The right music can be a ladder to the soul. By “right” music, one often thinks of songs composed for the explicit purpose of meditation and contemplation, like Federico Parra’s Descending. The artist spent 12 years studying and practicing Buddhist contemplative traditions of meditation, and has now poured his vision into this eclectic solo album, further enhanced by his credentials as a composer, multi-instrumentalist, contemplative music teacher, and harmonic-singing expert. Originally from Argentina, Parra has received classical, Armenian, Taoist, harmonic and popular music training. Interestingly enough, in addition to his musical pursuits, Parra is a Masters student in Clinical Psychology in Paris.
While I can understand how this album might help with meditational endeavours, it is quite unique and might not appeal to a broad audience. But all who take a listen will no doubt appreciate the quality instrumentation, the talented vocals, and the discerning production on Descending. The tracks are quite different except for one seemingly overarching feature: a messy, hazy opening from which emerges a distinct sound.
In the first track, “One Taste”, a melody carried by intermittent bells (featuring a disembodied male voice and a children’s choir) comes through a hazy bell, horns, and stomping-driven beginning. “Into the Forest” starts with the sounds of violins tuning, kind of like at the beginning of a concert, from which emerges a violin playing a haunting Middle Eastern-inspired melody. This contemplative beginning makes way for one clear violin accompanied by increasingly clear female vocals. “San Jacinto” starts with the sounds of wind from which a Native American chant emerges, turning very rapidly into a rhythmic, pounding, pulsating electronic beat featuring the cry of an eagle, violins, and male vocals.
Closing track “Stellar Waves”, which feels like an experimental track, begins with a set of chords played so softly on an electric keyboard as to be almost imperceptible, building into a loud crescendo only to simmer back down to the same, almost imperceptible level.
“Dancing Voices”’s slow beginning, featuring strings and vocals, never ends; the entire track ends up being female and male vocals humming in sync, in dissonance, in harmony, and in many other ways. I understand what is being attempted and appreciate the thought put into it, but over seven minutes was a bit too much, however well performed. Perhaps people who like the sound of humming to guide their relaxation exercises would appreciate this track.
Length though is another interesting characteristic of tracks on this album. At four and a half minutes, “Dancing Voices” is the shortest track of the album. “The Other” clocks in at a little under six minutes, and “Into the Forest” is the longest track, clocking in at a little under 12 and a half minutes.
Most tracks contain a unique twist of sorts. “The Other” puts Argentina’s Andres Beeuwsaert’s piano skills at its centre, accompanied by soft and soothing male vocals that make for a less contemplative and more of an inspirational track. The French Beatritz Lalanne lends her voice in “Into the Forest”, and the Russian Alisa Apreleva lends her own to “Dancing Voices”. The title track features Gagik Gasparyan, a duduk player from Armenia, and Mariano “Tiki” Cantero, a percussionist from Argentina, whose contribution gives the track a little bit of a soft, meditational, instrumental rock feel.
While created as a tool for contemplation, Federico Parra’s Descending is not for everyone. But for those it resonates with, it will no doubt prove to be a great tool to enhance personal meditation and contemplation. More information about Parra, as well as a multimedia experience of his album, is available on his website.
Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.