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The respected German composer and multi-instrumentalist Stephan Micus made his first journey to Asia at the age of 16. He has since traveled around the world. He spent extensive periods of time studying ancient musical techniques in India and Japan and collected a number of ethnic instruments previously unknown in the West. His recordings for the ECM label are essentially solo efforts in which the illusion of an ensemble is created by the composer's extensive overdubs. Micus' intention is not to play these instruments according to tradition, but to combine modes of expression from around the world in exciting new ways. Though he sometimes creates sounds you'd swear were the result of electronic keyboards, Micus is an acoustic purist who often develops unconventional performance techniques on ethnic instruments. He released Garden of Mirrors in mid-2000, with Desert Poems and Koan both following a year later. Micus continued to stay busy, releasing Towards the Wind in 2002, Life in 2004, and On the Wing in 2006, all of which kept his multicultural and multi-instrumental style intact. Micus offered the concept recording Snow in 2008. On 2010's Bold as Light, he employed customized versions of the raj nplaim, a free-reed bamboo pipe from Laos, and the Japanese nohkan flute, also made of bamboo. As always, he not only studied the music of the instrument's native regions, but expanded the tonal reaches with his customization. For his 20th album, Micus collaborated with Greek historian and scholar Vassilis Chatzivassiliou, who selected Byzantine-era (seventh century) texts that were ancient prayers to "Holy Mary" (the Panagia of the title). The artists gave modern voice to these texts by utilizing bells from several traditions, gongs, stringed instruments, and up to 20 voices. Panagia was issued in March of 2013. ~ Linda Kohanov