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Set Free

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Album Review

Set Free by Constance Demby delivers on the promise of its title. After her monumental 1986 spacemusic epic, Novus Magnificat, Demby had her work cut out for her. What does one compose, exactly, after midwifing a Galactic Birth? To the celestial fields of play, to blissful exuberance. The album begins with the very springy "Waltz of Joy"; to waltz like this, you'd have to dance on the floor of the Milky Way. It is a triumphant explosion of joy. "Tribal Gregorian" bursts with a joyous Balinese dance, complete with the snappy sounds of kalimba, cheeky steel drums, vocals, and a variety of percussion instruments. Demby's beguiling voice carries from horizon to horizon. Struck metal also forms the base for the jaunty "Javalon." A more lyrical tone is offered on "I Set Myself Free," with background choir, organ, and synth orchestra soaring freely above exotic rhythm patterns; the piece then builds dramatically to a victorious statement of "I set myself free!" The panpipes at the end offer a lovely breather. For the rest of the album, the music travels to deeper celestial and meditative states. The echoing piano on the lullaby "Mother of the World" and "Chambers of the World" brings rays of innocence and intimacy. "Lotus Opening" rides on a raft of voices, swirled in a whirlwind of crystalline sparkles. "Into the Center" includes a freeform thunderous catapult featuring Demby's mighty bowed steel instruments, the Space Bass and the Whale Sail—this is the sonic equivalent of a world-record rollercoaster ride. The last two pieces feature huge waves of sound—rhapsodic orchestral pulses of the universe—sweep the listener through awe inspiring realms. Demby plays keyboards, panpipes, steel drums, horns, bells, and vocals. Warren Dennis, Garth Powell, and Kim Atkinson are featured on percussion. Because of the many separate tracks, this album is an excellent introduction to the vast scope of Demby's talents. I have yet to discover all its treasures.


Genre: New Age

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Constance Demby is one of the few representatives of the New Age movement (in both her music and her personal philosophies) who consistently creates artistic, highly expressive compositions. Demby was trained in classical music as a child, and her artistic spirit led her to also master several other art forms; at the University of Michigan, she studied painting, sculpture, and music. It was her work as a sculptor that led her to new dimensions of sound. As she was torching a sheet of metal, it roared...
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Set Free, Constance Demby
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