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Album Review: A Handfull of Quietness
Kathleen Ryan
Cover image of the album A Handfull of Quietness by Kathleen Ryan
A Handfull of Quietness
Kathleen Ryan
1993 / Kathleen Ryan
59 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
From the title, I expected A Handfull of Quietness to be very calm, simple, and serene, so I was surprised to discover that the music is complex, full, and often quite bold. A classically-trained pianist/composer, Kathleen Ryan brings her rich background to her music, presenting us with a collection of nine original piano solos and six that are based on traditional melodies in the public domain. Inspired by a verse in Ecclesiastes, the album was created as a unified work and performed in silence. Ryan calls it “not always quiet music, but music achieving quietness of the soul.”

The CD begins gently with “All the Pretty Horses,” based on a traditional folk melody. Meditative and reflective, it’s a very calming piece. “East At Sunset” continues the peaceful mood simply but very colorfully. “40 Days of Desert” is darker, more somber, and has a mysterious cast to it. “What the Stars Saw On the Prairie” is serenity set to music. It is easy to visualize a gentle breeze blowing through the long grasses - a simple pleasure with no rush or pressure anywhere. Love it! “Something Water, Something Light” picks up the tempo and dynamics, creating a swirling dance of motion and light. “Hymn For Peace” goes inward and conveys a simple but passionate plea. “Veni Creator Spiritus” is from a traditional melody that Ryan imbues with quiet spirituality and a classical style. Open and simple at the beginning, the piece builds to a peak with each variation and quiets to a whisper by the end. “First Only Whisper” is my favorite track. Built around several themes, the piece has a feeling of deep introspection and quiet passion. At almost 8 1/2 minutes, “Bells, The Veil, and Victory” is by far the longest piece on the album. A recurring theme evolves as the piece develops, going from subdued to very big, bold, and triumphant. “Simple Love” is based on a traditional melody, and conveys a sweet but very powerful emotional message - another beauty! The title track closes the CD as it began, quiet and tranquil.

A Handfull of Quietness is a fascinating musical journey, reflecting a wide range of moods and emotions. The music has a complexity that will open up with each listen, letting you find something new each time. It is available from kathleenryan.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com.
September 4, 2006