Marimba Dreams by Julia Harrell
CD review by Michael Diamond
January 23, 2012
Artist: Julia Harrell
The marimba is not usually the first instrument that comes to mind when thinking of new age music – being more commonly associated with orchestral, jazz, or world music. For those not familiar, the marimba is a percussion instrument similar to a xylophone or vibraphone, with wooden bars that are struck with soft tipped mallets. It is often played with four of them, which allow a wider spread of notes and gives it the ability to create chords – a rarity for percussion instruments.
Before getting into more detail on this recording, in the interest of full disclosure I will mention that I had some involvement in the production of this CD, so I won’t make any claims of this being a totally objective review. However, in an attempt to “keep it real” the focus will be more factual than evaluative.
That said, let us drift into “Marimba Dreams.” As an accomplished percussionist Julia Harrell has a diverse background that includes not only the marimba, but also a wide variety of drums and rhythmic instruments, which she has played in everything from rock bands to symphony orchestras. She has formal training and holds a Master’s degree in Music, majoring in percussion. Julia brings many years of experience to this project and in addition to the marimba, she also added atmospheric textures on synthesizers. Another element that was an influence on this recording is her interest in the healing power of sound, which was “instrumental” in motivating her to create this album.
The music on this CD was inspired one day when she got a strong message during meditation to tune in and record on the marimba. She had recently begun her work in sound healing and had a desire to create spiritually focused music. Specific tones and melodies came through and she began to play what she was experiencing. The music was created spontaneously in the moment, her version of ‘streaming.’ After minimal editing, additional tracks of nature sounds, synthesizers, and guitar were added, some of which comprised my contribution to the project, in addition to assisting with engineering and production. Julia is also a highly experienced recording engineer and it was an educational experience all around.
The deep resonant woody tones of the marimba have a vibration and sonic signature unlike any other. In combination with the ambient electronic sounds a musical spectrum is reflected that ranges from meditative to moving, and provides a soundtrack for relaxation and letting your imagination flow. A variety of natural sounds such as ocean, dolphins, a mountain stream, birds, and more add to the mental imagery that the music evokes. “Marimba Dreams” is a unique offering that may appeal to the listener looking for a different new age music experience.