Steve Roach, Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger - Kiva (1995)
Steve Roach, Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger - Kiva (1995)
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A kiva is an underground ceremonial chamber used by Native American cultures of the Southwest. The album is a mixture of traditional Native American ceremonies and highly experimental ambient music.
Kiva (1995) is a collaborative album by the American ambient musicians Steve Roach, Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger. A kiva is an underground ceremonial chamber used by Native American cultures of the Southwest.
The album is a mixture of traditional Native American ceremonies and highly experimental ambient music.
"East Kiva, 'Calling in the Midnight Water" is a Peyote ceremony. "South Kiva, 'Mother Ayahuasca" is an Ayahuasca ceremony from the South American rainforest. "West Kiva, 'Sacrifice, Prayer and Visions" is a Sundance. The Sundance is an elaborate ceremony used by the tribes of the central plains to seek visions and initiate holy men. "North Kiva, 'Trust and Remember" is a non-traditional improvisation created by the three artists in a cave in Northern New Mexico.
Ron Sunsinger, a Native American tribal artist and musician, joins two space music pioneers on Kiva, an atmospheric re-creation of sacred tribal ceremonies representing the directions of the Four Winds. For the Southwest tribes, a kiva is a circular subterranean structure used for ceremony and ritual; other tribes may use a canopy of trees, the circular space of a Sun Dance, or a cavern. For this recording, Sunsinger obtained, with permission, field recordings of traditional ceremonies. The musicians then brought the kiva space into their music studio. Each wind direction is preceded by an atmospheric passage of chanting, nature sounds, and rattles. "East Kiva: Calling in the Midnight Water" features chanting with the rattles and rapid drumbeats of a peyote ceremony. The space music continues the ceremony to an expanded heartbeat, with horns signaling breakthroughs of thunder strikes. A more celestial space is heralded by organ tones and crickets. Hearing the overlapping layers of sound and the progression allows the listener's mind to travel, while still being connected to the ceremonial music and rhythms. Ghostly voices usher in the passage to "South Kiva: Mother Ayahuasca." Here, breathy whistles and a hypnotic twang of a stringed instrument begin a trance that takes off on one of the most dramatic space blastoffs on record. It climaxes through shouts and ceremonial purging, a sacred song, and whistling; the organ/chanting drone background is very trippy with its sonic infinity pattern of organ tones, chanting, jungle birds, and distorted drumming. "West Kiva: Sacrifice, Prayer and Visions" includes the powerful powwow drumming, singing, and stomped bells of the Native American Sun Dance. The space music collides sounds and rhythms -- a dizzying and hallucinatory clash of reality and illusion. The music then "passes out" and takes the listener on a voyage through a sonic tunnel where all time is suspended. The final "North Kiva: Trust and Remember," recorded in a cavern, thunders with resonant drums and the growls of the didgeridoo. This recording is an excellent introduction to space music and the shamanic experience. You'll find it's not a free ride. Carol Wright, AllMusic
Jason Ankeny, AllMusic
Composer/sound sculptor Michael Stearns was born and raised in Tucson, AZ, taking up classical guitar as a teen; in time he moved on to rock and jazz, and by the age of 16 was regularly backing top pop acts including the Lovin' Spoonful and Paul Revere & the Raiders. While a student at the University of the Pacific he turned to electronic music, completing his first musique concr¨¨te piece in 1968; four years later, Stearns returned to Tucson to open his own recording studio, subsequently producing a series of advertising jingles. In 1974, choreographer Emilie Conrad convinced him to move to Los Angeles to serve as the resident composer at her Continuum Studio; in the process of creating spontaneous live accompaniment for the dance group's groundbreaking explorations of human movement, Stearns developed a unique sound combining synthesizers and environmental samples, over time incorporating increasingly exotic instrumentation as well.
In 1977 Stearns released his debut album, Ancient Leaves, on his own Continuum Montage label, its space music aesthetic anticipating the coming rise of new age. Efforts including Morning Jewel and Planetary Unfolding followed as he developed The Beam, a 12-foot-long aluminum shaft strung with some two-dozen piano strings designed to generate low frequencies; in 1983, Stearns also collaborated with composer Maurice Jarre on Dreamscape, the first in a series of innovative film scores. His fifth solo album, Lyra, was performed on George Landry's mammoth Lyra Sound Constellation, an instrument comprised of 156 microtonally tuned strings of lengths up to 20 feet. In 1984, Stearns began a longstanding collaboration with filmmaker Ron Fricke that first yielded the soundtrack to the groundbreaking IMAX production Chronos; that same year, he also founded M'Ocean, a studio situated in Santa Monica, CA. (An album of the same name followed in 1985.)
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