Phoenix of Atlantis
2019 / Nadeem Majdalany
Review by Kathy Parsons
A lot of the music I review is intended for relaxation and stress-relief. Phoenix of Atlantis is not one of those albums! It is a much more challenging work that tells a story that is also a bit of a puzzle, allowing for a variety of interpretations. To quote Nadeem Majdalany, the composer: “Phoenix of Atlantis is a multi-movement contemporary classical work that takes the listener on a metaphysical journey through space and time where one experiences creation and destruction, birth, life and death all in one complete work.” Sound extraordinary? I’ve never experienced anything quite like it! The eleven movements tell a story or a series of stories that are included in the liner notes of the album and on the album’s website. A wide variety of musical instruments are featured throughout the album, and vocalists appear in some of the music with lyrics in several languages. The fifth movement is a 16-minute piano solo called “Seven Deadly Sins,” and the piano appears in several other movements as well. In addition to more traditional orchestral instruments like strings, woodwinds and brass, instruments such as hammer, conch shell and wooden wolf are also listed.
All of the instruments played in Phoenix of Atlantis are acoustic (except electric guitar) - something that has become more and more rare in this age of digital music. I really appreciate this quote from Majdalany: “I've always challenged myself by building constraints and composing for acoustic instruments rather than programmable machines. I have come to understand that technology is like a Swiss army knife and should be used as a tool not as a crutch to lean on.” The Canadian-born Majdalany studied piano, music theory and history at the Royal Conservatory of Music and later earned a degree in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music. He made his orchestral conducting debut in 2005 with the Athens Symphony Orchestra. Since then, he has composed music for a variety of notable filmmakers, bands, solo artists, dancers, engineers, producers, ensembles and orchestras. He has written and arranged more than 10,000 pieces and is on the faculty at California State University, Northridge.
“Seven Deadly Sins Suite” tells the intriguing story of a picnic in a park with a gathering of animals. The story begins with the preface: “Crystallized on paths set before us and born into this, each step from birth has been an act of destruction for us to enjoy.” The picnic itself is described as a sumptuous meal “that would rival any royal feast.” After eating, the animals still wanted more and that desire “slowly transformed these delightful beings into a most horrific feuding group.” Those who weren’t involved in violence against the others engaged “in the most disordered chaotic loveless orgy.” In the meantime, the protagonist sat back in the sun and watched as the animals destroyed each other. This colorful and multi-faceted piano solo is performed by Jason Stoll, who truly gives it his all as he makes each segment of the story unique and emotionally powerful.
All eleven tracks are intriguing and quite different from each other, so if you are looking for a bit of a musical adventure, give Phoenix of Atlantis a listen. It is available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes as well as various streaming sites.
November 22, 2019