Title: Point: Altai
Release Date: 2014 June 11
License: CC BY-ND
Label: Tunguska EMS
The Altai Mountains might be one of the most fascinating locations in the world It is in this region where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together. Fauna is highly diverse in the area because of the multiple habitats it encompasses (steppes, northern taigas and alpine vegetation). The climate in the region has remained relatively stable since the ice ages, and it is the only known location where Denisovan, Neanderthal and Homo Sapien hominids have lived. Given this rich background, it’s no wonder the story of the lost wisdom of the Shaman of Altai is set.
Lost Wisdom of the Shaman of Altai
The story of the Shaman is a wonderfully crafted mythology: an old Shaman of great power to talk to the gods, talk to the animals and see past and future saw that his time was nearly over. In preparation for his passing he sought to find someone to take under apprenticeship to learn his ways, but found no one. In despair he talks to the gods who tell him to use rock and wood and write down his knowledge and hide it, when someone worthy of the knowledge is born, they will know where to find it. He does this, and his knowledge has been lost ever since.
This release of ambient music from Tunguska EMS seems almost like a throw-back to the “Sounds of the Rain Forest” type of CD’s from Laserlight back in the 80’s and 90’s. At least that is the impression you might get if you listened to it without knowing what the title meant, or anything about the story associated with this release.
Instead, we have a compilation that works on many different levels. The first would be a deep immersion into the Altai region. Nature sounds are use as the background for soft ambient drone pieces that give you the experience of being in the region. The birds, the rivers, the lakes, the mountains, are all within your sense of hearing, and you can feel what the environment is like.
This release also has timelessness to it. You have the feeling of being suspended in time during your experience. It’s much like the climate of the region which has been relatively un-changed for thousands of years. This is a region of great mystery, and historical significance. Truly one of the few remaining places on earth where so many cultures, environments and life forms have come together. Not to mention the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon.
Finally, this is a work that seems almost designed to be used as a soundtrack. The story of the Shaman is one of that could easily be made into a film, and with such a rich setting, the soundtrack would need to encompass many of the attributes of the Altai Mountains. This is a work that could easily be listened to in this way. You can see scenes from the story in your mind: the shaman walking between villages searching for a successor, in his hut performing rituals, using the rocks and wood to write his wisdom.
It’s all these levels that the music on this release works on. And it is successful in making it interesting to listen to it, no matter how you are listening to it.
I have to admit to a bit of surprise with this release. I don’t know that the Shaman story was all that necessary. The subject of the Altai Mountains itself is a fantastically rich subject to work with. Weaving a story through a series of impressionistic music pieces seems a bit over the top. Of course, there isn’t a problem with weaving in the story, it is a fantastic and fascinating work inspired by the choice of location.
Listening to this work from three different perspectives makes for a highly rewarding listen. It’s definitely a release I believe should find its way into many collections, and will likely find its way into many playlists on a regular basis.