The flood of instrumental music flowing our way makes precise categorization nigh on impossible these days. New works by Max Highstein and Jonn Serrie, for example, underline how varied two composers' personalized styles can be . . . yet both albums can be recommended in one breath as entrancing and restorative as only music can sometimes be.MAX HIGHSTEIN; "Stars" (Serenity-Great Northern Arts). * * *
"Stars," by composer-keyboardist Max Highstein, calls for a specific class of adjectives. Among them are graceful and pacific, soothing and tranquil, lilting and gently serendipitous. The collection as a whole is the most relaxed and relaxing instrumental prescription in quite a while.Actually, the melodies of "Stars" were first recorded for an earlier, synthesizer-oriented Highstein album, "The Healer's Touch," between 1986 and 1988. Working with an outstanding ensemble of musicians, the composer re-arranged, re-recorded and digitally remixed them for this new release.
The ethereal title number opens with icy tings, then introduces Highstein's peaceful piano and colorizing synthesizers, as well as lovely woodwinds and flutes by Jon Clarke. Other favorites are the buoyant "Spring Song"; the bouncier "Leaving Without My Hat" and "After the Rain"; and "Quartet," a light-classical canvas for Highstein and his string and woodwind players. Slightly less appealing are amorphous tracks like "The Elephant's Dream" and "The Healer's Touch," in two parts - which, of course, lent its name to the original Highstein album.
In many ways, "The Healer's Touch" remains a better name for this subdued but often sparkling creation. JONN SERRIE; "Tingri" (Miramar). * * *
Noted planetarium composer Jonn Serrie's ethereal, hypnotic "Tingri" is an evocative soundtrack for those drawn to the beauties of both outer and inner space - to the mysteries of this and other worlds and to the quiescence of meditation.
The seven tracks fall into two broad categories: a few are effervescent, most are introspective. The playful pipes-and-tinkles "Tingri," which opens this collection, named for a Tibetan village, fits the first description, and the second number, "Where Lovers Walk," shows us Serrie's contemplative side.
"Remembrance" offers thoughtful guitar; "Iridani" is poised between bright and somber; "Winter's Chapel" opens eerie and exotic then shifts into a trancelike melody, a mood retained yet modified in the airy "Tingri Maiden"; and "Annie by the Sea," for his wife, merges synthesized strains with shoreline sounds like the cries of gulls and gentle waves.
Serrie's "Tingri" selections are not, as a rule, lilting songs; rather, they create atmospheres that invite introspection.