As a general rule, I believe that meditation or contemplative prayer are best practiced in silence - which means no TV blaring in the background, no MP3 player churning out sound, no computer or stereo making noise within earshot. Even using a so-called white noise machine is, to me, at best a necessary evil: perhaps required to mask the normal distracting sounds of children playing or whatever else might be happening in an adjacent room or apartment: but far less desirable than the pure absence (or near absence) of aural stimulation that only silence embodies.
So with that in mind, perhaps it is a bit ironic that in this post I am going to praise an album of ambient music called Meditation. But I am not recommending this album for use while you are meditating. Rather, this is perfect music for the other 15 or so hours that you are awake each day. This most recent offering from the ambient music maestro Chuck Wild (who records under the name "Liquid Mind") is one of the loveliest recordings of deeply introspective, truly relaxing, and - most important of all - serenely beautiful music that I've come across in quite a while.
But first, a disclaimer: I've been a fan of Liquid Mind for over a decade now. I first encountered Chuck Wild's unique ability to create truly expansive and profoundly peaceful music when I was working for a music distributor. In my position there as a new age music buyer, I listened to ambient music all day long - and yes, much of it lives up to its stereotype of being bland, boring, and self-indulgent. If the stereotypes point to how forgettable most new age music is, they also indicate how difficult it is for musicians to create truly good, artistic, and distinctive ambient recordings. Over the years I've collected maybe a handful of ambient albums that bear repeated listening: Brian Eno's Music for Airports, Laraaji's Day of Radiance, or Bruce & Brian Becvar's The Magic of Healing Music. These are all albums that live up to Eno's definition of creative ambient music: music that is "able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular."
Liquid Mind's music belongs on any select list of must-have ambient albums - and while I think the newest album is arguably the best, the entire Liquid Mind catalogue is worth exploring. Among the previous Liquid Mind albums, I particularly love Unity and Spirit - in fact, the track "Through My Eyes" from Liquid Mind VI: Spirit was used in several videos featuring me, such as the one at the bottom of this post.
Chuck Wild, the mastermind of Liquid Mind
But today I want to focus on Liquid Mind X: Meditation, which is the most recent of the Liquid Mind series. Comprising six tracks with a combined length of just over an hour, this musical suite can be the perfect soundtrack for massage, reading, quiet conversation, or mealtime. But I think what separates out truly creative ambient music from run-of-the-mill new age recordings is that it makes an authentic musical statement, far more than just functioning as a kind of soothing soundtrack for busy lives. This is certainly the case for Liquid Mind X: Meditation. This album speaks of spaciousness, openness, and letting go. The first track, "In Fields of Peace," creates a soundscape of unhurried presence, with a gradual unfolding of atmospheric chords, its cadence slower than the rhythm of deep, relaxed breathing. This leads into the title track, beginning with a sonic texture reminiscent of Tibetan chanting before opening into a calm melody that evokes the openness of a mind lulled into silence by a deep contemplative experience. "In the Silence of My Soul" and "When Time Slows" continue this sonic journey. The third track evokes a sense of transcendence, while the fourth simply seems to deepen the overall sense of unhurried presence. "Soft Focus," perhaps the most subtly dynamic of the six tracks, reminds me of the whispering cognitive activity that lurks at the heart of even the most deeply relaxing meditative experience. The album closes with "The Joy of Quiet," a coda to the suite that echoes the opening track with with a slightly more invigorating melody: the meditation is ending, leaving one refreshed and ready to engage with the hustle and bustle of life.
Writing about ambient music is probably the next hardest thing to actually creating it well, and so I am conscious that my words really do not begin to capture the sense of wide-open loveliness that this music embodies. So I'd encourage you to check it out for yourself.
As I said above, the Liquid Mind track "Through My Eyes" can be heard on the following video from the 0:15 mark to about the 5:00 mark.
Disclosure: a complimentary review copy of the CD reviewed in this post was supplied to me by the record label.