Clara Ponty: The EmbracePiano with an “Oomph!”
Clara Ponty – The Embrace
Genre: New Age
CREDITS: 1999 Philips Classics, Philips Music Group
- The Embrace
- Les Berceaux (The Cradles)
- Spirit Dancer
- Lasting Peace
- Bridge of Clear Light
Browsing through the Classical and New Age section of Tower Records as my usual wont is, I chanced upon Clara Ponty’s The Embrace on their listening rack. I thought, “Hm. Piano. Must be something heavenly about this to be listed in the New Age section alongside Enya…” Suddenly overcome with curiosity, I plopped the headphones on my ears and proceeded to listen.
Boy, was I in for a surprise! For not only does Clara Ponty’s music sound absolutely divine, I was taken to a whole new dimension in musical imagination. The CD cover scheme best describes what I felt: calm, serene, clear, and blue that had nothing to do with loneliness but more with the ocean. Rippling with waves and waves of overwhelming images that come to mind. Warm, loving arms in The Embrace, the title track, which is dedicated to the last days of Clara’s grandmother Lucia. Cool, crystal clear, flowing river in Crystalline. Haunting innocence of the past in Spirit Dancer.
Migration makes me think of the human soul, transcending to the next level after leaving its physical body. Rapture is simply that—rapture. And there’s the first track, Pierrot, which strangely reminds me of a time-travel inspired video game I once played called Chrono Trigger. Truly, finding a favorite track must seem such an impossible task.
The album itself comprises of not just piano music, but it’s piano accompanied with various dreamy instruments I’d never even heard of! Playing with Clara are Reza Darakshani on the ney flute, Mino Cinelu and Cyro Baptista on percussion, Kevin Khun on acoustic and Charango guitar and the bouzouki, Caryl Paisner on cello, Robert Magnuson on flute, Laraaji on 36 string zither, Eric Calvi and John Lissauer on programming and various ambient sound effects that are composed of cloud organs, wine glasses (Yes, wine glasses, you read me right!), bonang gamelons and various other sounds that are foreign to my ears.
Vocals are quite prominent here too, provided by Clara Ponty herself, Knoop Children’s Choir and Loretta Muse. But if you think that they’re singing some angsty, out of this world, pre-written lyrics, think again. This is a purely instrumental album, and that means vocals here are used as instrumental enhancements instead of being the accompanied.
Born in a family of musicians, with renowned jazz/electric violinist Jean Luc Ponty for her father, a violin teacher for a grandfather, and a piano instructor for a grandmother, Clara Ponty’s future has already been paved for her. The only thing left for her to do to get out of her father’s shadow was prove her talent and her familiarity with various genres from classic to jazz to other contemporary genres. And that she did—presenting a wide array of exotic sounds, including African tribal percussion techniques and other internationally inspired influences. This is music for the soul. This is artistry at its finest.