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Album Review: The Path of Peace
Ben Dowling and Mark Wagner
Cover image of the album The Path of Peace by Ben Dowling and Mark Wagner
The Path of Peace
Ben Dowling and Mark Wagner
2007 / Visionsound Innovative Arts
52 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Path of Peace is an incredible collaborative project that merges the music of pianist/composer Ben Dowling and the visual artistry of Mark Wagner onto the first DualDisc of an ambient art series. One side of the disc is a CD of Dowling’s solo piano music only, and the flip side is a DVD multimedia presentation of the music and Wagner’s original drawings, paintings, and video scoring. Combining music and artwork is not a new concept, but this disc pioneers new technology in collaborative arts. The music was designed to generate an environmental space in the hopes of slowing the pace of people’s lives and providing a healing respite to relieve anxiety and stress at all levels. The artists envisioned practical applications “for personal inner peace in health, therapy, hospice, incarceration and post-traumatic care as well as, more broadly, consciousness raising for an increasingly sensory overloaded and warlike world.” To quote Dowling, “These are times when it’s vital for artists to consider the environment for which we create. This is a work about peace that doubles as a great way to get there.”

The Path of Peace, seven years in the making, was begun when Dowling was experimenting with recording original piano compositions using 5.1 surround-sound technology. He discovered that the music needed to be very slow and spatial to be most effective in this format, and developed a new style of playing for himself that embraces the technology. The piano sound on this recording is stunning - clean, clear, and resonant. After composing the music, Dowling started working on his own visual imagery for the project, finding himself overwhelmed. When visiting Wagner on a family vacation, Wagner showed Dowling his artwork and told him about his experimental work using iMovie on his Mac. Dowling explained his own project and Wagner ran with it, creating the visual images to combine with Dowling’s haunting music. “As I started placing my images to Ben’s music, I noticed that I began to slow down. The slow pacing created an enchanting quality. It’s a little bit like looking at an ocean for a few days. After a while, it begins to work on you.” Most of the visuals are abstract or non-objective, allowing the viewer to interpret them in their own way or to simply experience the colors and shapes as they evolve to the music. The visuals move very slowly and peacefully - sometimes gradually panning in and out, sometimes moving in a circular motion, sometimes in layers. The effect is hypnotic and intoxicating, soothing beyond anything I can describe. I have experienced the project several times, finding myself drawn in and suspended in time. Even on my small laptop computer, the effect is mesmerizing. With a bigger screen and better speakers, it’s even more compelling. The CD by itself is exceptionally good, but the project as a whole is phenomenal and needs to be experienced.

I give The Path of Peace my highest recommendation, and hope to interview one or both artists very soon. Treat yourself and your loved ones to an extraordinary sensory experience! It is available from www.visionsound.com, amazon.com, and cdbaby.com. Wow!
November 2, 2007