Echapées Etheriques (August 2016)
Echappées Ethériques was inspired originally by a set of chord progressions I wrote in 1987 at the time of the Harmonic Convergence, which happened on my birthday. I was overwhelmed with inspiration...
When I was a very small child I imagined that the earth was contained within a large blue circus tent. The sun was a circular hole someone had cut in the tent, so we could see the land of the golden light that was always shining just beyond…. I dreamed of floating up to the hole in the tent to see what was over there in the land of the golden light. What a wonderful escape to another playground, I imagined! Making this music with two of my favorite musicians has been a realization of that fantasy. Along the journey we had many experiences, expressing our authentic emotions through the music: the desire to lift up, the "yearning to arrive in the Loving," the heartfelt joy of arriving, the sadness we had to leave the dream to return to earth, and the joy of waking up into the sunlight.
Here's the full story behind the tracklist poem....
“We Floated” is a simple way to set up an atmosphere. The journey of Echappées Ethériques is intended to be meditative and uplifting. In many ways it is "anti-gravity". The story goes along with my childhood fantasy about floating up to the top of the sky which was a circus tent and out thru the hole which was the sun and beyond the hole was the land of the golden light. So we begin by floating....
to the blue hue,
"To the Blue Hue" is memorable. Laura brought the melody to a rehearsal several years ago when we were putting together a whole concert based on colors for the Peace Awareness Labyrinth Gardens in LA. We were happy to bring it back to life in this recording.
"Lifting Upwards" is all about going up. Thus I added the chimes to elevate the ears even further. I was listening to it this morning and was reminiscing about the Baroque performance practice known as inégales . From Wikipedia: In music, notes inégales (French: unequal notes) refers to a performance practice, mainly from the Baroque and Classical music eras, in which some notes with equal written time values are performed with unequal durations, usually as alternating long and short. The practice was especially prevalent in France in the 17th and 18th centuries, with appearances in other European countries at the same time; and it reappeared as the standard performance practice in the 20th century in jazz.
"Opening" "into" "the ethers" is a set of three pieces designed on the progressions I mentioned earlier. "Opening" sets up the atmosphere in key of G. "Into" is pulling us up with the flat 6th, which in the overtone series is #13. The note then magically becomes the 3rd in the new key of B Major, "The Ethers.". We have truly reached our harmonic destination! And I love the way Maksim slides up to the high B and then zones into the harmonics…. Out of this world!
riding the currents,
yearning to arrive
in the Loving.
As the poem and story continues here is a set of four: “We travelled,” “riding the currents,” “yearning to arrive” “in the Loving.” These are experiential, not easy to describe. We are continuing on the journey of upliftment. "In the Loving" for me is truly the heart of the album. On a personal note...many years ago when performing a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach, I noticed that I could actually feel something opening in my physical heart chakra whenever I reached a certain point in the music. I was fond of having this experience as a performer, and also sensed that whenever this was happening, the audience was getting a special dose of loving energy. As I evolved musically, I really held that as an intention, to express the loving through the music.
Greens led us to Purple.
"Greens led us to Purple" was fun to create. The chimes and bells are again part of lifting up the ears into the mystical magical invisible realms. Like Scriabin I have always associated colors with sound. From Wikipedia: Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second ...
Wishing we could live this dream,
holding on to home,
"Wishing we could live this dream" and "Holding on to home" are both emotional conversations between the instruments. We were improvising in keys we selected to best feature Laura's various flutes. For me, "Holding on to Home" really raises the question of "Where is home?" Is it the earth? Or is it the loving heart or is it the focus on the positive Light?
we awoke to the Sun,
At the end of our first recording session we played a joyful piece, "Celebrating the Light" just before surprising Laura with a piece of birthday cake with a lit candle. Laura said later that was her favorite take from the session. When I studied the takes I thought it would be good to include more happy pieces so we began the second recording session with intention of highlighting our joyful side.
celebrating the Light!
"We awoke to the sun" resulted. This concluding set addresses the sadness of coming to the end of the journey but also the celebration that we awoke to the sun celebrating the Light. The trip has a happy ending!
Purchase Album on
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? LISTEN TO ETHEREAL ESCAPES!
"Inspiring" ... "Tranquil" ... "Touches the listeners heart"
"Radiant....The cleverness of the performers on this album is simply sublime...." —Steve Sheppard, One World Music READ FULL REVIEW
Echappées Ethériques was inspired originally by a set of chord progressions I wrote in 1987 at the time of the "Harmonic Convergence," which happened on my birthday. I was overwhelmed with inspiration and took many notes on ideas. I repeatedly made sketches of the overtone series and looked for ways to raise the root tone of a piece to a major third higher. There is actually one track on my previous album "Sky Watching" entitled "Convergence", which took a look at some of the material I had jotted down in 1987. I wanted to do more exploration of the progressions and knowing Laura and Maksim's marvelous capabilities for improvisation on chord charts I scheduled a recording session.
I originally met Laura at a wedding gig. During the ceremony there is a period of time when people turn to each other and engage in the "Passing of the Peace." At weddings this can take several minutes as the bride and groom often greet the whole family and friends in front rows. The musicians have the most fun then improvising. Over the years we developed the phrase "Diving into the ethers" to describe this transcendent moment. As the band leader I would just call out, "Ethers in G" or "Ethers in D." I could always see the twinkle in Laura's eye as we created the music. So several years later when I was asked to create a healing/balancing music concert at Peace Labyrinth Gardens in LA, I contacted Laura to be the flute player in the ensemble. "To the Blue Hue" was a melody she brought to one of the rehearsals and I always loved that piece so we re-visited it on Echappées Ethériques.
I met Maksim through Laura. We needed a cellist for a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gig. We had so much fun playing together! The people who hired us were thrilled with our music and they decided to hire us for the whole season of Christmas three more weeks! In our traditional gigs we rarely get to totally dive into the "Ethers" , I always feel that we are just scracthing the surface. I would have glimpses of what wonderful possibilities existed musically. The album Echappées Ethériques is therefore the fulfillment of my desire to expand into new sonic and harmonic dimensions.
I am grateful fo to Suzanne Doucet for helping bring the recording forward as a physical product. I started out the project as a digital download released on my birthday in August 2016, just in time to enter it in the Grammys. Suzanne convinced me to add colorful cover art and packaging. My husband Yvon Chausseblanche has a company, www.chausseybonbondesigns.com and gifted me the exquisite ethereal imagery. He also helped me come up with the title, Echappées Ethériques, which is French for “Escapes into the Ethers.” Thank you Yvon!
Lifting Upwards is a prime example of just how stunningly serene this album is and further confirms the forward thinking nature of the artist, to bring such a splendid performance into our world.
Merrill Collins has created a piece of music that I am going to incorporate into my daily meditation practice. The combination of all three instruments are indeed like an amalgamation of colour all melding from one to the other, this is so cleverly performed that at the half way juncture of this composition, one can feel the transition from one colour to the other.
Merrill Collins partnered by the talents of both Laura Halladay and Maksim Velichkin has produced one of the finest meditative, ambient instrumental releases of this decade. I have literally yearned for something new to enjoy in this genre and for my own personal meditative practises and at last I have found it. Each composition has been created with such a care and attention to detail, it’s astounding, but also the free form nature of the whole album is blissful musical freedom. The performances contained on the release are sensational and will bring a real and tangible sense of childlike youthful rapture to the whole experience. Echappées Ethériques is a new, fresh and much needed slice of ambient bliss and gets a very big thumbs up from me.
—Steve Sheppard of One World Music Radio
Graphic Design: Julie Morris; Cowgirl Creative