The Lightness of Dark
Fiona Joy Hawkins and Rebecca Daniel
2019 / Little Hartley Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
The Lightness of Dark is a collaborative album by pianist/composer Fiona Joy Hawkins and violinist Rebecca Daniel. Exploring the depths of loss, mourning and the beauty that can emerge from sadness, the music is dark, intense and deeply emotional. The two Australian artists have worked on many studio and live projects together, but this is their first recording. Also appearing on the album is The Kanimbla Quartet (Rebecca Daniel and Elizabeth Cooney on violin, Sam Harding on viola, and Trish McMeekin on cello); Hawkins and Daniel also add wordless vocals on several of the eleven tracks. I find it interesting that most of the odd-numbered tracks were composed by Daniel and the even ones by Hawkins (except #10 and 11 are reversed). You’d think switching back and forth might interrupt the flow of the album, but it doesn’t at all. I am very familiar with Fiona’s music, and some of the pieces are distinctly her style, but I assumed (before reading the liner notes) that all of the music was composed by both of them. While there is a strong classical influence, the music is beautifully expressive and firmly rooted in the present.
The Lightness of Dark begins with “Heavenly Voices,” a piece inspired by Pink Floyd. Haunting and ethereal, Daniel added an organ part as a tribute to Rick Wright, the keyboard player for Pink Floyd who passed away in 2008. Voices, piano and the Quartet combine to make this a poignant and compelling opener. “Ghosts Insanity Angels” is the only piano solo on the album, and Hawkins gives it her all with passion and grace. “Elegy” is a mournful duet for violin and piano that Daniel composed in memory of her father. I can’t imagine anyone not being profoundly touched by this piece. “Lake of Contemplation” features all of the instrumentalists and creates feelings of peaceful calm and the healing that takes place over time. “Interwoven Threads of Chance” was composed for the Quartet and addresses the quote by Nick Cave: “If we love, we grieve. That’s the deal.” “Sugar Plum Ghost” is “a dark music box ballet inspired by Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Mysterious and more than a little eery, the piano is in the lead for most of the piece, and Daniel performs with her violin both bowed and pizzicato. “Lightness of Dark” is an 11-minute composition by Daniel and the centerpiece of the album. All of the instrumentalists play on this one, and Daniel’s vocals are also included. Quoting the liner notes: “A Theme and Variations on a Ground Bass that explores the emptiness experienced from loss, combined with the bittersweet beauty that we find in sadness.” Although very beautiful, the piece feels despairing and without hope - numb with grief. “Necessity For the Mundane” features Daniel at the piano and Hawkins’ vocals, exploring the need to focus on the ordinary while processing a life-changing event. The closing track, “Finding the Way Out,” is a duet for piano and violin and was composed by Hawkins: “a Celtic dance to celebrate a moment of sunshine.”
The Lightness of Dark is a very powerful and emotional album that offers beauty in the sadness and a positive way to move forward. It is available from Amazon, iTunes and many streaming sites.
October 5, 2019