Inspirational instrumental meditations, quiet and serious, each intimately related by both structure and content into an overall singularity, and yet each a separate work; this is Lamentations, a new direction for multiple GRAMMY-nominee Thomas Peters. The emotions expressed within these nine pieces are a soothing tonic for the raw and dramatic times we endure, providing a hopeful and positive glimpse of the restoration ahead.
The primary instrument is an electronic bass (NS Design EU-6 bowed 6-string electric double bass designed by the legendary Ned Steinberger) bowed and occasionally plucked, sometimes joined by chimes, sometimes by an ethereal choral presence, and sometimes by a simple ukulele, and his laptop with Ableton Live. The intention of this album is to accomplish universal healing goals for 2021 and beyond, to provide emotional uplifting, and to create a space to process difficult emotions. The task of processing emotion and despair is important for finding healing and peace, but such efforts are sometimes difficult. Music can heal people and act as a preventive medicine, it also offers a simple way to improve troubled sleep, improving our ability to fall asleep and feel more rested. This music is uplifting and respectful of these emotions, which makes the listening experience rewarding.
A lament or lamentation is a passionate expression of grief, often in poetry or music. The Book of Lamentations is traditionally ascribed to Jeremiah, and tells of the desolation of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The patterns in music and all the arts can contain the keys to improve mood through emotional expression and release. A healthy brain tries to make sense of the world around, and the constant information it receives, including sound and music. Empathizing with grief provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. If you can use music to navigate past the pain and gather insight into the workings of your own mind, you can begin to fix a problem.
Depression is a highly prevalent mood disorder that is characterized by persistent low mood, diminished interest, and loss of pleasure. We must remember that mercy never ends, and is renewed every morning. Music may be helpful in modulating moods and emotions, creating room for a positive transformation and adaptation, our abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of our lives.
What you will hear is an intricate cello-style, performed on the bowed electric bass, intermingled with transformative concepts, sometimes with metallic percussion or choral accompaniment. The first song is an exception, it is a solo tone poem entirely formed by the sound of struck metal and connects directly to the last song in tone and feeling, forming a complete cyclic expression.
"From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord," Psalm 130, is a plea for divine mercy and the expression of confident trust in a universal goodness concealed in the chaos of our experiences. "Out of the Depths" (2:00), metallic tones, picking a melody in a stark setting, a prologue creating the mood for the album's journey.
As the brain interprets these sounds, a cascade of physical effects are triggered within the body, facilitating a slow and gradual movement or change. There is something very special about the sound and range of color a bowed electric bass can manifest. "Drifting" (9:56), warm choral tones, joined by the bass, infinitely slow, barely ecstatic, bringing a glowing warmth in an aimless course, a general underlying design or tendency, a balloon drifting in the wind, vulnerable and heartbroken, carried by the flow or the velocity of the current of a river or ocean stream, trance-like and mesmerizing.
The listener is drawn into this study of suffering to find a poignant confession of faith and hope, and is allowed to recall all the precious things that were ours in days of old. "A Million Pieces" (8:45), ukulele strings finger-picked in a repeating pattern, which becomes joined by the bass, and eventually is met by the chorus. My heart shattered into a million pieces, soft-spoken and fluttering, bringing tears to the eyes while also being uplifting. The result is that this condition is both more poignant and more personal.
Hope arises from a recollection of experiencing past goodness, an act of recalling to mind, something that serves to bring to mind or keep in mind some place. "Remembrance Canon" (6:36), a foundation of deep tones with bowed bass, repeating melodic cycles, the sound seems to emanate from a deep, russet realm, it can be appreciated on multiple levels, and will affect each listener in a deeply personal way. The painful beauty of the main theme, their presence together within the canon reveals the unity of this message.
The tragedy seems to go beyond comprehension and mourns alone, without friends, the music is restrained, wistful, seemingly never-ending, it makes the world stand still, and one almost has to stop breathing. "Without You" (11:16), bringing more textures, ringing percussive metal with atmospherics joined by the bowed bass. To heal we must be honest, we must simply be willing to hear the subtle shades of nobility, reflection, sorrow that becomes the voice of conscience and delivering a musical recitative of remorse and tenderness.
The music of Lamentations helps to calm the mind and reduce "racing thoughts” which can in turn help ease the trauma of grieving, lessen depression and provide an outlet for people who are otherwise withdrawn. "Still" (10:08), provides a slow sustained stark meditative atmosphere, which suggests spiritual ecstasy, achieving transcendence through the dematerialization of music; it uses minimalist techniques and plenty of time.
"Tenderness" (7:34), is a bowed duet with ukulele accompaniment, patterns emerge, layers build glowing richness and eerie calm like a delicate void with a drone-like bottom to the ethereal harmonics, a spellbinding sculpting of dynamics that is both musical and imaginative in its approach.
A common form of prayer is to directly appeal to a deity to grant one's requests, and can be sometimes described as the person praying having a dialogue or conversation with God, which can quiet the mind to allow an awareness of enlightened intention. Prayer might also be a spiritual method to prevent illness, cure disease, or improve health, while restoring the faithful to continue the conversation with God. "Prayer" (6:35), long slow notes that allow for our own prayers and ponderment, a repeated plucked theme and bowed paths that describe the way upwards.
Let us test and examine our ways, we must continue to express honestly our feelings in order to realize the goal of the use of music to restore, maintain, and improve mental and physical health. "De Profundis" (3:21), rich, warm and vibrant, with metal strings, chimes and a comforting chorus providing sustained atmospherics, a plea for divine mercy and the expression of confident trust in goodness, a heartfelt cry of appeal expressing deep feelings of sorrow or anguish. In Latin, De profundis is found in Psalm 129, which also became the title of a poem by Spanish author Federico García Lorca, as well as poems by Alfred Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Baudelaire, Christina Rossetti, C. S. Lewis, Georg Trakl, Dorothy Parker, José Cardoso Pires, and a letter by Oscar Wilde written towards the end of his life while he was in prison, bears the same title.
White feather cover photo credit: Cover photo: Joao Estevao Andrade de Freitas, "A Single White Feather Close Up." Source: Wikicommons (public domain)
Portrait photo: Linda Peters