On the Steppes of Central Asia - Free Download

by Paul McCandless with the Paul Winter Consort

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"On a tour of Japan, the Consort was invited to visit an amazing museum in the Shigaraki Mountains near Kyoto. Inspired by the legend of Shangri-La, world-renowned architect I.M. Pei had come out of retirement to design the Miho Museum, reached by a sound-proofed tunnel meant to clear the mind, and then by a graceful suspension bridge over a gorge. It echoes the journey from a famous tale of a fisherman, following a river farther into the mountains than he ever had before, only to come through a tunnel-like cavern into the ravishing valley of Shangri-La, filled with blooming peach trees.

We were transported by the landscape, by the extraordinary marriage of nature and architecture, and by the Asian antiquities that the Museum was built to house. The following year we were invited by the Museum’s owner, Shumei, a Japanese organization dedicated to beauty in the arts, natural agriculture, and spiritual healing, to create a musical celebration to mark the 100th birthday of the woman who was their leader and whose name graces the Museum. Returning there, we were thrilled to find the Museum had an amazing acoustic space, an octagonal stone room with a pyramid-shaped ceiling that had a square hole at the apex, like a Kiva.

Looking at the artifacts from ancient cultures across the vast space of Asia, I remembered the haunting melody of the famous orchestral piece, “On the Steppes of Central Asia,” by the 19th century Russian composer Alexander Borodin. It features one of the greatest English horn solos in symphonic literature.

Paul McCandless created his own adventure, improvising a prelude, interlude, and coda, which embrace two iterations of this evocative melody. Don Grusin then, with his synthesizer, combining sounds of his unique archive of drives, wove a magic carpet of accompaniment, masterfully interpolating the harmonies of the original symphonic score." - Paul Winter

Alexander Borodin, arr. by Paul McCandless, Don Grusin (Bocal Music, ASCAP; Don Grusin Music, BMI)

From the Paul Winter Consort album Miho: Journey to the Mountain

Produced by Paul Winter and Dixon Van Winkle
Recorded in the Miho Museum, Shiga, Japan by Akira Kato, March 2008


released May 10, 2017
Paul McCandless / English horn
Don Grusin / keyboard



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Paul Winter Litchfield

Paul Winter is a seven-time Grammy-winning saxophonist, whose sextet was the first jazz group to perform at the White House in 1962. His second group, the Paul Winter Consort, interweaves sounds from the natural world with classical and ethnic traditions, and the spontaneous spirit of jazz. Their annual Winter Solstice Celebrations and Earth Mass are among the most popular events in New York. ... more

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