recording … breaks from our previous tradition of utilizing well known Celtic and folk melodies that most people recognize. Instead, it came from a freer approach. Each of the selections was totally improvised (with) no written music. When recording, we sat down in front of the fire place and began playing whatever came to us. Anne often set up a rhythm with the harp or piano and then we would trade the melodic line back and forth as it creatively emerged.”
This improvisational approach offers many advantages when it comes to healing music, Gary added. Improvisation allows more freedom for the body and mind to respond in a relaxing manner to the music, in large part, because the listener doesn’t know what’s coming next, what to expect.
Various studies have shown that healing music can actually lower blood pressure, relieve chronic pain and aid with healing following illness or surgery. The music also finds a niche in hospice care situations.
In many of their previous recordings, the Wakenhuts have utilized the talents of other musicians who joined in the collaborative process. Not so with this album, however.
“This recording, because of its improvisational nature did not lend itself well to adding other musicians,” Anne said. “Healing music of this nature is usually done by just one musician. I know of no other musicians doing this as a duo. Having worked together since the 1990s, we are quite tuned in to each other. We intuitively follow each other’s leads, and are well practiced in the art of becoming ‘one’ as we blend our music together.”
The process of recording the album was as mellow as the music itself, Gary said, because the Wakenhuts were able to lay down tracks in their own home studio. By handling the recording chores themselves, the couple was able to record whenever the muse struck, rather than being locked into a studio’s schedule. Gary’s undergrad degree in Radio, Television and Film — along with a stint as supervisor for recording at the Interlochen Center for the Arts — gave him more than enough experience to produce professional sounds with a modern, digital home studio.
“We used to have to take our raw recordings from our living room to the studio to have the magical polishing added to the final product,” Gary explained. “However, with the digital equipment available today, we are able to take the time necessary to give it just the touch that fits our final goal while sitting in our own environment.”
This recording technique also has the advantage of capturing the improvisational music found on “A Peaceful Place.” Since there was no written music, Gary said, the tunes will probably never be recreated note-for-note as they were recorded. Like a fly captured in amber, these recording are the only evidence of the quiet, mellow performances created at the Wakenhuts’ fireside.
The finished product is a balm to any soul; beguiling melodic passages overlain with harmonic counterpoints create a listening experience that is, quite literally, unlike any other. Harps, lutes, hammered dulcimer and a variety of flutes intertwine in this collection to create a feeling of, well, peacefulness.
Saturday’s performance at Robbins Book List is a relatively rare experience for the Wakenhuts these days. Gary admits that the opportunities for performing live are not what they once were. Where once they toured and performed live fairly regularly, these days they’re far more selective.
That’s one reason Doug Robbins, owner of Robbins Book List, is so excited to have Collecting Consort appearing live at his store.
“It’ll be standing room only, obviously,” Robbins said. “The ambience of a downtown book store offering something like this is pretty unique any more. We’ve always supported our local people, whether musicians or authors. We’re looking forward to a good turnout.”