Artist: Silvia Nakkach
“Space… the final frontier.” For anyone who has ever watched Star Trek, these iconic words will strike a resonant chord. Although these words could also describe Liminal, the new album by GRAMMY nominated composer, vocalist, and instrumentalist Silvia Nakkach whose music is as much about sound as it is about the space that surrounds it. Billowing clouds of ambient atmospheres carry elements of Indian ragas, sacred Afro-Brazilian chants, and more that drift serenely over ever-evolving sonic terrain that is expansive, ethereal, and enchanting.
This blending of diverse elements and traditions has been an ongoing endeavor for Silvia who has devoted over30 years to the study of classical Indian music and raga singing, as well as earning Master’s degrees in Psychology, Music Psychotherapy, and Music Composition from Mills College. She is also the founding director of the international Vox Mundi School of the Voice, and is a published author, with her latest book, Free Your Voice, available from Sounds True publishers. Silvia’s previous albums have been well received, garnering critical acclaim, a GRAMMY nomination, and chart success. Many other aspects of her extensive career and achievements, too many to list here, can be seen at her website.
When it came to recording this new album, Silvia chose to work with highly regarded San Francisco Bay area producer and multi-instrumentalist Todd Boston, whose own wonderful music and other projects he’s produced, I’ve had the pleasure of writing about. In our interview, Silvia shared: “I told Todd that I wanted to make an ambient music album. The reason was that the world out there is so noisy and busy, that I think people needs music that helps them to listen to themselves and their environment, music that creates more abstract-transcendent (less emotional) space. The ragas still convey particular emotions. I wanted to make an album that becomes an aural continuum, a luminous field that holds the listener gently, and elicits inner silence. My intention was to precisely follow what the Hindu Vedas tells us: ‘The function of music is to calm the mind to make it more sensitive to divine intervention.’”
In addition to Silvia on vocals, piano, and sound design, accompanists include Todd on guitar, piano, keyboards, guitarviol, and sound design, David Darling on violoncello, Val Serrant on percussion and voice, and ambient horn maestro Jeff Oster, who has also been featured here on Music and Media Focus. The title of the opening track, “Liminal Clouds” reflects Silvia’s inspiration for this music. In her words: “Sky gazing is for me a spiritual experience. All my life I have been fascinated with the life of the clouds wondering how the impermanence of their movement, formless, and light would translate into music.” Here that translation is beautifully stated in the drifting ambient musical flow that Silvia and her accompanists create.
The word “flow” provides a good description of the music heard throughout the album. It’s also tied into the meaning of the word “liminal” which implies being between the worlds of form and formlessness, conveying a sense of unbounded space. Silvia describes it in this way: “Atmospheres of abstract sound merge with sparks of melodic expression, both spontaneously arising, meeting, and dissolving.” The resulting music creates a dream-like state that carries the listener along without focusing on traditional musical elements such as a repeating melody, verse/chorus song structure, solos, etc. It’s a wonderfully meditative space that evokes an ethereal sense of being neither here nor there.
Given the nature of the music as described above, it’s not as necessary to go into detail on each of the 9 tracks on the album. However, I will say that while they share a common ambiance, each one is unique, thematically and musically, with various instruments and sounds morphing in and out of the mix, some with light rhythms, others totally spacious. Silvia’s airy vocals glide and soar gracefully like an albatross over the tranquil musical waters. Liminal provides a transcendent listening experience that invites one to enter into a timeless space and connect with deeper levels of Being.
Click on the links below to hear samples and/or purchase this album: