Epiphany Project | Hin Dagh

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Hin Dagh

by Epiphany Project

This extraordinary CD combines Ancient sacred mystical texts with world rhythms, bold vocal improvisations, haunting piano improvisations, and comes with a beautiful hardbound book featuring new artwork based on ancient iconography.
Genre: World: Middle East Contemporary
Release Date: 

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1. Ashem
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3:44 $0.99
2. Charents II
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3:49 $0.99
3. Ararat (Arto's Song)
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4:33 $0.99
4. Avvon d'Bishmaiya
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4:07 $0.99
5. Sarmad
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3:00 $0.99
6. Taliesen's Dream
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3:50 $0.99
7. Havakveer
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3:50 $0.99
8. Nainam
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3:41 $0.99
9. Charents I
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1:14 $0.99
10. Beulah
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4:31 $0.99
11. Ujamu Yangu
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2:53 $0.99
12. Thunder Perfect Mind
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4:21 $0.99
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Since 1992 John Hodian and Bet Williams have been performing and recording as Epiphany Project, creating music that the Washington Post calls “a unique hybrid of world music, art song, Americana and avant-garde folk; utterly uncategorizeable but always transcendently beautiful”.

“Hin Dagh” is comprised of Ancient sacred texts from a variety of dead languages (Aramaic, Sanskrit, Avestan, Ancient Welsh, etc.) and set to exciting new music by John Hodian & Bet Williams. Recorded in Armenia with an all-star cast of that country’s finest musicians playing Santur, Kamancha, Duduk, Zourna and a huge collection of exotic hand percussion.

The packaging of the CD is truly a work of art and comes inside a beautiful hardbound book including the ancient texts and prayers that inspired the music’s creation. The pages are adorned with amazing new artwork created by some of Armenia’s foremost artists and based on the regions ancient iconography.

John Hodian and Bet Williams have traveled extensively through Europe and the Middle East discovering new influences on their music and in their lives. Hodian’s piano playing, while always adventurous and improvisational, has now taken an even more spiritual approach. In his latest compositions, instruments such as the Saz, Duduk, Camancha and the Dhol from Armenia can be heard as well as the harmonium and surprisingly the banjo.

Bet Williams, with her ever-expanding 4-octave range, continues experimenting with new vocal sounds. “I’ve been exploring Tuvan throat singing,” says Williams, “as well as the performances of women I’ve found singing folk songs from places like Armenia and India. They’re using the voice in ways that are wild and haunting and sound as old as the earth. It's amazing.”

Epiphany Project’s commitment to beauty and the complexities of the human condition has always been at the forefront of their work. Constantly evolving and changing, the “Project” is more an ongoing musical reflection of their lives.

“An intriguing, and intensely moving collaboration. The music while profound and powerful is consistently listenable and accessible.” – Philadelphia Inquirer


Reviews


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Craig Gidney

Armenian Art Pop
Dead Can Dance meets the pastoral pop of the October Project in this charming world music collection. The title means “Sacred Words” and true to that title, prayers in Aramaic, Armenian and other tongues are mixed in with piano-based compositions with world music flourishes. Composed by John Hodian, an American-Armenian, the work is equal parts Western and Eastern, with romantic piano solos laying alongside oud, Persian clarinet and intensive percussion workouts. The guitar solo in one song is a bit much for my taste, but its mostly acoustic. Bet Williams’s voice is earthy and pliable and beautiful. Hers is not a mystical Lisa Gerrard or Stellamara type voice—it’s rootsier. Her range is amazing and she has as much fun singing guttural syllables, swooping angelically, or singing narrative lyrics in English. Fun is the key word here—will there is much beauty in the work, there’s a joy to the playing. The Epiphany Project treats the source material with reverence, but not with kid gloves. It’s an interpretation of world music minus the stately gloom of other world music groups.
Recommended tracks: “Ashem,” a frenzied hammered dulcimer piece; “Sarmad,”slinky Middle-Eastern jazz; “Beulah,” a Southern Gothic story-song.

Justin C. Maaia

A Mystical Experience
The Epiphany Project manages to conjure the entire range of human experience on this album. It is mystical and yet rooted. I hate to make comparisons, but this album is something like "everything I had hoped Enya would be." I realize this is more my fault than Enya's--as she is extremely adept as what she does--but Epiphany Project manages to cover the New Age-Relaxation territory as well as a diverse landscape of other places, from the dirt all the way to the heavens.

The strongest tracks on the album are "Ashem," an ancient Zoroastrisn Hymn, and "Avvon d"Bishmaiya," an Aramaic version of the "Our Father." The two together display the sparkling range of this album. The first reaches back to the mystical roots of Christianity and Islam, but mostly helps one to appreciate Zoroastrianism on its own terms. The melody, which seems to be improvised and invented-upon during the first listen, presents its form and repetition after a few listens. Something unspeakable draws you back to it time and again, before it becomes unforgettable, "carving deep blue ripples in the tissue of my mind," as Jack Bruce sang some time ago. I have listened to this track dozens of times in the past week, with a new and deepening appreciation each time; it has been awhile I wore-out a track like that. The song begins with a vocal incantation, and then gradually builds in the amount and diversity of instruments. It has an eastern feel thanks to the instrumentation, a world-beat feel thanks to the rhythmn section, and even a sometime-bluesy feel thanks to a couple of the vocals lines. Williams' huge vocal range is on full display here, ranging from sweet high notes to low-alto utterances and earthy, barely audible grunts and breathy sounds. The building of the song is reminiscent of the way in which the Beatles built "Hey Jude" from one to dozens of instruments. I again think of the Beatles every time I here the climax of the song, when William's vocals are echoed by a small group of female harmony vocals that surprise you at the same time you knew you were waiting for them. They are akin to the simulated female "ahhs" and "oos" of various Beatles songs.

The Avvon d'Bishmaiya, by contrast, is a simple vocal and piano arrangement, with a few supporting instruments weaved into the mix. This is all that is required to let the beautiful melody shine. Williams' rendering of this Aramaic version of the "Our Father" prayer leaves you speechless and with lofty aspirations even without one word being understood. I guess sometimes we can understand the whole even if the parts remain obscure. This song would feel right at home amidst a program of songs from the likes of Shubert. The translation found in the accompanying book is also revelatory, as it brings out the feminine side of God, and also the interdependence of human beings in our search for awakening and happiness. It is almost Buddhist in this sense.

Other songs range from danceable tracks, to tracks that might nicely accompany a yoga class, to tracks that evoke the Dionysian energy of a whirling dervish. I wish I could comment on them all in this short space.

One more comment: I teach World Religions at a private high school and, in addition to the value which this album holds for me personally (after only two weeks in my posssession) it has also become an indispensable addition to my curriculum. The album and accompanying booklet are a miniature textbook for the class, containing interesting, accessible, and thought-provoking material on a wide range of wisdom traditions. Each song both lures us to a religion and helps us to appreciate it on its own terms. It accomplishes a "fusion of horizons" as Gadamer would say, ennabling us to understand the other and ourselves in profound new ways.

I started this review with a reference to Enya, and I will complete that thought by saying that this album contains more power, more passion, and more guts than an Enya album, which means that it does not provide the album-length vibe that an Enya album can, but what it lacks in that conistency is made up for in the range of experiences that are provided here. Close your eyes and let Hodian and Williams take you on a journey through your life, through the millenia-old collective life of humanity, and then on to new realms heretofore only imagined by the prophets, the mystics, the sages--those who wanted more than anything to experience life in its barest, most immediate, and most intimate form. I owe these artists a debt of gratitude for this unique contribution art and to religious understanding and awakening.