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  • Jonathan Widran

ANN LICATER, Whispers From Earth

Though the pandemic raised our collective anxiety to levels previously unheard of, it’s not solely to blame for the chaos within us and the bustle of anger, fear and distraction just around every corner. In the modern world, with our devices becoming appendages, social media and a 24 hour news cycle driving every thought and conversation, how many of us ever stop, take a beat or two, get out and expose our senses and souls to the healing, cleansing power of nature?

It’s often hard to find a free moment, let alone the hours it might take to find the perfect spot to achieve a blissful sense of Zen on a planet riddled with frenzy. Which makes the soul nourishing and restorative 45 minutes of Ann Licater’s latest epic collection Whispers From Earth all the more essential.

An influential presence and bold sonic visionary in the new age and mindfulness realms in the 15 years since her debut album Following the Call, the award winning flutist/composer used her time away from life’s maelstrom’s wisely, finding the perfect natural places in Southern California to engage in meditation and the mindful practice of gratitude. These include The Huntington Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino and stretches along the Pacific in Laguna Beach and Malibu – true oases just short drives from the urban sprawl of SoCal.

Ann has found that engaging in these activities and reflecting through journaling, creates a clear channel for the transcendent intuitively felt music to come through her. All this is to our own meditational benefit, as the album’s 12 luminous pieces – from the melodically expansive, gently atmospheric title track through the haunting, slightly exotic and Eastern music tinged “Following the Call (Horizons)” – encourage us to stop in our tracks and just breathe as we soak in the sweet natural sounds and healing vibrations of the planet.

Photo by Steve Voldseth

In many ways, those whispers Ann shares via her Native American style flutes, Native American flutes, folk flute and Mayan-style drone flute sweep through us as the breath of life itself, giving flight to hope and dreams beyond the day to day. Although recordings like Whispers from Earth are truly best appreciated as flow-through experiences, letting one track breeze into the next and the next and then repeat several times for full spiritual and emotional effect, there are a few key entry points into Ann’s world.

Nobody knows this music the way the renowned NPR affiliated radio program Hearts of Space does – and taking their lead, the focal tracks are the lyrical, caressing folk flute/electric bass/moyo drum trio “Star Stream Dreamer,” the gentle, soothing cry of “Prayer for Peace” and “Initiation (Awakening)," a luminous piece Ann performs as dual voices coming from the Mayan Style Drone flute.

Though by design, many of these tracks indeed flow seamlessly into one another, there is one that stands out above the others and truly needs multiple listens to fully appreciate – and wake up to as an instant day brightener. That’s the stunning (and perfectly titled!) “Luminous Morning,” where Ann duets with herself on flute and grand piano, grounding her charming and fanciful woodwind musings in the grace of simple and elegant chords and fluttering ivory notes.

To Ann, the piece reminds her of fluttering wings in a garden or sunlight bouncing off the ocean waves. Listeners can close their eyes and go anywhere their imaginations take them – no doubt hoping all along that she’ll send more waves of flute and piano magic our way in the future.

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Photo by D'Arcy Allison Teasley


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