The music Phil Schurger presents on “Echoes of the Ancestors” is the expression of a dynamic journey through ten years of meditative and musical process. He has honed his skills as a composer in order to effortlessly act as a conduit of force and form, oscillating sounds up from the Emptiness of mind. Through meditation, he awakens the sensitivity of intuition, and navigates the tides of consciousness, catching compositions as they arise in the currents
of thought. It is a conscious-intuitive act of retrieving sounds and images of nature and culture, and uniquely sculpting them through an inner-alchemical process. Any object held in the mind can become a musical entity as Schurger becomes attuned with the sounds emanating from the stream of Mind, transfixed by the rising sounds.
The album opens with Lucid (Soma). Soma was an intoxicating drink in the Hindu culture that brought on lucid visions, and a sense of contentment. The composition emulates the motion through the shifting states of consciousness of the soma. It enters quietly, slowly developing, until you are enveloped in the experience of an array of batik textures and forms. It invokes the sounds of songs moving through the leaves in tree canopies. The solos act as a reprieve and contemplation period, culminating in a spacious contentment as the last melody comes back in expanded form.
Sanskara is the impression of past actions on the subconscious mind that holds the basis for one’s predispositions and karmic work. Scribe of Sanskara, though utilizing a Hindu term, is an allusion to the Egyptian God Thoth in his role of penning the deeds of the deceased into the tapestry of time. The scribe of the gods can also be the messenger, as the stored knowledge of lineage is awakened in the Individual’s consciousness. Schurger completed this composition after the death of his father. It is an ode to a life lived. It is a recognition of the imprint that is left through our actions, on not only ourselves, but the totality of those we influence as we move through life. This scribe of sanskara offers the potential to recognize karma as a collective process that we pass through and reconcile. The composition is dynamic and mysterious with phases of spacious melody contrasted with rubato sections, and dynamic linear runs weaving their way through melodic peaks and valleys. The solo sections build slowly, starting off quietly in Schurger’s solo, slowly building, and setting up the entrance of saxophonist Greg Ward as the energy builds to an apex, only to be bumped up to the next octave of intensity.
Gemini is like the silver mercurial essence of the mind-stream expressing itself through duality. It discerns and balances opposites with the dual-edged sword of mind. Sword in this case has a direct relationship to the hebrew letter Zain, which is assigned to Gemini, and means sword. It is the focused intensity of the mind, unwavering, with moments of reprieve, recollection, and assimilation. The mind draws upon memory with focused concentration emanating from the seflrah Da’ath (knowledge). The consciousness becomes attuned with the Sekhel Hergesh (sensitivity) associated with the 17th path on the Tree of Life. The sensitivity is the ability to perceive content of meaning as it arises in the Chashmal meditation (speaking silence), as the consciousness oscillates between pure force (Chokmah) and pure form (Binah).
Air of the Forest is the centerpiece of the album. It invokes a solemn, contemplative meditation as an individual is propelled through the phases of night from dusk to dawn within the depths of the forest. The music is the shifting air, the shifting perspective of the individual, and the shifting textures of lights reflected as the moon passes through the night. The entrance is quiet and contemplative with abstract guitar lines invoking an air of mystery and question. The drum and bass rubatos provide the rustling textural sounds of the wind in trees. The sax solo enters as an exploration and resolution of images from the past. It is the reconciliation of memories difficult and solemn, surfacing for reflection in the light of the moon. Having resolved the past, the individual comes to an understanding and walks deeper into the forest. The guitar solo enters with a rubato motif invoking an inner awakening to new understandings. The tempo and focus solidify and increase with a sense of new found focus and directive. The layers of the future can be awakened. Another solo motif from the guitar acts as the birds announcing the entrance of the sun. The intensity of the large chords and ascending sax lines that follow announce the awakening of the sun coming up on the horizon. The opening melody is then presented again; the individual is still the individual, but now awoken to a broader perspective and depth of understanding.
The word Orisha is derived from the Yoruban words Ori and Ashe. “Ori literally means the head, but in spiritual matters it is taken to mean a portion of the soul that determines personal destiny and success. Ashe is the life-force that runs through all things, living and inanimate. Ashe is the power to make things happen.” The composition Orisha is like an expression of Ashe manifesting through the Ori. The drum solos and melody are like the life force, swaying and moving mysteriously, dynamically developing in ebbs and flows. They become embodied in the definitive forms of the melody, and then flow into the improvised rubatos. It is a collective improvisation; the many parts of the Ashe moving through the unified Ori of the ensemble.
The composition, the Tower, is structurally built like a Tower. The melody is built off of descending quartal triads woven together to form the tapestry for the woven lines. The melodic lines are interwoven and move circularly around the axis of the harmonic structure. Figuratively speaking, playing the virtuosic structure of the melodic line is like the Hermetic idea of the personality of an aspirant scaling the walls of a tower brick by brick to attain the vantage point of the Individuality, the higher self. Having elevated the being, the lower Personality is given a heightened sense of perspective. This is the experience of merging the sefiroth Hod (intellect) and Netzach (intuition) upon the 27th path of the Tree of Life, the path of the Tower.