With over 60 albums to his credit since 1971, Deuter has to be one of the most prolific artists in new age music – a genre in which he was one of the pioneers. In my more than 30 years as a new age music journalist, I have written about many of his albums, the most recent being Reiki Hands of Love. In that feature article, I wrote about his formative years as well as his musical and spiritual background. Readers who are interested are encouraged to check out that article for further information. But briefly, Deuter (pronounced doy-ter) who was born in Germany remembers the first time he heard someone playing a flute. In his words: “It was like a light coming from the heavens. For one of my birthdays I was given a flute and that was the beginning for me.”
From there, he expanded into learning other instruments, and also eventually experimented with recording nature sounds and playing an instrument on top of it to create a soothing sound. At the time there was very little music like this available, so his explorations in this realm helped to plant the seeds for a new genre of music to come. It was also a time of great spiritual awakening for Deuter and others. In addition to spending time in an ashram in India, he recalls: “I traveled for years. I went to Turkey and spent time with the Sufis there learning Sufi music. Then I traveled to Iran and Afghanistan and India and Bali. Wherever I went I made connections with musicians. I think all of those experiences have influenced my music although I cannot pinpoint what did what. It is the same way in which every day of our life, every experience, influences our behavior, our outlook on life and our artistic expression.” As we can see, Deuter’s journeys have taken him to the far reaches of the earth, as well as deeply within his own being.
The focus for Deuter over the years has been to create music that helps the listener go within as well. As he shares: “We need to find a way for every person, somewhere and somehow, to have the time to experience their inner selves, to be able to relax, to feel, to question what you are doing, and to feel grateful to be alive. I try to make music that helps bring the listener to that place.” The motivating factor in Deuter’s creative process is love. As he describes: “It is just an incredible, blissful experience to go in my studio, play around and start making sounds, noises, music, tones, then mix them together and see what comes out. So, any time I can spare, I love going into the studio. It doesn’t feel like work at all. Of course it is connected with work and some of the stuff is tedious and must be done, but it is fundamentally an expression of joy and love.”
And speaking of his creative process, an important element is what he describes as: “the constant dance on the edge of silence — moving into the silence and moving out of the silence. I love to create a path out of the silence… and also a path that reverts back into the silence and the experience of the silence.” The other element comes from the fact that everything is going faster and faster in the world, and he sees a need for creating a balance to this through music.
On Illumination of the Heart, all of the instruments are played by Deuter and include flutes, keyboards, cello, piano, guitar, koto and vocals. “For me all the instruments I’m using are basically like colors in a painting,” states Deuter. “I’m not focused on one instrument specifically. I use many sounds and instruments so that it is like painting with sound.” The first of these musical colors that we hear on the opening track, entitled “Matamua,” are flute and tabla drums over a spacious synthesizer soundscape. It’s a nicely balanced blend of earthy and airy elements. As the song evolves other instruments such as acoustic guitar and more integrate into the mix. At nearly 10 minutes in length, it gives the listener plenty of time to settle into the peaceful ambiance of the album. In fact, most of the songs on the album are in the 7 to 9 and a half-minute range.
On the next track, “Moon and Earth,” a choir of heavenly synth voices creates a cathedral-like atmosphere that is quite uplifting and spiritually evocative. That vibe continues into the next track with a serene and reverent piece called “Tonglen,” A variety of instruments and synthesizer sounds carry the melody, including one that reminded me of the soulful vocal-like quality of a Chinese stringed instrument called an Erhu. The sound of orchestral strings predominate in the first movement of a piece entitled “Stern an Stern,” which is German for Star to Star. Piano and flute are also heard in later parts of the song. I particularly liked Deuter’s approach to the piano, which is quite spacious and meditative.
While some of the vocal and choir sounds heard earlier were from synthesizers or samples, on “Coucher de Lune” (French for Sunset Moon) we hear Deuter’s actual voice layered with other richly reverberated voices singing in an ethereal chant-like cadence. On “Schein und Widerschein,” (which is German for Appearance and Reflection) the sounds of nature, perhaps recorded outside of Deuter’s secluded studio in the woods near Santa Fe, New Mexico, creates a bucolic background for his beautiful echoed flute passages. This deeply relaxing piece evolves through various movements adding dreamy keyboards and vocals, koto, acoustic guitar, and subtle percussion.
The last two tracks, “Desert Dream Green” and “Mericoeur” continue the gentle journey that is the hallmark of this album. While the new age music genre has expanded over the years to include a very wide and unrelated musical diversity, Deuter’s music is, and always has been, the classic sound that comes to mind for many when thinking of “new age music.” The serene sonic tapestries he weaves are consciously created to bring the listener into a state of deep relaxation and inner attunement. The music works equally well for active listening or in the background for meditation, yoga, massage, etc. I have ultimate respect for Deuter who, since the early 1970’s has continued to produce positive uplifting music from a heart centered perspective. Every album I have heard from Deuter over the years has been exquisitely beautiful and inspiring, and Illumination of the Heart continues this tradition with quiet elegance and grace.
Links to Illumination of the Heart: