Rob Silvan,
The Breathing of the World
(Sky Hook, 2006)

Putting the words of masters such as Rumi and T.S. Eliot to music is a difficult task. In this attempt, Rob Silvan makes music that is mainly backed by his piano, with the occasional addition of flute, bass, drums, sax and cello.

The result is songs like those of an off-Broadway musical. They capture the drama of the poetry in most cases, although a bit of Middle Eastern influence for Kabir's and Rumi's would be welcome.

The melodies tend to be similar, which is a bit off-putting considering the range of verse covered, from Rabindranath Tagore to W.B. Yeats. Still, there are some pretty moments, like Megan Sullivan's classically influenced reading of Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the Thing with Feathers."

Others are a bit overdone, like Rumi's "The Return Message." Singer Michael Crouch starts off by singing the poet's words backed by piano and flute in a dramatic, note-reaching style that seems to come straight from an Andrew Lloyd Webber touring company.

The best pieces might be the simplest ones. On "This Road" by Mich Zeman, Melissa Spevacek is accompanied by piano and cello. Spevacek makes the poem sound like a religious piece with her beautiful voice. "The Listening Heart," taken from Psalm 93, has just enough of a jazz touch to make it interesting but still appropriate for the material.

These 13 songs will be inspiring to some listeners and too flowery for others, depending on your taste.

review by
Dave Howell

29 March 2008

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