Various Artists

National Geographic Around the World: Serenity

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A collection of relaxing music from around the world, the only ties between the artists here are those of tempo. The genres and styles represented are widespread, but each song is a slow work to aid in the feeling of serenity. The album opens on a basic pastoral violin piece from Norway, moves relatively seamlessly into some Chilean flute and panpipe music, and then into a thoroughly different Chinese piece, almost stereotypical in its sound, with erhu and yang qin heavily featured. New age guitarist Stevan Pasero represents the U.S. with a current composition, and Spain is represented by a movement from Enrique Granados' "Bocetos" suite. The shakuhachi makes a predictable appearance, complete with additional bamboo and chime effects, followed by a local form of the mbira from the Congo playing a light number and accompanied by some gentle drumming. The Paraguayan harp is presented by Carlos Reyes, and a piece for tar and ney is presented from the Middle East, breaking the serenity a bit during tar portions, but staying within the most basic guidelines for "serene" music. A bit of balalaika makes the transition via strings back into the European realm, and classical guitarist Marc Teicholz brings the transition fully back with a bit of Bach's "Sarabande." The album finishes on a bit of Celtic harp as Cliona Ni Dhuill moves through a stately version of "Arrane Ghelbee" that lost its lyrics long ago. The premise of this album is basic enough: to collect music, anecdotes, and ideas surrounding the concept of serenity from around the world. As such, it does a good job of reaching its goal without hitting the new age genre too much, which would have been an obvious route to take. There are occasional bumps in the serenity of the music, itself, but, overall, it's a nice album for its purpose.

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