"The greatest compliment I can pay any musician is that they sound like no one else. This is certainly true of Dana Cunningham whose artistic voice is stunningly unique and unmistakable. That she is simply one of the most impressive pianists I have ever worked with further adds to the singularity of her talent. Even these attributes would ultimately pale without the powerful emotional connection that gives her work such depth and meaning."
"The first time I heard Dana Cunningham’s album, Above the Field, I experienced an effect similar to what Marcel Proust experiences when he tastes the madeleine in Remembrance of Things Past. He says the taste of that small cake had “the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence.” Listening to Dana’s hymn arrangements, I felt her music as an exquisite homesickness, a longing for something very old, true, and dear to my heart. But I also had an experience of awakening, of vision or aspiration—“precious essence” of wholeness, belonging, communitas. Dana’s hymns flow like “streams of mercy,” and we feel ourselves comforted, lifted up, whether we recall the lyrics or never learned them at all. This is the genius of Above the Field. No matter what your religious or spiritual devotions may or may not be, this is music that touches the soul. And that’s a blessing for everyone."
"I listened to Dans’s Hymns project beginning to end by candlelight on a rare quiet evening alone at home. Through the course of the album I wept and laughed and frequently lifted my arms to the sky. The arrangements and the instrumentation held my complete attention and made me anticipate the start of each new piece. Great job Dana!”
"I truly love your music. I find it to be a rare recent work that not only sounds beautiful, but also evokes emotional journeys. I'm a film producer based in Los Angeles, and I know how hard it is to inspire emotion in an audience. So, bravo, Dana! Bravo!"
"I remember the first time I heard Fernando Ortega. I remember hearing classic hymns simply arranged and beautifully performed.
Dana Cunningham is the same listen. She is a wonderful pianist, and she has an amazing way of staying out of the way of these powerful hymns. I love it!!
I highly recommend Dana’s Hymns project for your collection.”
"Featuring Grammy Award-winning artists including cellist, Eugene Friesen, percussionist, Glen Velez, and Will Ackerman, on guitar, The Color of Light is no predictable new age piano album. While one can expect to be transported to spacious and serene worlds of lush and tender reverberating piano, mapping out limitless terrestrial sound worlds, Dana's delicate and deliberate playing sparks a uniquely colorful conversation between her musical voice and those joining her. With jazz harmonies creeping in from time to time and an evocative and imaginative classical minimalism that might be compared to George Winston, there is a sense of great prosperity and emotional generosity far beyond what is typical for the genre. Each of these fifteen tracks seem to pour from a wellspring of universal knowledge and natural abundance. Much like how the earth comes back to life in the spring and into its fullest expression in summer, The Color of Light evokes a sense of quickening, of something on the verge of becoming, of long-awaited catharsis and fruition."
"Windham Hill legend Will Ackerman lent his production skills, guitar, and a profound endorsement to this artistic endeavor by pianist Dana Cunningham whose composition, Ackerman says, is the best he’s heard in 20 years. Her third CD begins delicately, almost like rain falling on the lake. The moodiness of each piece engages so deeply, I “awoke” after each track to find myself staring out the window (again) contemplating the color of light. A reverie-inducing CD, not for use while operating a vehicle."
"The Color of Light is a gorgeous collection of original pieces and improvisations by pianist/composer Dana Cunningham. Produced by award-winning Windham Hill founder Will Ackerman at his Imaginary Road studios in Vermont, the CD is comprised of fifteen piano solos and collaborations with other artists that create a setting for contemplation and presence. Ackerman goes so far as to say, "Dana's new album is simply the most impressive work of composition and performance I have heard from a pianist in twenty years.” That’s quite a statement from someone who has worked closely with George Winston, Liz Story, and Philip Aaberg! Deeply emotional and full of grace, Cunningham’s music exudes warmth and calm without becoming ear candy. The more you listen to it, the more the depth of the music reveals itself, providing a refuge for the spirit and mind to revisit many times.
