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CD REVIEW: Steven Chesne - Deva / Muses of Aqua
By JJ Biener - 09/01/2008 - 12:56 PM EDT

Artist: Steven Chesne / Luminous World Orchestra
Album: Deva / Muses of Aqua
Genre: Ambient
CD Review:

Steven Chesne is a composer. I mean he is a real composer. He has written symphonies, concertos and orchestral suites which have been played by groups like the Ventura Symphony Orchestra and the LA Modern String Orchestra. He has written extensively for television and film. He was honored by ASCAP in 2003 for his film scoring work. He is a real composer.

When someone like Chesne decides to record and release his original music, the result is The Luminous World Orchestra and a pair of CD's entitled Muses of Aqua and Deva. The music incorporates elements Ambient and Classical into a seamless whole that transcends either genre. If you read Ambient and you only think of blips and bloops and layered keyboard sounds which seem to wander aimlessly, Chesne will surprise you. If you read Classical and you think of traditional instruments used in stock, staid arrangements harking back 200 years, Chesne will delight you. Chesne takes the melody and instrumentation from Classical music and combines it with the textures and tonalities of Ambient. The result is music that can comfortably stay in the background while you are otherwise occupied with perhaps yoga or meditation, or it can easily stay in the foreground and hold your attention.

On Deva, the opening track is a nearly 13-minute-long opus called Cantus Firmus. It brings together strings, guitar and woodwinds with a Native American flute. It is beautifully melodic, richly harmonic and finely textured. At times Chesne's film scoring background shows through in that the portions of the piece could easily work as underscore. Other times the textures seems more other-worldly and distinct.

Also on Deva, is the track Maya. It starts with a beautifully constructed harmony on strings. The melody comes in played on an Erhu, a Chinese fiddle. The sound of the Erhu is not one that can be mistaken for a Western string instrument. The contrast between West and East tonalities is striking, but ultimately, it works.

On Muses of Aqua, the track Still Water uses counterpoint between Balinese Gamelan gongs and guitar as its foundation. An erhu comes in to carry the melody alternating with flute. Strings and harp eventually take over the counterpoint for a time before returning it to the Gamelan and guitar. The piece is a study in shifting textures while maintaining a unifying theme throughout.

Each of these CD's can work equally well on its own, but together they make a matched set. Clearly there is one musical vision which winds its way through both CD's. Chesne's skill at composition and arrangement sets these works apart from others who seek to walk this musical path and few succeed. To hear the music of Steven Chesne and The Luminous World Orchestra, check out or the MySpace page

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