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Album Review: Ocean Dreaming Ocean
David Darling and Hans Christian
Cover image of the album Ocean Dreaming Ocean by David Darling and Hans Christian
Ocean Dreaming Ocean
David Darling and Hans Christian
2023 / Curve Blue
43 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Ocean Dreaming Ocean is a fascinating collaborative project by cellist/composers David Darling (1941-2021) and Hans Christian as well as David's longtime friend and producer, Mickey Houlihan. Hans Christian explains how this project came to be:

"I never met David Darling in person; although, I met him many times while listening to his music. Not only did we play the same instrument, but on a more profound level, we were diving for the same pearls in our musical explorations. I recognized the mastery in his playing and the depth of his musical soul, and felt a deep reverence with it. When the phone call came from Mickey Houlihan, David’s longtime producer, with an offer to work on some of David’s unfinished pieces, I accepted without hesitation and an ethereal collaboration was born.

"Every musical piece of this collection was started with deep introspection. David was a master like no other, and I wanted to support, augment, and serve in the best way possible. Whenever I was facing the question of how to develop one of his musical sketches, I would enter a silent dialogue with him, lay out my strategies, and ask for permission. When my vision was clear enough, permission seemingly was granted and my heart opened, allowing me to proceed with the journey of augmenting and shaping a piece, often with some bold strokes, to bring it into its current form. This process was partly analytic, partly intuitive, and always inspiring."

The results of this amazing project are stunning in their heartfelt, flawless beauty and artistic expression, and I can't help but feel that David Darling has been deeply moved by the completion of some of the music he didn't have a chance to finish himself. Darling appears on cello, voice, synthesizer, piano and waterphone; Christian also appears on cello. One track includes Ron Miles on trumpet and one features Ross Bellenoit and David Cullen on ambient guitars.

Ocean Dreaming Ocean opens with "Epitaph," a piece that combines a variety of themes and musical styles. It starts out with an ambient cello drone that I assume is both artists. Very gradually, it becomes somewhat more melodic before a pizzicato (plucked-string) rhythm emerges and weaves in, out and around the bowed cello. The closing theme is a slow, dark cello duet that includes Darling's wordless vocals - an amazing beginning! I've read several times that the cello is the instrument that most resembles the human voice, and "Minor Blue Chorale" is a good example of that. Both bowed and pizzicato, the cellos combine to form a soulful "choir" that expresses so much without the use of words - absolutely gorgeous! "Miracle" features both cellists as well as Darling on piano, expressing a sense of wonder as well as grace and perhaps a touch of gratitude. More ambient than melodic, the music is smooth, soothing and heartfelt. "Unforeseen Rain Ambient" is very dark, mysterious and atmospheric. "Seven Veils" is also very dark and ambient, this time with an exotic Middle Eastern flavor. "Unforeseen Rain" is an expanded version of the "Ambient" track, this time including Ron Miles on trumpet. Still quite ambient, this one is more layered and presents a very interesting contrast between the velvety-smooth cellos and the trumpet. "Below the Horizon" is a very slow, open cello duet woven together with dark and moody tonal colors that are almost mournful. They saved the title track for last. Cellos, waterphone and ambient guitars (Bellenoit and Cullen) flow smoothly over the occasional sounds of humpback whales. Again very ambient and atmospheric, the waterphone gives the piece a very otherworldly feeling, as do the sounds of the whales. Very dark yet very beautiful, I see images of sea creatures moving gracefully through the depths of the ocean. The music could also be expressing the tragedy of what is happening to our ocean waters and its inhabitants.

Wow, what an album! Ocean Dreaming Ocean is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify and YouTube. This is a magical recording, and I very highly recommend it!
April 7, 2023
This review has been tagged as:
Grammy Nominees
Contributing artists:
David Cullen
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