The CD begins with “Leap of Faith,” a very open, flowing piano solo that seems to be asking questions and looking for answers. “Away” is a lovely trio that features Jill Haley on English horn and Eugene Friesen on cello. Wistful and dreamy, it has a strong sense of longing. The title track opens with an evocative cello solo that segues into an equally compelling piano solo. About four minutes into the piece, it becomes a stunningly beautiful duet that grabs your heart and won’t let go. Incredible! “River of Grace” flows like an easy-going river and sparkles like light dancing on the water. It features Ackerman on guitar and Derrik Jordan providing gentle percussion. “Flowers In the Dark” is another beauty with piano, cello, and Samite Mulondo’s wordless vocal colors. Dark and almost painfully sad, the emotional depth of this piece is amazing. At the end, it merges with “Flying Over Water,” which begins with the same notes as “Flowers” and evolves into a more rhythmic piece for piano, cello, violin (Steve Schuch) and percussion (Glen Velez) - again extraordinarily passionate. “Angels At Shady Grove” is a tranquil piano solo that features Cunningham’s voice for additional color and grace, as does the heartfelt “Prayer for Peace.” The CD ends with an eight-minute “Reprise,” a piano solo that reminds me a bit of Michael Jones.
The Color of Light is excellent from start to finish, and I highly recommend it. . . . It is sure to be one of my favorite CDs for 2007!"
"Pianist Dana Cunningham has created an intriguing, fresh, and meditative voyage on The Color of Light. There is always something new to explore on this disc, from the beautiful opening anticipation of "Leap of Faith" to the gorgeous colors and free flowing motion of "Flying Over Water." Cunningham's Steinway is recorded in all of its reverberant glory in this open studio space, with lots of surrounding air, tactile midrange textures and wonderful, sweet treble. This recording was produced by Will Ackerman, who also lends a sparkle of acoustic guitar to the surging motion of "River of Grace." In Ackerman's skillful hands, we are led on a journey filled with nooks and crannies to explore in Cunningham's rich compositions.
There is a directness of purpose and communication in Cunningham's piano technique that makes this recording a delight. With a beautiful way with phrasing and lingering chord resonances, she gets to the heart of her compositions to create soulful moments rich in feeling and contemplation. For example, on "Stephen's Song," Cunningham invites us in with a deep turning on minor chords, full of lingering. Midway through this slow ballad, we turn to the light and she brings us a lovely, major chord transition with a feeling of new beginnings. She leaves us off gently, letting the last note from her solo piano take us where we wish. Similarly, on the beautiful "Prayer For Peace," Cunningham gently invites us in to contemplate its themes with her wonderful, light touches in the treble, brushed by vocal caresses which are then followed by deep, rolling plunges into the piano's lower registers.
In addition to her beguiling solo piano, there is also a special comradeship between Cunningham and her accompanists on this recording. On the title track, the languid phrases of Eugene Friesen's warm cello sit beside Cunningham's piano glow in an astonishingly beautiful dialog. Similarly, Samite Mulondo's vocal colors form a fragile silhouette behind Friesen's bowing and Cunningham's delicate treble notes on "Flowers In The Dark," leading naturally from a deep pool into the expanse of "Flying Over Water." Cunningham ingeniously transitions between these two pieces with the barest twinkling of high notes, cascading into Glen Velez's light percussion and Steve Schuch's violin. The recording captures the untethered beauty of this piece, with excellent texture to the strings and wonderful image dimensionality where each player is pinpointed in space, spread out on a natural, wide stage. The recording concludes with a "Reprise" that works as a wonderful bookend to this introspective journey. It returns us to earlier themes but also graciously pirouettes on Cunningham's lovely gentle turns and gestures to a conclusion ripe with possibilities. There are gifts to be found everywhere on this gem of a recording with a directness to the musical heart captured in Cunningham's piano and her singular compositional voice."
"Very rare is the musician whose music can create a sense of quiet and peace. Dana Cunningham's piano solos impart the essence of beauty through pure soundscapes. In her latest album, "The Color of Light," lightness of being is conveyed through soul-nourishing piano contemplations, creating a graceful space to simply relax and be. "Light changes me," writes Dana. "I breathe . . . rest . . . move . . . awaken. Images dance into my awareness. Flashes of color undulate - blur then clear . . . Light infuses this music - across seasons, across time.
