There has never been an album quite like this. Not only is it an exquisite cycle of musical rounds, it is also a transformative journey of consciousness with lyrics that offer new vocabulary of mantra – in English. This recording is intended to refresh your spirit, elevate your senses and surround you with grace.
The Book of Rounds is a cycle of 21 songs conceived of and written by Julie Flanders and Emil Adler. Each round is a fugue of positive messages created to invoke a feeling of well-being in those that listen to, sing or speak them. The music lifts the words beyond their ordinary meanings into an enveloping experience that is poetic and universal. The rounds are both an expansive and intimate embrace of sound and meaning, offering messages that are revelations of what’s best in ourselves and in others.
On the music
A round is a melody that harmonizes itself as it repeats, with voices entering at measured intervals and cascading over each other to create a kaleidoscope of meaning and beauty. Through the repetition that defines it, a round can have a profound contemplative effect.
The Book of Rounds is divided into three chapters of seven rounds each. The rounds of Chapter I are the simplest, written for a cappella voices in uncomplicated phrases and in ordinary time signatures. In Chapter II the rounds are written with more extended phrases and in more adventurous time signatures, featuring arrangements that introduce additional melodic lines and freer harmonies, so that the pieces vary distinctively with each repetition. In Chapter III the rounds are the most sophisticated and daring, featuring the addition of piano accompaniment and, notably, in “Joy,” an ecstatic outburst of body percussion.
The complete work follows a dramatic and a meditative arc that moves the listener through each chapter, sometimes gently, sometimes strikingly shifting the mood – offering what is ultimately a relaxing, energizing and integrated experience.
On the words
Using simple, prayer-like language, the rounds are essentially positive mantras that cascade, circle and relate in the same way the melodies do. The words create layers of affirmation that envelope the participant and offer a compelling journey of transformation and self-reflection. With every repetition, each lyric begins to acquire different shades of meaning, shifting the mind and the heart of the listener.
Julie Flanders, whose internationally acclaimed work in the expressive arts is complemented by her profound work as a healer and spiritual teacher, describes this as one of her most personal projects. The Book of Rounds was originally written for her son as an embrace of protection and comfort during difficult times. When it was finished, Flanders realized that “it was something everyone needed—we all need to receive that kind of love, and we all need to give it.”
Ways to listen
For those who practice meditation, or want to, the rounds provide a calm or rapturous companion to your explorations of the divine. For a deeply meditative experience, or to induce a devotional state of clearing and grace, listening without interruption to the entire song cycle is ideal. The album is just over one hour long.
If you have only three minutes, and would like a touch of inspiration, listen to a single round. Tune into its message and carry it with you as an affirmation for the day. Or put your player on “shuffle,” and allow yourself to be surprised and informed by the round that comes up.
To explore differences in texture and voice, listen closely to one chapter at a time. The first set is pure simplicity; the second set, more adventurous; and the third set is actively engaging. Each chapter is a coherent and wondrous experience.
Remember, too, that the lyrics are designed to stand alone—without music—as modest yet profoundly affective prayers, capable of alleviating energies of negativity, challenge or difficulty. The titles of each round can be used as single word mantras, just as the lyrics may be repeated over and over for a similar effect.
If you enjoy singing, you will find that singing the principal melody of each round is an exhilarating experience. To download the melodies, we invite you to visit October Project’s website, octoberprojectmusic.com.
Rounds lend themselves to a cappella singing, where voices must tune as they come into relationship with each other. Round-singing is an enjoyable way to bring isolated individuals into harmony and resonance with one another as a group or community. The sum of voices is infinitely greater than any one of the parts, as the various egos are sublimated and come together toward oneness.
But most importantly, you can listen to this piece for the pure pleasure of it. You do not have to be aware of why these songs are spiritually powerful in order to enjoy them. Put them on in the background and let them do the work for you.
On the production
The singers featured on this recording include a handpicked group of Yale University students and alums, most of whom are part of Yale’s great a cappella tradition that includes both the Whiffenpoofs and Redhot & Blue, whichMarina Belica conducted when she was a student there.
Produced by internationally acclaimed recording artist October Project (OP), The Book of Rounds came together over several years of experimentation, mentorship and collaboration. Although the recording is rendered by only a very small number of singers (with the voices of OP’s Marina Belica, Julie Flanders & Emil Adler woven in throughout) , the layered sound designs create a virtual orchestra of sound. Keiji Ishiguiri’s vocal arrangements are both intimate and epiphanal, ranging from simplicity to grandeur. The end result is a piece that feels very personal, but that could also be sung by a thousand voices in the world’s largest cathedral.
The members of OP (Julie Flanders, Emil Adler and Marina Belica) have enjoyed the living experience of mutual harmony for their many decades together as friends and as OP. The Book of Rounds is a very direct expression of that relationship. With the release of these recordings through Sounds True, OP feels it has found the perfect partner.