Picture Dreams

Riley Lee & Satsuki Odamura

New World Music, 2002


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There is a reason that music is called the universal language. You don't need to be a native of a certain area of the world or knowledgeable about their culture to know good music when you hear it. Spoken language and customs all are put aside for a few short minutes while the melodies float through the air.

This is kind of the feeling I get when I listen to Picture Dreams, a disc of shakuhachi and koto duets by Riley Lee and Satsuki Odamura. You don't need to know just what a shakuhachi is (it's a kind of bamboo flute) or how to play a koto. You don't even need to know anything about Japanese history or customs. You just have to know great music when you hear it -- and, frankly, this is some of the most beautiful music I've heard in a long time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The seven pieces featured on Picture Dreams are either meant to musically tell a story or to paint a picture in the listener's mind. What I've found from my exposure to this disc is that the interplay between the two instruments creates a very relaxing atmosphere, and dares the listener to become introspective on whatever topic they choose. In this manner, Lee and Odamura are able to transcend any boundaries between their music and the listener, creating a picture which anyone can view in their own manner and enjoy.

Admittedly, it sometimes feels like the musical ideas that the two work off of might threaten to stall out at times, such as on "Tuning In D." But the listener must be willing to show patience, especially for those unfamiliar to this form of music; in due time, the pieces fall back into line.

American-born Lee's work on the shakuhachi demonstrates just why he is considered to be a master of this instrument; his playing carries enough power while maintaining a gentle edge to it, as heard on "Sacramental Christian Lullaby" and "The Dream Of The Dayflower." Odamura's koto work is phenomenal; anyone who believes the koto's range is limited need only hear her performances on this disc.

Any time I need to take a break from the real world and just collect my thoughts in a darkened room, away from computers, my family and whatnot, there are a few discs I listen to repeatedly to clear the mental cobwebs. Picture Dreams has most definitely earned a spot in that rotation, and will be getting a lot more attention from me. This demonstrates the kind of music which makes me want to learn more about music from other corners of the world.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of New World Music, and is used for informational purposes only.