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Album Review

This is a fascinating, amazing album that comes from all directions at once — Native American, ambient, electronic, meditational, you name it. Singing Stones are found at a number of desert sites, many of them in California; these are rocks that resonate when struck or rubbed, producing a sonorous, gong-like tone. Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger have taken this as the starting point and foundation of the 12 pieces on this album. While some of the material uses nothing but the Singing Stones themselves, others incorporate a variety of Native American flutes, traditional songs, Native American vocalists (including the Cahuilla Bird Singers), samplers, synthesizers and studio processing (including some digital delays that make it seem that many of the sounds were played inside a gigantic cave). The Singing Stones themselves were recorded on location with microphones designed to record sounds during earthquakes. For all the rumbling sense of the planet that is built into this album, however, there are other tones, too — bright tones, high tones, the sound of passionate voices raised in song, the sound of flutes, even the sounds of birds surrounding the sounds of thundering drums. The overall effect is one of celebration and respect connected firmly to the earth. Stearns and Sunsinger have achieved a dramatic effect here, producing a gloriously beautiful album that's as effective for celebration as for meditation and dreaming.


Born: Tucson, AZ

Genre: New Age

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

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 concrète piece in 1968; four years later, Stearns returned to Tucson to open his own recording studio, subsequently producing...
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Singing Stones, Michael Stearns
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