GaiaCD: “GAIA”
Artist: Michael Brant DeMaria
Label: Ontos Music

In these days of downloading individual tracks and buying single songs on iTunes, it is refreshing to see an album that has thematic continuity and a story to tell from one song to the next. The term “concept album” comes to mind. And the theme of this CD is as expansive as the Earth itself. In ancient days of Greece, Gaia was the Goddess of the Earth. In modern times the term often refers to the concept of The Gaia Hypothesis, which views the Earth as a living being, rather than just a lump of rock that we happen to exist on.  According to Michael Brant DeMaria, the songs on this CD are his “tone poems and sound prayers offered in the spirit of waking up and acting for the good of our children’s children, children during this time of ecological crisis and transition” as well as honoring our common heritage as dwellers on this precious planet.

Just as we are all connected, so are the songs on the CD as they trace the awakening of Gaia through time. And what better way to express our unity than by incorporating instruments and musical styles from around the world including aboriginal Australia, Africa, and the Far East. Our connection to the Earth has always been revered in Native American culture throughout the ages, so it is appropriate that Native American flutes, which are one of Michael’s primary instruments are featured prominently in the music. Other flutes include the Chinese xiao and Japanese shakuhachi, along with piano, synthesizers, global percussion, and Michael’s own voice.

It is not surprising that a focus on healing would be the theme of Michael’s music. In addition to being a Grammy-nominated recording artist, he also has a Ph.D in Psychology and is a noted author and lecturer in the fields of personal growth and self-discovery with 25 years of experience and research into music’s therapeutic effects. This CD is the third in his Healing Sound Project, which has received well-deserved recognition as well as raising money for Native American charities and wildlife recovery efforts resulting from the Gulf Coast oil spill near Michael’s home Florida.

The music on “GAIA” leans toward the more meditative side of the spectrum, with a few rhythmic, yet still mellow tracks such as the kalimba-propelled “Asase Yaa” and “Alchera,” with it’s didgeridoo and hand drums weaving a trance-like groove.  A spirit of the rainforest dwells in the appropriately named “Amazonia,” while visions of a serene Buddhist temple emerging through the mist on Mt. Fuji were evoked in “Zazen.” I particularly liked the creative use of digital echo on the percussion track of “Anima Mundi,” which allowed the sound to bounce back and forth between the speakers – a very cool contemporary-sounding effect set against a background of ancient ambience.

Another element of the music, which I appreciated, was the use of space. Unlike a lot of today’s sonically dense music, there is a balance of yin and yang in Michael’s compositions, which lets the music breathe and flow in a relaxed manner. There is a peacefulness that pervades throughout and helps achieve the goal of assisting one feel the unity of Gaia. Listening to the music with eyes closed, absorbing all the various cultural influences blending together, I did indeed begin to feel a sense of being part of something greater. This is a wonderful album that is diverse yet unitive, and expansive in its’ vision.  The awareness this album seeks to foster is most timely as we strive to re-balance our connections with each other and the planet we co-exist with.