In a world that seems to be spinning even more out of control, the calming music of Grammy-nominated keyboardist/ composer Steven Halpern is a welcome sonic sanctuary. A legend in the New Age music world for decades, Halpern’s catalog includes an impressive number of releases with over 100 titles, including his Grammy® nominated, Billboard charting Deep Alpha: Brainwave Balancing Meditation Music. (64 weeks on the Top Ten New Age music charts.)
Throughout his career, Halpern’s unique sound palette features the luminous tones of the Rhodes Mark 7 electric piano. In his hands, each tone of this keyboard becomes a meditation in itself as he orchestrates sound and silence into a mellow masterpiece of inner peace. Listen with headphones to fully appreciate the exquisite sonic detail.
Steven Halpern’s latest album, the 9-track, 68-minute Ocean Of Bliss Vol.2, expands upon his COVR Gold Medal award-winning 2020 album Ocean Of Bliss Vol.1. The creative collaborations feature Grammy winner Paul McCandless (oboe) Kristin Hoffmann (wordless vocals) and Jorge Alfano (bamboo flute).
What truly sets this album apart from most in the genre is the lushness and 3-dimensional quality of the sound itself, like liquid silk. The deep reverb field adds to the timeless and spaciousness of each track.
Ocean Of Bliss Vol.2 begins with the angelic, melodic vocal toning of Kristin Hoffmann. Kristin brings a higher level of creativity and musicianship than you’ll hear on most any other vocal toning recording.
Kristin channels ‘sea angels’ with nuanced phrases that float above and through Halpern’s delicate filigrees of sound on Rhodes piano and Chopin-esque grand piano. It’s like they are dancing with each other and the subtle rhythm of the soothing ocean waves.
Bansuri bamboo flute master Jorge Alfano is featured on the serene tone poem on “Part 2.” Halpern’s evocative keyboards provide the perfect orchestration for Jorge’s hauntingly beautiful bansuri bamboo flute.
The album’s final track features Grammy® award winner Paul McCandless, who weaves intricate melodic phrases on oboe in and around Halpern’s impressionistic grand piano on the 19-minute duet that ends the album.
Relaxing the listener while creating a psycho-acoustic effect that works like a “tuning fork for your human instrument”®, Ocean Of Bliss Vol.2 works its magic as a healing symphony of enlightening sounds that relaxes body, mind and spirit. From the first notes of Ocean Of Bliss Vol.2, you can ‘feel and hear’ the music with your soul, and not just your ears. You will very likely feel uplifted and at peace, with a smile on your face.
mwe3.com presents a new interview with
mwe3: Ocean Of Bliss Vol.2 is the 2022 sequel to the 2020 release of Ocean Of Bliss. What kind of sonic parameters did you set out to explore on Vol. 2 and is there a way that you can compare the sound and compositional approach on the two Volumes?
Steven Halpern: Very simply, since I feature the Rhodes electric piano on Volume one, I wanted to feature grand piano as well. My audio engineer and I added in some special cathedral reverb and echo setting to make the overall sound field even more ethereal.
The most striking difference is the addition of a musical mermaid / goddess. Kristin Hoffmann glides over the gentle ocean waves with wordless vocals. She’s an extraordinary artist on her own albums, and my favorite vocalist. I feature her artistry on two previous albums, Echoes Of A Dreamand Cannabis Dreams.
There is also a 19-minute track, an inspirational collaboration with the legendary Paul McCandless on oboe.
mwe3: How did the guest artists help shape the sonic differences and even approaches between the two albums?
Steven Halpern: In each collaboration, I recorded my solo compositions on Rhodes or grand. With Jorge and Kristin, I sent them the tracks and they recorded their parts in their own studios.
They sent their overdubs back to our studio, and I mixed them with my engineer over Zoom. It was much more tedious than when we were in the same room, as we had been for the 25 years prior to the pandemic. But without Zoom, none of this could have happened. Thank you, Zoom.
mwe3: How do you decide what music to put on a new album and what is your creative process like?
I often record about two hours of music. I live with the tracks for months, and when I choose my favorite tracks that will fit on a CD, I listen most every night as I go to sleep.
If not, I save it for a future album. Sometimes I have tracks that have waited five or more years to finally be find the right album to be part of.
mwe3: The whole album is brilliant, especially the breathtaking beginning with Kristin Hoffmann, but the final two tracks on Ocean Of Bliss 2 really stood out to me as masterpieces; they merge into each other with sonic finesse. These two tracks fit seamlessly together and complement each other.
