From Gerald Van Waes, host of Psyche Van Het Folk Radio Show in Belgium:
At first, I thought this was a completely new album by Alicia Bay Laurel. If it had been so, hearing Alicia’s voice and purity, this could only have been so when this was the product of a perfect example of a long-term practical and healthy life. What still is sure, is that she indeed tried to follow that root. A proof and example can be found in Alicia’s book with instructions to a practical of life for hippies, Living on the Earth. Alicia sounded for sure like someone in her twenties, and that also appears to be so, with all the charming qualities in optimal conditions for someone of that age: being a voice of purity and innocence. What neo-pagans most often do not succeed equally well to bring over because of forcing it too bravely or sounding too dark and where traditional musicians more often forget where their music really originates from in a source of energy and inspiration, Alicia, together with Ramon Sender do succeed to evoke this very source of celebration of life and natural circumstance with great ease. This kind of energy feels light and happy and still is grounded enough to become a true source of prosperity. I notice is a perfect balance between a light simplicity and delicate harmony.
You can say that this album is an evocation to the sun and to the turns of the seasons. Several parts are showing different angles and changes in time, while the celebrative dedications and evocations are becoming adaptations towards those natural changes, these experiences and preparations to the right conditions to adapt well are assembled into musical expressions into this collection, like a musical ritual cycle and its appropriate songs, that are not too different in approach compared to the lightest imaginable vision of Latin-American sun God worships that are adapted in this case to a somewhat more European or white-American foundation.
A song like “Welcoming Chant” invites you to join the scene. The vocal harmonies are beautiful to hear, the accompaniments are simple picking/hammered rhythms while zither/harp-like textures provide additional string-picking drones. On the third track, a minimal droning instrumental with hammered strings was added too, droning a bit more heavily in that track with its reverbs so that it gives the effect of an organ wave drone mixed with high pitched hammering.
I have noticed that Ramón Sender Barayón truly has feeling for folk music. Alicia explained me that Ramon was born in Spain, where he might have inherited that European sensibility to his music. On the 7th track, his accordion and song approach seems to be rooted in older folk music from European mountain areas like the Alps, or at least provokes or reveals that root a bit. He also included and sung one song of his own, which fits also perfectly. The first part of “The Sun is Forever” on the other hand could have been on a UK folk album, showing beautiful delicacy in its vocal harmonies. The folky and bluesy way of playing of the accordion directs it then quickly back into a more Appalachian sort of direction. “Everything is Flowing”, as one of the many tracks with birds in the background, bells, bowls and vocal harmonies, is more like a nearly-Christian spiritual thanking song.
A few other tracks have influence from Indian mantra singing (The Gayatri and “Adiya..”), show another source of inspiration or guidance.
You can’t hear this immediately but it is interesting to know that Ramón Sender Barayón had been involved in many more sorts of music. It means that he wasn’t just any occasional or ordinary session musician at all. He also once was and (now at nearly 80) still is known as a famous avant-garde composer. He is one of the founders of the San Francisco Tape Music Center, and co-inventor of the Buchla Box, one of the earliest synthesizers. Besides, Ramón is also the author of a book, “A Death in Zamora”, which is about what happened to his family during the Spanish Civil War. His father, Ramon J. Sender, was a famous novelist and journalist, and a fierce opponent of Franco. His mother was a classical pianist. She was murdered when Ramón was three by family members who were supporters of Franco. The American family who adopted Ramón as a kid very quickly recognized his musical talents and made sure that he had great piano teachers. He earned his bachelors degree in composition at the music conservatory in Rome. The album that is published here had been recorded on a Sony 4 reel-to-reel tape, is part of an archive of his work kept by the music department of Mills College, where Ramon got his masters degree in composition under Darius Milhaud back in the 1960s. Currently he resides in San Francisco.
“Being of the Sun” was also a co-authored book (designs and illustrations were by Alicia) from which some of the music in the book was recorded and performed. This book was first published in 1973 by Harper & Row in New York, and is about living in nature, spirituality, and music. It is still in print in Japanese. It is much loved by pagans and other nature lovers all over the world. The front and back covers of the book are on the CD cover. It is the sequel to [Alicia’s] most famous and best-selling book “Living on the Earth”, which was first published in 1970.
Alicia told me that at this time of the recording, when she was 23, she did not yet study any vocal technique yet, but that makes this recording also so pure, uninfluenced by any formal techniques, the techniques developed later reshaped Alicia’s voice which are a different sort of transformation.
The release is a really lovely album with its own unique, nature friendly and spiritual nature. I hope this will be released on LP some day too.
Gerald Van Waes
Psyche Van Het Folk
Psychedelic Folk Music Radio Show
The zither music on the CD is sublime. Wow.
It’s so good to hear from you. I listened to the samples of the new CD’s and really liked what I heard. Songs from Being of the Sun is has some really cool sounds. It’s great you were able to resurrect it!
Please do send a copy of each CD. I’d like to get some of it on air at Radio Free Phoenix.
I wanted to let you know, many of your songs, plus the jingle you did for me, are still running on the air on a regular basis. We could also do another music & interview on Radio Free Phoenix with you spotlighting your new releases! Let me know.
Radio Free Phoenix
I really love the music you and Ramon made for your last CD. The musical instrument was not one usually used for your songs; the drone harp created a really spiritual type of music. That was my favorite. I like the concept of singing chants to mark the times of the day. I really liked the melodies. Thank you for your talent, making diverse types of music and releasing them to the world.
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