Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Path of Peace

Ben Dowling / Mark Wagner

Visionsound Innovative Arts


www.bendowling.com    www.visionsound.com




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Think of your favourite indulgent meal. Does a glass of the finest wine to accompany your chosen dish enhance the dining experience? For many the answer to this question would be "yes"- and, if this is the case, the reader may begin to appreciate why Visionsound's inaugural CD, "The Path of Peace" is a special and, indeed, quite unique experience.

The publisher's name- Visionsound- is most befitting, for this CD/DVD package created by pianist Ben Dowling and artist Mark Wagner is exactly that: a compelling visual experience, through the imagery created by Mark, and the auditory bliss resonating from Ben's piano. 

Put the two together, and you have a magical combination; a cocktail from heaven. Let's explore further.  

Although it is Mark Wagner who is the recognised artist, pianist Ben Dowling clearly has artistic juices bubbling away inside him. He explains how he doesn't just imagine how a composition should sound, he carefully considers how it should be represented visually. "I think in terms of space, of colour, of dimension," explains Ben, so perhaps it is only natural that he should collaborate with Mark on this project.

Ben's piano music has all the characteristics expected by Piano-Heaven. It is very relaxing, compelling and- at times- achingly beautiful. It is perfectly possible to listen to the music by itself, and I have done this on numerous occasions. As a stand-alone CD, it fairs very well. However, for the ultimate listening experience, one should flip over the CD and listen to the heavenly music whilst becoming entranced in the visual treat created by Mark.

The latest technology has been used to make this possible, both in terms of the process by which the CD was made, and the ability to have a double-sided disc- a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. European readers should note that the DVD is in NTSC format as opposed to PAL, and therefore the DVD might not work properly on some DVD players. I simply played mine on the PC, and there were no problems at all.

For me, there are four musical highlights on this CD / DVD. Track one, "Alone" gets the album off to a perfect start. Mark's abstract pastel work brings the music to life. The result is utterly captivating. I found myself spellbound towards the imagery that lay before me. In the accompanying notes, Mark explains how this was a completely new experience for him as an artist, having never before used music as a stimuli for instantaneous art-work. The process, curiously, is the precise opposite to how well-known Greek composer Vangelis works. He creates music in response to the frames of a film, and this is how he feels he works best. Here, Mark is responding directly to the musical notes from the hands of Ben, and he can be extremely pleased with the end results.

I adore "Exploration", which is the album's seventh track. Very minimalist, it is also the album's most melodic piece. The surreal paintings which accompany the music are very hypnotising. They are staggeringly beautiful. One never tires of them, as they are constantly evolving with the music; as the musical composition develops, so the art changes with it. A change in direction here, a new focus there. The music is a delight; each note is just perfect. 

And perfect really does mean perfect.

Another favourite is Track 11, "Awakening". It's back to the pastels / chalks again, and Ben's busy left hand is represented by some quite frantic visual images from Mark. I love the variety in the artwork; there is never a dull moment. The music and the art complement each other so well; each is enhanced by the other's presence.

This highly impressive package closes with "Emergence". Once again, the music is heavenly. Upon seeing the accompanying imagery for the first time, I immediately thought of arteries and veins, to be quickly followed by a baby in its mother's womb. There is no explanation about the artwork, and I think this is a good thing, because it allows the listener to "lose them self" in the project, and to let their imagination drift in whichever direction it feels like going.    

The music on the CD is consistently soporific. It is ambient, minimalist in form, and never "showy". There are some elements of light jazz to one or two of the compositions, but these are few and far between. The artwork is fascinating. It is interesting to note that Mark found Ben's compositions inspiring, offering him a new approach to his work. He explains how the music slowed him down, opening up a new creative side to him.

Both Ben and Mark deserve great credit for their work here. As a reviewer, and piano lover, I can only applaud the way they have successfully integrated two different mediums. I would be interested if at some time in the future, they try some role-reversal- i.e. Ben improvises with his piano in response to the images before him.

In the meantime, enjoy this very special package. It opens up many possibilities in terms of its usage. For instance, I envisage it being perfect for Spas and for therapeutic purposes. How wonderful it would be to enter into a room in a gallery with surround-sound and the imagery projected onto a wall. 

I highly recommend "The Path of Peace". Put on the DVD and savour the moment.

The wine is optional.








Path of Peace

Ben Dowling / Mark Wagner



Ben Dowling




Mark Wagner





Listen to Exploration

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