Louis Lynch,
The Harp's Massage
(self-produced, 2002)

Louis Lynch is a composer, harpist, pianist and singer who has recorded four albums in the last three years. The Harp's Massage is his first instrumental album of original compositions, and it's completely different from anything he's recorded so far. While all of his other albums have at least one harp or piano instrumental solo, many of them original compositions, they're interspersed with vocal pieces and upbeat, lively music. Lynch is an extremely versatile performer who plays everything from classical to Celtic, gospel and rock 'n' roll. He's one of the few harpists I've heard who really cooks on the harp.

But this album is different. In the liner notes, Lynch writes, "I have received repeated requests for an album of just harp from massage therapists, yoga instructors, and others. ... I seek to build and sustain a peaceful, meditative mood." This album does just that. It's very calming and restful -- my yoga teacher uses it and recommends it to her students. I've talked to several massage therapists who've said it's the best music they've ever used. It uses the same kind of rhythmic progression that massage therapists use to relax muscles. I also discovered that it's a very soothing antidote to the frustration of rush-hour traffic that isn't moving. It calms without spacing me out.

No, this is not just another new-age relaxation album. The Harp's Massage is an hour of beautifully composed, carefully crafted music. It's not repetitive white noise. It's music that gives the brain something to work with while it washes away tension and stress. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but it manages to be beautiful and musically interesting as well as peaceful. The individual pieces unfold, each creating its own mood, but building up to a collective sense of well-being.

I don't know enough about compositional theory to analyze the technical side of this album. The liner notes explain that Lynch used mathematical sequences like pi (the "circular" number), the Golden Mean and the Bernoulli sequence to compose this music. These are formulas that have been used in creating computer-generated music for several decades, but Lynch did the math himself and he plays the results on the harp, an acoustic instrument, instead of a synthesizer. There's nothing mechanical about the result. The mixing is tasteful, without any distracting special effects. The sound is warm and intimate. Some of the melodies are almost familiar, but not quite, like a fragment that ambles through the mind, turns upon itself, then is transformed into something else.

My advice is to order the album immediately, because you'll want to play it again and again. I've never been a fan of new age music and have always thought of it as background sound, but this one is different. It's a one-hour visit to a calmer, happier place.

- Rambles
written by Janice Snapp
published 18 January 2003

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