Album: You Are My Home
Artist: Michael Whalen

Michael Whalen album coverTo say that Michael Whalen has had, and continues to have, an illustrious career in the music industry would certainly qualify for understatement of the year status. His experiences and achievements are the stuff of dreams for many aspiring artists and composers. To mention them all would take a good deal of this feature article and leave little room to talk about his wonderful new album. But briefly, Michael is a two time Emmy® award-winner and a veteran of more than 750 television and film scores, thousands of commercials and numerous TV themes and corporate identity pieces. His most well known credits include music for “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “Inside Edition”, themes & network IDs for HBO, PBS, CBS, Comcast, additional music for the feature film “What the Bleep Do We Know?,” short films for Disney, and the theme for “Good Morning America”.

But lets backtrack for a moment to the early years to read about the foundation Michael’s impressive career has been built on. Born in New York, Michael’s family moved to Washington, DC. when he was two. Beginning with piano lessons at the age of three, drums eventually became the instrument of choice during his teen years. Michael attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where years later, he became an associate professor. It was at his first job in the music industry back in the 80’s that he had the opportunity to do sound design and composition on national advertisements for major companies like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, BMW, Ford, IBM, and many more. Opening his own music production company, Michael Whalen Music, LTD. in 1995, frequent film-scoring clients included National Geographic, Discovery, The History Channel, ESPN, and PBS, among others.


Currently, in addition to his recording and production work, Michael, who is an official Yamaha Artist, often performs as amichael-whalen singer/songwriter and on solo piano in the New York City area where he lives and works, in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at The City College of New York and New York University. Michael Whalen is well versed in many aspects of the music industry, particularly copyright law and music monetization, which he consults on professionally. He also devotes his time and resources to a number of educational and charitable organizations. Somehow, with all this, Michael still finds time for his own recording projects, such as his latest, You Are My Home, which we will now delve into.


While many are familiar with Michael Whalen for his lushly orchestrated soundtracks, on this release it is just 2 hands and 88 keys creating what he calls his “most personal collection of solo piano music to date.” The idea was to focus in on the piano without any other enhancements such as synthesizers, orchestration, etc. on all but one song. Keeping it simple was the modus operandi for the recording, with the spotlight being on Michael’s pure creative expression at the grand piano. In an interview, he shared: “I wanted to make music that was JUST for me. I wasn’t thinking about what other people would say or even worrying about it being accepted or popular. I believe that the most personal music is the most universal. If that’s the case, this should be my most popular album – ever!” (laughs).


The 11 tracks on the album are diverse and include colors of jazz, blues, and neoclassical, all painted with the brush of melodic romanticism that has characterized much of Michael’s music. Opening with an upbeat track entitled “Ridge Running,” Michael’s extensive experience in working with soundtracks and film is evident, as this composition’s cinematic feel attests to. In this piece as well as others, there is a visual energy to the music that evokes imagery in the mind’s eye of the listener. A very different scene is created in the whimsically titled “Big Ears, Big Nose, Big Heart (a puppy ballad.)” With a name like that I was definitely intrigued to hear the music it described. In contrast to the more serious and adventurous nature of the first track, this one, built on a bluesy progression, is fun, playful, and even a bit cartoonish in a good, “Peanuts” kind of way.


The diversity of the album creates a wonderful sense of not knowing what is around the next corner musically from song to song. This is certainly true with the next piece, “Compared To A Summer’s Day,” a sensitive impressionistic ballad that evoked for me, some of the classic Windham Hill piano recordings. While this is primarily a solo piano album, one 154546_764374353634703_8137795679313931774_ncomposition, “For the Blue Dream of Sky,” does feature accompaniment that adds another dimension and supports the piano so perfectly. It is a powerful and moving piece, which I am glad was included on the album to give the listener a taste of Michael’s masterful skills in orchestration and arranging.


A gentle and touching piece entitled “No Matter How Many Skies Have Fallen,” reflects a seeming dichotomy of being both wistful yet uplifting. On “Silver Shores,” rippling arpeggios create musical waves that sweep us into its currents as it flows through the high and low tides of its various movements. The album draws to a close with the title track, a composition revealing great sentiment and emotional radiance. I believe this piece expresses the essence of what Michael alluded to when he referred to this as his most personal music ever. There is something ineffable communicated in this song that resonates on a deep level for those with ears to hear.


Being familiar with a sampling of Michael Whalen’s music projects over the years, I find it remarkable and inspiring that one person can be so adept in so many avenues of expression. From opulently orchestrated soaring soundtracks to the most intimate musical portraits and more, Michael brings the wealth of his vast experience in the music world as well as opening the door to share in his innermost feelings. Within its diversity, You Are My Home contains energy, sensitivity, humor, reflection, and most of all, heart. This is a stunning release from one of the most prolific and accomplished artists I have had the pleasure to listen to and write about.


Links to You Are My Home online: