If you are into soulful, thought provoking and consciousness expanding ambient music, Scott Lawlor is a composer and artist who needs to be on your musical radar. His vast body of work will keep your ears attuned for a long time to both your inner spirit and that indefinable “other” in the Universe. A visit to his incredible Bandcamp page (https://scottlawlor.bandcamp.com/music) reveals a staggering 209 releases in this genre. Two of his latest demanding our deepest attention, Look Unto the Heavens and Transition, are insightful musical-philosophical reflections and deeply therapeutic instrumental pieces. Both were lovingly crafted as a response to his beloved brother Joe’s suffering with stage 4 cancer - and his ultimate transition beyond this mortal coil to more heavenly realms free from these human limitations.
Lawlor pointed me towards Look Unto the Heavens as the poetic “open door,” a rich and expansive inner search for a meaning to suffering that sets up Transition, a multi-faceted five track meditation he composed in late November 2017, less than two weeks after Joe departed. Look to the Heavens used its offbeat lengthy titles to tackle some of these heavy mysteries comprising the eternal “Why.” These included “Clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews” and “our days on earth are but a shadow.” Some titles read like longer sayings or verses of poetry. The titles of the five tracks comprising Transition are shorter, crisper, perhaps a reflection of how the ceasing noise and clamor surrounding a painful end to this life gives way to something gentler that needs fewer words to express.
Explaining the overarching narrative behind Transition, Scott says, “Each track has a story behind it and they were written to convey a sense of tears and heartache that we all have experienced as a result of a great man being taken from us way too soon. We mourn not for him because he is no longer in pain, but for our loss as we are left behind to live our lives, a little…more.”
With ambient music, it’s best to let the sonic landscape take us on a journey and dictate impressions of the emotions we experience along the way. On “Sacred Ground,” a 17 minute piece conveying quiet, stillness and reverence, Lawlor uses the organ to transport us not only to church but to the doors of the knowable yet unknowable realms its human doctrines point to. Lawlor says that his brother’s hospice workers called his home during those final weeks “sacred ground” – and indeed anyplace on the planet can become that during the time leading to our final transition. Listening to this piece with our eyes closed, and using it to tap into our own memories, we can contemplate the lives of our own loved ones who have passed even as we connect with Lawlor’s own sense of mourning, discovery and mystery.
The more spiritual among us will connect immediately with the ethereal formless voices they hear in rising chorus at the start of “Whispering Voices” – a ten minute reflection on a moment when Lawlor’s mother was sitting with Joe and heard whispered or muffled voices, which she intuited must be angels gathering. The track will comfort those among us open-minded enough to who believe in such things. It’s as if they are joining forces around our loved one’s bed, helping the dying and the living experience a peaceful transition. The improvised atmospheric energy of “Momentary Presence (Featuring wings of an angel)” ranges from long stretches of intensely bright light and soaring to quieter, gentler passages of moodier reflection.
Lawlor wrote this piece based on a fleeting supernatural encounter as he sat by Joe’s bed one day. He felt a presence, and we can almost visualize the figure glowing then dimming as the track eases on. The title track “Transition” is a dynamics-rich 27 minute musical essay that defies easy description, which is natural when one is digging deeper than ever before into our human experience to understand just how souls move from this plane to the next. Lawlor modulates his synth to create sustained notes full of wonder, murkiness, clarity and peace – for his family and for Joe, who is now part of eternity.
“The Last Goodbye” is the album’s sole piano composition, a moody, thoughtful meditation that showcases Lawlor’s sense of melodic beauty and, for category’s sake, is more mainstream “new age” than “space ambience.” It’s an emotional, tear-filled farewell that speaks to Joe as if to say it’s okay that he is now home while addressing his survivors - and telling them it’s okay to mourn for now, but someday there will be a joyous reunion in the other realm. Overall, Transition is an profound, incredibly insightful work, and hopefully will be an open door to Lawlor’s unique musical universe and its vast musical and spiritual adventures.