Category Archives: About Music


Someone’s smile left a beautiful, shimmering residue Forming a rescue party of Joplin (Scott), Bach, Jarrett, Schroer, Sokol and The Listener Arriving here in a time when our ole whorl needs it the most So much at stake Sonic Healing Balms Make my eyes heat up Make them well up Which happens rarely and un-bidden So it’s precious So pay attention It’s like suddenly donning special spectacles for Perceiving Sheer Energy of The Invisible Spiraling through Time, Space and that sweet apotheosis, Music Opes the Heart ~Ali Garrison, November 26th, 2016, Toronto (Thoughts during “Covering Oli” Casey Sokol’s concert/book launch of duets for solo piano using melodies by Oliver Schroer at Edward Epstein’s Gallery 345) Photo: For Love by Ben Brown. Cymatic photo of sound vibrating on the surface of water

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“You will never do anything more vital, more profound, more perfect, than what you are doing right now.” – Gwendolyn MacEwen, from After-Thoughts Good morning, Friends. Sitting here, the morning after the night before… thinking and absorbing what transpired at my concert last night. It was a moving and joyous thing to be able to see everyone’s faces and feel your spirits right there with me on the journey, which is one of the reasons I love the Gallery 345 space. The audience and the performers can be very close and the pleasure we may all take in the intimate experience that occurs is palpable. These songs that my composer friends, Isabel Ciudad-Real, Nancy Bennet, William Beauvais, Kevin McMahon, Stephen Newby and Ryan Billington, have made are so rich and deep. Words cannot describe how much I love singing them. They are a treasure trove for the imagination and deserve to be re-discovered and explored and heard again and again. I’m already searching for the next time I can sing them mo’ bettah. This was an interesting night, and for me, a new way of being and sharing in each moment. After more than thirty years of performing professionally, I am entering yet another phase: a difficult (for me) and necessary transition into a mature woman and artist. I feel a bit like a chrysalis starting to metamorphose into a butterfly.  Call me crazy, but for some reason I feel moved to be transparent and reveal my process because it is so often hidden and such … Continue reading

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Silence leaves space for reflection and deepening awareness. Getting comfortable with silence is part of our learning as musicians, as human beans. Many creative people experience silence as the backdrop, the background, the “negative space”, the canvas, on which they set their ideas. I grew up in a family that practiced a gentle and liberal Quaker philosophy. In that tradition people work on developing spiritual discernment and practice “holding” silence so that we can be more open to hearing/knowing the voice of Spirit when it comes and then we are moved in the moment to say/do/channel the right thing from a clearer mind/heart. Cultivating this “skill” gets us away from dogma, doctrine and formulaic thinking, instead, feeding the cosmic dance, constantly refreshing, being spontaneous and organically evolving. We can apply this idea to creative inspiration, composition and improvising very easily. I did a beautiful improvisation with some students in a clinic I was giving on “Our Voices and Our Well Being”, at a local arts high school yesterday. It is a structured improvisation composed by Pauline Oliveros, the American composer, who has focused much of her musical explorations on deep listening and sonic awareness. It’s called, Tuning Meditation: The musicians/singers/improvisers sit in silence, listening and focusing on taking deep breaths. Then randomly, each one begins with one long tone that comes from deep within themselves. Then they sit in silence, listening again, breathing. Their second tone is an imitating tone, so they hear something from someone else in the group and try to copy it as best they can. Again, when they finish the tone, they sit and listen … Continue reading

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The problem with using autotune to correct pitch, is that it is inherently unethical. There are myriad sonically cool and creative uses for this tool, I’m certain. But in terms of altering (“improving”) a singer’s performance, it then becomes like using performance enhancers in the olympics or airbrushing human models in advertising images. It has grave, and insidious socio-political implications. A performer is presenting something that is fraudulent and gives the false perception that they are “perfect”, when they are indeed human and fallible like everyone else. The singers stop learning proper technique because they begin to rely on the technology to “take care of it”. They get lazy, instead of figuring out why their pitch might be suffering, and working it out technically. Or it ceases to allow the subtle gradations of pitch to be governed and artistically chosen by the singer, who needs to be carefully considering the style, genre and character of the music, the time and the place. So then the next generation of singers is falsely influenced and believes that they must shoot for a standard of performance that is actually an illusion and impossible to achieve without conforming to the same crutches as those who came before. Then we also get the problem that is rampant in today’s music culture, which is that many people in the industry don’t respect what it takes to sing well, and many young singers don’t thoroughly train or commit to the long process required to truly KNOW this art form. … Continue reading

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