Produced by William Ackerman, this album embodies everything those of us who grew up with the Windham Hill label loved about their music. Dana's piano is seamlessly, almost imperceptibly accompanied by Ackerman's guitar and others on cello, English horn, violin, soft vocals and percussions. These compositions convey the beauty of nature, moments of silent reflection, the sounds, fragrances, colors and textures of the natural world that impart healing and grace. Leap of Faith, River of Grace, Flowers in the Dark, Flying Over Water, Swimming with Stones, Angels at Shady Grove - each of these exquisite sound poems invites us to partake of life's precious joys and ultimately relax into the stillness within."
". . . so wedded with her instrument that she weaves a magic spell over her audience. At the completion of each piece, there is a period of silence, almost to the point that one wonders if applause is forthcoming. Of course there is — hearty and long, almost reverential. It's that the audience has been lost in serene reverie."
Cunningham has the hands of a master; they know her instrument the way a mother's hands know her infant. With them, Cunningham creates music of luminous beauty.
Dancing at the Gate is morning music - quiet, serene, yet filled with gentle passion. Notes made of liquid silk softly caress listener's ears on the journey straight to the heart. This exquisite music is perfect for meditation, massage, contemplation, or any activity that helps open the heart. Cunningham is aware of the profound value of silence between notes, and she never dazzles simply to show off. Instead, she gently tickles listeners with her music of love and peace. One of the finest debuts of this or any year, Dancing at the Gate is not to be missed.
A demure approach to spiritual composition, this album takes musical worship to a new level of understanding. While it beckons to the old fashioned method of playing, it sparkles with feminine maturity.
I assure you this is not "new age" music. It's solo piano, and "contemplative" fits it like a glove. Cunningham works in small melodic fragments, frequently repeated and developed in small changes of key and dynamic, but aimless it is most definitely not.
We don't really have a word for this kind of music, which never bothered me before — but it makes it maddeningly hard to tell you what I like about Ms. Cunningham's playing. The pieces feel loose and improvisational, but they are hung on a framework that is remarkably firm. This, I suspect is why they remind me so much of Debussy's Images.
However, despite the fact that there is a structure here — and even momentum, of a sort — impatient listeners will find these songs as frustrating as trying to pick up mercury with a spoon. They shimmer like light reflected off water onto a wall. They stop, blink out, resume without moving and then trail off when the light — I mean Ms. Cunningham's muse — moves on. I find contemplation of these pieces an almost guaranteed doorway to an inner peace.
And, while it neither plumbs the passions of a Beethoven sonata nor storms the heights of a late Schubert piano piece, Dancing at the Gate succeeds on its own terms. It is quiet music that encourages quiet contemplation. And that, these days, is priceless. Dancing at the Gate is a refreshing restorative — an hour's retreat from the sharp edges of life.
This music dwells in a magical place, somewhere between Debussy's solo piano and Keith Jarrett's spare improvisations.
Dancing at the Gate is beautifully moving solo piano music. You could label it new age, but ... She's been compared to Debussy, and in the sense that she paints very quiet sound pictures of layered colour with her music, it's a fair comparison. Her "Light on Water" echoes Debussy's "Reflets dans l'eau", from his Images composition, which strikes me as less than coincidental. Cunningham's compositions are two handfuls of notes repeated and expanded in a parallel fashion, but never broadly. If you picture the aimless scattering of leaves in the wind — generally in a circle, but never a tidy one, and always with a few leaves escaping — you'll have imagined Cunningham's notes. No doubt fans of classical music could quibble with her art, but if you like keyboards and enjoy solitude, you'll find a mood moment for Dancing at the Gate.
You must listen to Dana's expressive solo keyboards to appreciate the dance she's able to do with her fingers! Ms. Cunningham paints calm (though very much alive) sonic reflections of the wonders around her in New Hampshire. You won't find any improv "scorchers" here... no "tearin'-up-th'-keys" or treks to oblivia... simple walks through the countryside, breathing in the beauty and exhaling very creative sound pictures. If you love solo piano that takes you through the full range of emotions on the palette, you'll agree with me - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED — a definite KEEPER!
This is quiet-as-a-mouse music, piano forte yes, but played softissimo, if you get my drift. And one might drift a long way away on these note-by-note progressions. It does say "Contemplative Piano" on the label. Wonderfully relaxing ... perfect for an evening at home.
