The latest intricate and fascinating, soul and sensory transportive work by internationally renowned flutist and integrative performing artist Nina Assimakopoulos, “The Legend of SkyWoman” is fashioned as a multi-media tone poem for narrator, fixed media landscape, an array of world flutes and modular ensemble.
At its spiritual and emotional core, however, it transcends all attempts at genre or form categorization. Like the enigmatic mythological sky being it’s named for, who begins her journey creating and gifting the land below with beautiful songs she crafts specially from wind and ice, the piece is an artful, kaleidoscopic sonic fusion of visionary narrative storytelling and ever-innovative and adventurous world flute and percussion driven composition.
Based on Nina’s short story of the same name, which draws inspiration from, among other things, the environmental healing powers present in many cultural traditions, “The Legend of Skywoman” takes flight from the luminous foundation of the author’s gently lilting speaking voice, weaving the riveting tale of the protagonist’s quite literal fall from grace that causes her, once earthbound, to lose the power of voice and song. She is later redeemed by acquiring a special flute that re-gifts her with a Song Magic which brings together joy and sorrow and ultimately joins the glorious sounds of the heavens and earth.
Likewise, on a musical level, the flute – or, more specifically Nina’s silver and wooden flutes and Jim Akins’ wooden flutes – is/are the driving force of the dramatic soundscaping throughout that also includes Mike Vercelli’s world percussion and intriguing natural ambience field recordings. This dynamic soundtrack functions alternately as emphatic underscore to the narrative’s key plot points – and, perhaps more essentially, as the powerful burst of darkness and light, tension and release of the lengthy instrumental passages between narrative chapters.
Listeners gravitating towards a work like “The Legend of Skywoman” (including fans of Nina’s voluminous discography) have no doubt heard stellar ambient flute/percussion recordings and enjoyed the spinning of mythology-based, metaphor rich tales. Yet it’s likely no one has ever heard a work with such a bold, ambitious approach to bringing the art forms together in such a literal flight of fancy.