Riley Lee,
Music for Zen Meditation
(Narada, 2003)

Music for Zen Meditation by Riley Lee spins drifting melodies that fill a room with silence as much as sound. With titles like "Sea Breeze" and "Serenity Flows," the songs reflect nature's stillness, melodies mimicking the gentle rhythms of nature.

The soft tone, more glimpses than tune, is written to carry us towards our centers. A dai shihan, or grandmaster, of the ancient shakuhachi flute tradition, Lee guides us deeper and deeper into ourselves. He embraces the essence of zen, exploring it with only his flute for a guide. For centuries, the shakuhachi has been an instrument of zen, as much as seated meditation has. Both are tools to find the center. Playing this flute is a spiritual discipline, referred to as "blowing Zen," suizen. As the artist plays, he, his instrument, and his music all become one. Zen encompasses recognizing the oneness of everything, as it guides the listener into its depths.

For those of us with more secular interests, the music is soft and peaceful, unintrusive. For stretching or for background music, Music for Zen Meditation fills the room with its own serenity. The only sound present is Lee's solitary flute, a single instrument with only five finger holes. Yet it produces a wide range of sound, echoing mournfully and then whispering like wind song. These tones sound far more genuine than the synthesizers and artificial cries of gulls gyrating on today's relaxation tapes.

This double CD collection offers 25 mystical songs, full of soft tones, drawing the listener deeper and deeper into herself. From "In Time Suspended" to "Cascade," the music flows like a mountain stream, still and vibrant. It offers centeredness, oneness and mystery. For in the echo of its silence is music, while each tone contains an orchestra of meaning.

- Rambles
written by Valerie Frankel
published 25 October 2003

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