Reviews & Responses

album: Beneath the Surface – music for shakuhachi, violin and tunnel

Recollection of a dream by  Joh Schellenbach

It is night.
I lie in bed in semi sleep,
lulled by the counterpoint of frogs and owls
booming from my garden below.
I’ve been trying to still my unquiet mind
by focussing on my breathing and listening.
A simple awareness.

I’m in a lighthouse
at the base of its spiral stairs.
The walls are aglow with a soft hued pulsating
myriad coloured light.
I proceed to climb
drawn by a strange and entrancing music
coming from above.
Is that a shakuhachi or a violin I hear?

Some way up I pause and look back
and the stairs behind have disappeared
and all is fading to black below.
The one I’m on is turning translucent
and starting to feel spongy
and I’m sinking down.
I make it to the next one just in time
before it too disappears.
I keep climbing, pursued by darkness.
The music keeps playing.
It is the only thing that
saves me from giving in
to the fear I now feel.

Ahead the colours are changing
to a pulsating darkening blue.
I make it to the top
to a door that’s locked and bound
and beat against it, in panic now.
But just as the last step disappears
the door bursts asunder with a flash of bright red light
and I am sucked out
weightless into the night sky

I look down and see my little house below
nestled amongst the trees
lit by moonlight.
And as I continue to ascend
the hills and forests that surround,
above me is an aurora of multi coloured lights.
There seem to be figures dancing within it
beckoning; We are here, come join us …

Their unspoken voices sound familiar and inviting,
and the music too has crystallised now
into something I know.
It is by Rameau, from one of the ballet suites,
my father’s favourite CD as he lay dying in hospital.
Just as I’m about to be drawn into the light
I awake with a heavy thud as if fallen from a height

Outside the frogs and owls
are still singing their song.
It seems almost as though
they too are calling.
But it’s a different tune:
Stay with us,
a time longer yet.
I get up, and read
a few more pages
of Finnegan’s Wake.

posted by Joh Schellenbach on my FACEBOOK page on 25th August, 2016.
Such a lucid and beautiful dream and fabulous wordsmithing.
Thanks for sharing this Joh. Glad my Beneath the Surface
had a part in this bubbling to the surface… Anne


Just got your CD btw. I’ve listened to half of it intently with headphones on, and it is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!
The first real album that I’ve heard that plays with space. And space as an instrument. It’s a truly ‘live’ album as it ‘places’ you there.

There are dozens of ‘live’ rock albums that never really capture that something special that being there captures. And I think a lot of it is that the listener can never really place themselves in with the musicians. With this, you can, and are forced to.

It’s a quick wake up call to why one mic one room jazz recordings sound so special; or the old recordings where there is a fair bit of ‘bleed’ in the recording through all mics; and certain dirty ‘live’ albums do capture that something special. With headphones, it feels like an intense live performance in the sense that you are an invisible spectator in a live concert. You can be in the space, and listen to it like a voyeur, intimately.

Sound without context of space is hard to internalise or personalise I think; we are animals that only really hear sound as a spatial element. Since music doesn’t really exist and is only a collection of sounds, this makes the music more real as sound. Coupled with the fact that in comparative theology there exists a deep archaic tendency of humans wanting to connect to mother (Terra) earth, and the longing, ultimately, to return to the womb… This being an underground tunnel makes that connection to the ultimate spiritual connection.

Anyway, I will post a review and write up about new album on Facebook soon with a link 🙂Yyan Ng.

Yyan became rather busy with his wedding preparations, not to mention his many design and building projects… gastronomic creations… and music making… this man doesn’t stop!  So I never did get the complete review, but this is rather magic, so I thought I’d include it. Thank you Yyan. David Matthews (location sound recordist) will be chuffed to read this.

Rockpool to rockpool,
Seeking novelty, seeking life,
In each one, something beautiful,
In each one some surprise.
Then to the next, and the next,
Each time brighter, stronger, until,
The next.
…… ……… Drew Mills 

Drew was my surprise final Pozible Angel – a stranger who generously took
the CD project through to full funding stage and made it… well… pozible.
I posted him the CD with two accompanying handwritten haiku
from the rock pools of Nitmuluk National Park in NT.
This was his poetic response. Thank you Drew.

And from Le Tuan Hung of Sonic Gallery:

The music and poetry in the album flows effortlessly from the first to the last track to create a mesmerising journey which is rich in colours, pace and emotion. Anne Norman demonstrates her mastery of the shakuhachi as well as her in-depth understanding of the spirit of Japanese contemplative music in Sarus Cranes which opens the CD. Her exquisite rendering of traditional Japanese Zen music is heard again in Dragon Dreaming in which the traditional melody Tamuke is presented as an offering to the amazing sounds of ocean swells supported by a very sensitive violin accompaniment by Anja Tait.
… Rain Now and Then is a stream of delicate melodies born of a masterful control of breath. In Whispered Shadows, soft multi-phonic elements of the shakuhachi and voice come and go behind or in-between walking rhythms of recurring patterns, creating a surreal impression.
… The improvisations … reveal the exceptional power of collective and spontaneous creativity. Listeners are led through various landscapes of sounds and emotions by the magical sounds of the shakuhachi at play with the violin(s) through space. The last track, Beneath the Surface, is so rich in audio images that it sounds almost like an artistic cinematic soundtrack condensed into a timeline of less than 7 minutes.
This CD should be listened to as a whole (and on headphones) to experience the flow of music and emotions in a space that has been transformed into a higher purpose.

ALBUM REVIEW by Le Tuan Hung of Sonic Gallery.
Full Review here:

See related blog on the making of the album:

About anne norman

musician, shakuhachi player, author, poet, tea lover...
This entry was posted in LightFlutes, Music, my meanderings, reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reviews & Responses

  1. Pingback: Beneath the Surface | peripatetic musings

  2. Fascinating comments on your inspirational work.

    Congratulations! Love from Dor and Pete


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