Nicholas Gunn - Heat of the Passionate Heart

by Serge Kozlovsky

Some musicians come to the summit of their career after many years; some of them fly up to a musical sky like a bright stars and then maintain a bright blaze. Nicholas Gunn belongs to the second group. He has rushed into the world of a modern new age music, and it seems that he practically at once became one of those artists, without whom it is impossible to imagine this music. He is interesting not only by his impetuous "breakthrough," but first of all by his unique talent.

We'll talk about his music a little bit later, but first, some biographical facts. Nicholas Gunn is an Englishman, he was born in Rochester (Great Britain). Nicholas had a reliable musical education at the Royal School of Music in Rochester. While there, he learned to play flute and studied music theory. After graduating, Nicholas moved to Southern California, where he settled. He began composing his own music and at first Nicholas performed for friends who visited his home. As his number of compositions increased, Nicholas began to seek out a broader audience. In 1993 Nicholas recorded his debut album, "Afternoon In Sedona" at the Real Music Studio. Success of this album was enormous. What were these special features in Nicholas Gunn's music, which caused the incredible responses about it as a new, outstanding phenomena in the world of modern instrumental music?

First of all the music of Nicholas Gunn is individual and recognizable from the very first chords. He has found his own style: he has connected a soft flute and passionate "living" drums (which Nicholas also plays) as a whole. To these was added a perfect melodic line played on electronic keyboards, and to top it off, a real flamenco guitar! It made Gunn's music more passionate and harmonic. In Gunn's music the influence of Native American Indian music is present.

Gunn's music has a spiritual quality. It possesses power and passion, "charges" us by its energy and at the same time it is intelligent. The musician speaks to us and tries to show us his inner search. This is how Nicholas has described his composition "Qomolangma": "In everyone's hearts and minds lies a place where they can escape to feel the power of the earth. It is here where we can find peace and serenity or the challenge of living within the harmony of nature." His music is natural and earthy. In it the hidden power of Mother Earth is displayed, which is inspired by the passionate heart of the performer.

But let us continue the story, the most remarkable events are ahead. Nicholas successfully continued his creative work over next two years and released two albums entitled "The Sacred Fire" and "The Music of the Grand Canyon." Both albums made the Billboard top ten list.

"The Sacred Fire" displayed not only the special "Gunn" sound, but also featured performances by many interesting musicians. "Odessa," which was often played in various dancing clubs, features the vocals of Cassandra Sheard. In the composition "From Heaven to Earth" one can hear a famous violin player Karen Briggs who also performed in concert with Yanni. Still, the main adornment of the "Sacred Fire" is the classical guitar performance of Zavier. His instrument with soft nylon strings harmonizes the music and adds completeness to it.

"The Music of the Grand Canyon" which was released as part of "The National Parks Series" by Real Music Company is a classic in the new age music genre. Some may disagree, but I believe this album, as well as the other albums of the Series will form a part of history and will be studied as an example of "canonical new age." In "The Music of the Grand Canyon" everything is alloyed as a whole: percussion, flute, keyboards, guitar, voices of American Indians and nature sounds. Added to this are a variety of nature sounds recorded in the National Parks. "As a composer and musician, I believe that everything resonates with a frequency - earth, people and objects. I translate this energy into images using instruments and sound. The compositions on this disc are not necessarily about what I saw while in the Canyon, but rather a reflection of the frequency that resides within the Canyon," tells Gunn. This is where I see the main merit of the album. This music promotes visualization. When hearing the composition "Flight Over North Rim," it seems that you fly over the Canyon and you observe its panorama from the height of bird's flight. Breadth and a large scope are characteristic to Gunn's music. "The echoing voices, the sound within the rocks, the moonlit sky, turquoise waters and changing shadows are what I hope to have captured and put into these melodies. I felt the power of the Canyon and the tranquil song within it. Close your eyes and visualize as you journey through The Music of the Grand Canyon." On the composition "Grand Canyon" is the voice of Razor Saltboy, a member of the Navajo Indian Nation, who tells about this majestic monument of the Nature. Gunn and the Real Music company have decided to pass ten percent of the income from releasing of the album to the Grand Canyon Association, which is working on projects to preserve the unique nature reserve. By its design this CD is a real masterpiece, one of the best of all I've seen.

In 1996, Gunn released his fourth album named "Crossroads." It was a courageous and in many respects experimental project. In my opinion, this was a turning point in Gunn's creative work. With "Crossroads" we hear a new Gunn: more mature and more refined. Maybe these changes in Gunn's music was caused by the fact that in the first time his wife Cheryl Gunn was co-author and arranger. Arrangements here became more complicated, the part of electronic instruments increased, along with usual "living" drums and flute of Nicholas, acoustic guitar by Zavier and Indians voices, appeared violins, acoustic piano and even vocals (including Cheryl's very sensually performed composition, "Forever"). Gunn's music became more dynamic and emotional, though "Crossroads" is stylistically more indistinct and uneven. One could feel that the performer is in the process of a creative search, trying for a new sound and finding new means of realizing his ideas. Maybe due to this search the music of "Crossroads" seemed somewhat contradictory. It was more difficult for some fans of Gunn to accept this album. However, even the most critical could find in the album some compositions which are wonderful in their beauty of sound such as "Forever" and "Return of the Butterfly."

In 1997 Gunn took part in recording Cheryl Gunn's debut album, "Vanity of Venus" which was released by Anagram Records. Nicholas's influence is strongly felt in this album. The music is very romantic, sincere and sensual. One might compare this album with the works of Enya. It seems that Nicholas has not only found his love, but he successfully discovered new horizons of his creative work.

Nicholas's strongest and most interesting project is his last album to date entitled "Passion in My Heart." This album was released quite recently and it undoubtedly has become one of the most bright events in new age music over the last years. Gunn's instrumental music has changed a little. It has become more emotionally saturated. He expresses his ideas more succinctly to achieve a perfection of his form. Especially powerful are two compositions, "El Galivan" and "Pale Moon Rising," which follow one another and are merged together. Cheryl took part in the arranging once again and also performed on the keyboard pieces.

If every musician could be compared with any particular element, then Nicholas is undoubtedly fire. Sometimes this fire is soft and warming the soul, sometimes it is passionate and burning. "Passion in My Heart" possesses clearance of mind, combined with inspiration and spirituality. Gunn says that in his music he tries to reflect the best things in life. According to him, "it is a reflection of where I picture the world to be, of everything in balance."

In June of this year, Cheryl Gunn released a new album called "The Sun At Midnight" on Sonic Images Records. Nicholas took part in the recording of the album both as flutist and arranger. Nicholas and Cheryl are a duet, helping each other, so the two origins - masculine and feminine - are united here not only in matrimony but also in music.

P.S. I would like to express my gratitude to Alexander Petrov for translation of this article.

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© 1999 Serge Kozlovsky