Have you ever noticed the way light, filtered through a tree, creates a shimmering dance on the bedroom curtain? And how peacefully and serenely the patterns move and change, as if choreographed by some unseen hand, just beyond your view? These solo piano compositions provide the perfect musical accompaniment for such a scene. The music is beautiful, contemplative; the perfect way to unwind at the end of a hectic day. Sweet piano melodies that open the heart to the beauty and wonder that the present moment contains, Dancing at the Gate is highly recommended to all lovers of gorgeous solo piano compositions.
Dana Cunningham's music feels free and improvisational, while staying constant like a soul on quest - perfect for reflective periods, as well as for inspiring inner focus for creative movements.
Dana's scintillating, impressionistic pieces like "Light on Water" and "Wild Geese (in accordance with a poem by Mary Oliver)" cleanse the mind with massaging energy.
How do you help someone feel the power of God without uttering a single word? In a time where so many people may question whether God is really present through all of the pain and turmoil the world is going through, Cunningham takes her simple yet beautiful melodies and gets the message through ...
The best part about this is that you don't have to be religious to appreciate Cunningham's music — even if you only gain an appreciation for her skills on the piano, that's okay. Cunningham reminds me a lot of early Jim Brickman, where the melody helps to paint a picture in one's mind that you can be transported to at a moment's notice. The listener can't help but tune in to gain tranquility.
I don't consider myself to be even a good Christian, but I do remember a Bible story where God isn't heard in the thunder, fire or water — but in the gentle breeze of the wind. Cunningham's music should serve as a wake-up call: sometimes, the most powerful voice is one of the quietest. Dancing At The Gate is a wonderful example, and is a very enjoyable collection of music.
Well-traveled pianist shows the sum total of her influences on this contemplative set that opens the listener's ears as well as mind. From college to monasteries to the north woods, her journey is reflected in this adult contemporary instrumental set that goes back to the hey day of the genre.
Anyone looking for some new music to go within as come to the right place here.
"After a few moments I was struck by how grace-full this music is and how filled with grace I became with each listening."
Carra Bradt, minister
"Your tender music has stirred in me moments of surrender, gratitude and understanding."
"Each listening is a fresh opening."
Rob Richardson, M.D., poet
"Your music is very soul-full and your presence in it and around it is wonderful."
". . . it just puts you back in touch with your vulnerability, and that makes you feel more alive . . . this album does that immediately, makes you feel, contemplate, long for, and hush . . . And again, I love it!"
Carol Noonan, singer-songwriter
"I found myself moved to a new place as I listened . . ."
"Your music facilitates an inner spaciousness . . . gives the listener 'eyes' to see more clearly into the deeper regions of the soul."
Ann Simons, therapist
"While listening to this music I had a revelation about a time in my life I had never understood before . . ."
"I can truly feel the spirit, the profundity of love that comes from each note. It has been my healing music throughout this last two weeks [since the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001]. Thank you for sharing your giftedness with the world."
"Just received your CD, immediately popped it into the player and was taken to a lovely, peaceful place . . . beautiful."
"What a feeling of tranquillity you induce with your compositions! I don't believe I have ever heard a piano sound any richer on any recording (and I have MANY)"
Howard West, musician
"It is so relaxing and soothing, I can tell your very soul is in it. Bless you as you continue to share such peace and comfort through your music."
"I enjoy your music over and over...Thank you for sharing your gifts with us."
"Thank you for being a messenger of beauty with your soulful music."
Jamie Gemmiti, photographer
"It is wonderful! What hits me each time I listen is the simplicity . . . Two images come to mind. For the first piece I picture myself on the front porch of a cabin in the mountains listening to the rain fall on the roof during a summer shower. For several others, it is Brahms, a kind of nobility I associate with Brahms piano music that I hear in yours as well."
"I am finding such peace and focus as I meditate and read to your music."
"My daughter is 20; this is not the kind of music she would typically listen to, yet she was completely immersed as we drove 2 hours peacefully and contemplatively."
"I have listened to it several times since its arrival, even outdoors where the birds also enjoyed it as I heard extra trilling from them— shalom."
"It is so beautiful and soothing; I have taken it to work and play it all day. Customers remark how nice it sounds."
"Your poignant, asking music has been accompanying me during this cooking marathon. I am getting to know it and love it."
Sylvia Davatz, caterer
"Thank you for putting your music into the world for our hearts to enjoy."