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Album Review: Scribblings
Matthew Zachary
Cover image of the album Scribblings by Matthew Zachary
Matthew Zachary
1999 / Matthew Zachary
63 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Matthew Zachary’s debut album, Scribblings, is an inspiring story of courage, spirit, determination, and the power of hope. An aspiring concert pianist in his senior year of college, Matthew found himself losing motor control of his left hand. Headaches and fainting spells soon followed, and Matthew could no longer attribute these symptoms to stress. At 21, he was diagnosed as having a very rare form of brain cancer. Surgically removing the golf-ball-sized tumor was his only chance for survival, but the doctors could not give him any guarantees that he would survive the eight-hour surgery, let alone walk or play the piano again. After surgery and a week in the hospital, Matthew returned home to find that he could use his left hand again, but only at the level of a first-grader. He endured a year’s worth of radiation treatments, suffering horrible side-effects. Sleeping most of the time, Matthew would make himself spend 10-20 minutes a day at the piano. Still unable to write legibly, he would jot down ideas and phrases on music manuscript paper, and called these notations his “scribblings”. Three years later, in 1999, Matthew fleshed out his ideas and created the music for this album. Not really seeking commercial success, this album has been placed in many hospitals and cancer treatment centers to help patients and their families in a time of terrible stress. The music is often used in pediatric cancer cases to help children relax and dissociate before undergoing treatment. Matthew’s musical celebration of life and the power of hope course through each song on Scribblings. One might expect the music to be sad or dark, but it is vibrant and full of passion. With all of the references to how soothing the music is, I expected it to be very quiet - perhaps along the lines of Kevin Kern’s recorded music - but it overflows with the power and expression of a fully-trained pianist who has lived his life with music as his focus and the center of his being. I have been listening to Scribblings for the past two weeks, and hear something new each time. Four of the pieces are improvisations, and the other six are composed pieces - all are solo piano. It is very difficult to choose favorite pieces - all of them are so good and so heartfelt. “Awakenings” is very introspective - almost a smooth jazz piece. It is full of hope with some discordant twinges here and there that I interpret as being minor setbacks followed by a surge forward. “Rain” is my favorite of the improvisations. No springtime shower here - this is a full-blown storm. Both rhythmic and impressionistic, this is a piece I’d love to play! “Recovery” is mostly upbeat and optimistic with a few bittersweet moments. Encouraging and positive, the piece almost sings “come on - you can do it!”

For more information about Matthew Zachary and his ongoing work in music in health care, and to order his outstanding CDs, please visit matthewzachary.com/#concertpianist.
May 1, 1999
This review has been tagged as:
Debut Albums
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