A moment of quiet beauty
Some days it feels as though people have forgotten how to appreciate beauty. In the west, at least, our culture thrives on replacement. We constantly find ourselves looking beyond what we currently see, and in doing so, we ignore the accomplishments hiding beneath our noses. While the desire for constant improvement has led to some pivotal innovations in music, art and technology, those innovations came at a cost. Far too often, the price people pay is the price of satisfaction. People exchange the will to live for the will to be better, and they destroy themselves in the process. Balmorhea pushes back against that cultural desire. They invite people to sit in reverence of the beauty all around them. What beauty they have found.
The Wind, Balmorhea’s latest project, doesn’t just push against the western need to grab one’s attention. It pushes against all traditions of modern songwriting. Each track has a distinct flavor, but these flavors are mild when compared to the mixture that is the whole dish of The Wind. While it is certainly not the first record to have songs that are more like movements than individual pieces of music, it is among the more successful attempts. Take, for example, “The Myth.” On streaming services, this track is far and away from the most popular. It’s not hard to see why. The piercing clarity of Lisa Morgenstern’s voice adds a profound beauty to the track, conferring a spiritual quality to the composition. It sounds like wandering through a forest on a journey of self-discovery. It is an isolated song, but it is not lonely. It is curious. When “The Myth” gives way to the piano-focused “V,” people know something has shifted, but it is not so severe that it registers as a separate experience. Morgenstern returns yet again to add beautiful vocalizations to the trepidatious piano melody. The forest grows darker and more alien, but the discoveries become all the more wondrous.
This dance of wonder takes place at all instances in the record. It is not bound by chronology or sequence; it is an ever-expanding dance of introspection that only exists in one moment—now. It’s a sentiment that is reinforced by the procession of instruments that make up this album. “Rose In Abstract” heavily features piano and stringed instruments, “Ne Plus Ultra” returns to the comforting pluck of an acoustic guitar and the interlude “Vent Pontian” experiments with found sounds. Each track seems as though it landed in the lap of Balmorhea after tumbling from the sky. There is effort and skill, to be sure, but the unifying sense of wonder and joy that each track captures allows the work to sink into the background. When people open their eyes, only the most profound beauty remains in focus.
In a world of constant striving, people need moments of rest. Often, these moments are impossible to find. Something is always going wrong, and something could always be made better. Perhaps people could take the soft, quiet lessons of The Wind to heart. Perhaps people could all become better people if they just appreciated the pauses between the notes. If people just listened in to hear that it wasn’t silenced at all, it was the music all along.