Steven Halpern: Yes, that is by design. Track 8 adds subtle psycho-acoustic textures and choir voicings to the solo grand piano basic track in addition to adding the ocean sounds. For an extra dimension of detailed production values, I also include some dolphin and whales sounds.
mwe3: Did you sequence those tracks to close the album for a maximum concentrated impression?
mwe3: In Ocean Of Bliss "Part 8" did you sample Kristin Hoffmann's voice?
Steven Halpern: No, I did not sample Kristin’s voice. She sang all her phrases. What I did do, however, was to use some of her phrases several times. I liked some so much that I didn’t want to wait three minutes into the track to hear them, which was where she sang them.
mwe3: I could swear I can hear her voice wafting by near the track ending.
mwe3: Jorge Alfano brings his elegant flute on Ocean Of Bliss and Ocean Of Bliss 2. Tell us how you met Jorge.
Steven Halpern: We met at the 1997 Sound Colloquium with many of the leading sound healers doing presentations. We were both in the audience when one of the other sound ‘healers’ demonstrated his theory about the healing power of dissonance.
It was horrendous, like fingernails on a blackboard. We made it to safety in the lobby, and shared our opinion. Then he introduced himself.
I invited him to sit in during my performance on piano. From the first notes of his shakuhachi bamboo flute, I knew he was a master musician. Even better, he was able to play in tune with Western instruments, which most shaku players cannot.
When I visited South Florida for gigs or family matters, we’d always get together, do some recording, and just hang out with the leading South American sound healer.
We wanted to release an album in which every track features our collaborations. It was delayed due to lockdown, but it is finished and will be released in the near future.
mwe3: You recorded an album with Paul McCandless in 2002 called Perfect Alignment and you also feature a collaboration with Paul on your 2020 album Echoes of A Dream. What were the vibes like working with Paul?
Steven Halpern: Working with Paul McCandless was one of the highest moments in my recording/producing career. I waited almost 15 years for our schedules to align and invite him into the studio. Paul is a master musician, who has not received the full recognition he deserves. Of course, I was familiar with his work with Oregon in the 1970s, and always wanted to record with him.
The wait was well worth it. I pre-produced most of the tracks on Perfect Alignment to make maximum use of his time.
In the live recording session, I had the engineer play the first track, and Paul would improvise along with the music. Most of the album uses his first take. That’s what a master musician he is!
Plus, he tuned into the essence of the music I composed and pre-produced in a way that exceeded my lofty expectations.
mwe3: What it was like recording with Paul McCandless?
Steven Halpern: What I find especially marvelous about Paul’s playing is how he builds upon themes, creating call and response with himself... Here’s another secret I was going to save for my memoir, but I don’t want to wait. I won’t tell you which track(s), but some of Paul’s most lyrical, soaring melodies were originally played as he listened to the groove-based mixes with conga, cajon and fretless bass. What I discovered when we were mixing those tracks, is that the music was even more spiritually resonant without the rhythmic pulse. That album will come out later this year. You heard it here first, folks...
Paul McCandless and I were together for only two days, first in 2002, which yielded Perfect Alignment and January 20, 2019 right before the studio moved to Oregon.
Since I had been wanting to record with Paul ever since I first heard him with Oregon, I pre-produced a number of arrangements with him in mind. What was it like? He tuned in to the vibe, and took the tracks to another dimension.
His improvisations are more like real-time compositions… one idea leads to the next. For Ocean Of Bliss 2, I edited and re-sequenced some of my piano motifs, and added atmospheric ear candy that moves around inside your head if you are wearing headphones. Of course, I also added the gentle ocean surf sounds.
mwe3: You two have such a cool chemistry.
Steven Halpern: For “Part 9” of Ocean Of Bliss Vol. 2 I added the ocean sounds, which added an additional dimension duet. Adding the ocean actually changes the way you perceive the music. Although the notes are the same that we play, they ‘sound’ different.
Your readers should listen to “In the Realms Of Healing” from my Sound Healing 432 Hz album to hear what I believe is one of the most awesome five minutes of New Age/classical chamber music ever recorded. Paul improvised his soaring melody that floats over the atmospheric voicings. It’s all ‘in the moment’ …a first take!
That’s why I had to end this album with this extended track of luxurious music… to create a deeper experience of getting inside the music.
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