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Album Review: Secret World
Doug Hammer and Amethyste
Cover image of the album Secret World by Doug Hammer and Amethyste
Secret World
Doug Hammer and Amethyste
2014 / Dreamworld Productions & Design
74 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
I have been a big fan of Doug Hammer and his music since his 2007 solo piano debut, Solace, and have always admired his “out of the box” thinking and creativity. His new release with Amethyste is a one-of-a-kind collaboration of improvised music on piano and theremin. The theremin is an early electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist (performer).The instrument's controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist's hands, and control oscillators for frequency with one hand and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker. It has a rather otherworldly sound and can be very mournful and even spooky; it can also be very peaceful and serene. Amethyste has obviously mastered this unusual instrument and, paired with Hammer’s grand piano, it’s an effective and unique combination. Amethyste has worked on some of Hammer’s projects and vice-verse, but this is their first full-length project as a creative team - with promises of more to come.

In the liner notes, the artists say: “Secret World emerged from our combined intention of creating something together in the moment. Every note was improvised, born from an unconscious place; uniting piano and theremin, an ethereal blend of beauty, passion and hope.” They also say in one of the album’s promotional videos that the piano represents the earth and the theremin represents the sky or that the piano represents that which can be seen and the theremin that which cannot be seen. The album was recorded over a period of several months and resulted in about three hours of music to select from for the album.

Most of the twelve tracks are 5-8 minutes long, allowing plenty of time for the music to grow organically and evolve without being rushed. That the music was created in the moment is truly amazing. These two artists obviously understand each other extremely well and trust the other’s spontaneous creativity to the point that they were able to dissolve themselves into the music and allow it to freely unfold. It’s a very impressive project that richly deserves recognition and attention (and will provide hours of listening pleasure!). Give your ears a treat and allow yourself to be transported to a Secret World!

Secret World is available from doughammer.net, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Check it out!
November 18, 2014
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