Terry Lee Nichols
2023 / Soundscape Productions
Review by Kathy Parsons
Metamorphosis is the fourth album from Terry Lee Nichols, and like his previous three releases, it is a musical masterpiece! Subtitled "pour le piano étendu" ("for the extended piano"), most of the fourteen original tracks are solo piano and some are piano with "extended" techniques that include strumming, muting, plucking, scraping, picking, bowing, dragging, and rubbing inside and outside of the piano. Some of the music also includes studio effects such as delay, reverb, equalization, and spatial imaging. The music expresses a wide variety of moods and musical styles, from quiet and pensive to very dynamic and powerful. A digital release, Terry has also created a beautifully illustrated booklet that is featured on his website and tells about each piece and the inspiration behind it.
Terry Lee Nichols refers to his music as "a mixture of cinematic, new age, and minimalist classical," which covers a lot of musical territory and gives him a unique musical voice. He started composing and performing music as a child and became proficient with a number of different instruments over the years. He earned several degrees in music and technology before going to work for software firms designing large-scale systems. Terry founded his own very successful company that he eventually sold to a leading vendor in his field, freeing him to devote more time to his music. Lucky us!
Metamorphosis begins with the title track, a graceful piano solo inspired by the quotation: "How does one become a butterfly? You have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." (author unknown). The piece is also a perfect musical match for the gorgeous cover artwork. "Out of Eden" is a dynamic piece inspired by the Genographic Project, an organization dedicated to tracing human roots to a single origin. This dramatic piano solo includes several "extended" effects as well as a sense of adventure and discovery that flows throughout this amazing piece! "Let Us Rest Beside the Cool Waters" is much more ambient, and the piano expresses both the flowing quality of a body of water as well as the sparkle of light dancing on its surface. "Grandma's Good Ol' Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits" is a favorite. It begins in an easy ballad style, quickly evolving into a colorful piano blues piece. Love it! "A Day in the Life of a Cocktail Pianist" is a lovely tribute to the days when most social settings included someone playing piano music in a pleasant and unobtrusive manner that allowed for conversation as it enhanced the setting - a job Terry often enjoyed as a student. "Once Upon a Time," a dreamy and pensive piano solo, reflects on past experiences with deep, poignant emotion - also a favorite. "The Dangling Conversation" tells a sad, tragic story about hitting rock bottom and rebuilding a life - also a very powerful and emotional piano solo that just sort of drifts off at the end. "Mom, which picture will you use for me?" is a heartbreaker that reflects on the lives of children (and adults) who have become (and will become) victims of senseless gun violence. When will it end? The intense "One Molecule Away from Madness" is illustrated with powerful images from the January 6th insurrection and incorporates snippets of "Yankee Doodle," "Dixie," and "The Star Spangled Banner." This one has many "extended" effects that add to the turbulent, chaotic mood and make a passionate statement. The album comes to a close with "The Long Goodbye," a heartfelt solo dedicated to Terry's father: "Fathers like mine don't ever die." Love flows from every note, touching the listener deeply - a fantastic ending to a fantastic album. Wow!
Metamorphosis is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and various streaming sites including Spotify. I give it my highest recommendation!
May 18, 2023