Generally when we reflect on lengthy and successful careers in music, it’s customary to frontload with length of discography and important industry accolades. So as we listen to veteran synthesist/composer Meg Bowles' exquisite, transcendent and deeply contemplative and spiritual new collection Pilgrimage, it makes perfect sense to mention that the project is the culmination of 30 years as a recording artist – a journey that began with her first two releases in 1993, Inner Space and Solstice Dreams. Her last two releases, The Shimmering Land (2013) and Evensong: Canticles for the Earth (2018) were voted Best Ambient Album by Zone Music Reporter (ZMR).
Still, the more meaningful and enduring impact of artists like Meg can be found in the way her music has impacted the hearts, souls and lives her music has touched. The artist herself declares, “If it hadn’t been for the constancy of music in my life, especially growing up, I don’t think I would still be here.” While it’s possible that somewhere along the line, an expansive piece she wrote has literally saved a few lives, it’s even more likely that most who have been touched by her eminent grace and vivid and adventurous musical imagination have at least experienced some kind of healing and are healthier, more whole beings as a result of their encounters.
In reflecting on the inspiration for the unique six track journey she shares on Pilgrimage, Meg naturally touches on the idea that music often serves as a portal into the greater mystery, or what famed analytical psychologist Carl Jung once memorably termed “the realm of the numinous.” She also says, “Music can be profoundly healing, holding us in a space where we can feel grounded and expanded at the same time, in an environment which supports us to breathe, imagine and feel transported into an experience of greater ease and connection.”
The final element that comes into play in the craft and manifestation of Pilgrimage is the beauty and power of nature. For Meg, the natural world – including all beings with whom we share the planet, its landscapes and natural phenomena – and the cycles of which we are all part played a major role in the creation process, from its track titles to her extensive use of sounds derived from field recordings via plugins such as Bioscape (Luftrum).
“Cloudburst over a Parched Landscape,” for instance, takes us from the refreshing excitement of a rainstorm through a burst of dynamic aural colors as the land is replenished and a later quieter, reflective contentment in nature’s job well done. Over the course of nearly 13 minutes, “Mountains Reaching for the Stars” paints a hopeful, dynamics filled story that shifts from moments of bright intensity to a gentler, wondrous curiosity looking towards the night sky and later a sense of floating and soaring to spiritual and literal heights previously unimagined.
Meg is a bit more grounded but no less adventurous on her deeply hypnotic venture through the “Luminous Garden of Repose,” which fuses a sweet and calming (and yes, healing) sense of liquidity against a softly lit backing ambient sky. The volume and emotional intensity of that sky shifts frequently, but the cheerful bubbly effect remains, uplifting our spirits and our connection to the land throughout.
The titles of her other tracks – “Ancient Paths,” “Cave of Secrets” and “Source of Enduring Light” – seem designed to facilitate our own individual journeys to discover their meaning for ourselves. The life experience we bring to the listening experience is just as important as Meg’s guidance, as we ease along those sometimes calm, often explosive and extraterrestrial “Ancient Paths,” enter the exotic, mystical and water-tinged “Cave of Secrets” and find our “Source of Enduring Light,” a seductive mind bender that takes us along an astral spectrum where we may encounter divinity (however we may individually define it) and the beauty of intertwined connection for ourselves.
“The word pilgrimage can often refer to a journey through unknown territory, to a place that feels important, spiritually – a place towards which one feels a calling,” Meg says. “It can also be a metaphor for the often circuitous and somewhat tumultuous inner journey of a human life towards deeper wholeness and authenticity. For me, surrendering to that creative process, departing upon that journey without knowing how it will come out and noticing what happens along the way can open us up to perceiving what depth psychologist Robert Johnson referred to as the ‘slender threads’ which subtly guide our lives, often coming into our awareness through brief moments of synchronicity along the path.
“The soundscapes on Pilgrimage evoke both earthly environments as well as dreamlike spaces not of this earth – a nod to my love of space music,” she adds. “Textural elements characteristic of both ambient music and space music are interwoven into a more cinematic-orchestral style than I had on previous albums, which is less a departure per se than an extension of my ongoing musical explorations.”