11 Songs, 1 Hour 6 Minutes


Ratings and Reviews

5.0 out of 5
4 Ratings

4 Ratings

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

A Hero’s Journey is a collaborative project by violist/composer Karen Olson and pianist/keyboardist/composer Crispin Barrymore. It is the fifth album released by Olson and her first collaboration with Barrymore, who is also an actor. Olson started with the violin as a young child, switching to viola in middle school. She got her start with performing by accompanying her minister father’s services. She went to New York and earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Juilliard. She then earned another Master’s from Yale and a Ph.D. in Music Performance at NYU. She has served on the faculty of Rutgers University and Rowan University, and has had a critically-acclaimed viola scale book published by EC Schirmer. Now residing in NY, Olson performs with the NY Pops at Carnegie Hall and teaches viola and violin privately. She is a certified practitioner and teacher in several healing modalities and is currently writing a book on sound and vibrations for healing. Barrymore is also a multi-faceted artist who started playing the piano at seven and has also studied voice, French horn, piano and composition at Cal Arts. He has served as a musical ambassador for the United Nations and has a long a varied resume.

A Hero’s Journey is intended to be a landscape for each listener’s personal voyage of discovery. Quoting the liner notes: “Our answers lie within; even though people cross our path and offer us support in the form of assistance or teachers of our lessons, we find our own answers and we are our own heroes.” By combining contemporary classical influences with ambient textures, rhythmic elements, and a new age focus on melody, the two artists have effectively removed the boundaries between these genres of music, creating an original sound that will appeal to a wide variety of listeners. I have always preferred the deeper and mellower sound of the viola, whose range is between that of the violin and the cello. Barrymore co-composed the eleven tracks with Olson and also did the orchestrations, performed on keyboards and added digital effects.

A Hero’s Journey begins with “Horizon’s Calling.” Shimmering strings and French horn begin the piece, which is an overture of sorts, setting a mood and introducing the album. The viola becomes the primary voice fairly early in the piece, which is mostly ambient in nature. “Life’s Persuasions” is very smooth with viola and acoustic guitar leading the way along with ambient textures and a strong beat that propels it. “Promising Hope” brings in the sound of an organ behind the viola along with kettle drum, bells, and other effects. Somber and reverent, it’s a favorite. “Dream Quest” is quite a bit lighter although the viola seems to be seeking something in a vast open space. It becomes livelier and more rhythmic in the middle, but that feeling of seeking continues. “Facing Fear” feels dark and ominous, but our hero moves ahead as the darkness gradually fades away. “Life Force” is an almost 8 1/2 minute exploration that is an especially intriguing juxtaposition of the more organic viola and electronic instrumentation. “Heaven’s Gates” is a more ethereal piece that I assume brings this hero’s journey to a peaceful end - at least for this phase of existence. “Epilogue” clocks in at over 11 1/2 minutes with a broad cinematic scope and sweep. Often intense and colorful, it brings this fascinating album to a dramatic close.

A Hero’s Journey is certain to be a unique experience for each listener. Recommended!

CandiceMichelle1 ,

Review from Journeyscapes Radio

A Hero’s Journey is the collaborative recording of violist Karen Olson and pianist / multi-instrumentalist Crispin Barrymore. Promising a “voyage into a sonic landscape that merges contemporary classical influences with ambient textures, rhythmic elements, and new age melodicism”, its description not only fits to a tee, but the sheer beauty and emotional depth of this album proved to be far more than I ever could have expected.

“Horizon’s Calling” begins with a swelling mist of chords that soon introduce a gentle viola melody, immediately creating a warm and enveloping soundscape which conveys both a subtle melancholy and sacred introspection. Setting the mood for the rest of the journey, an illuminated ambience that’s often characterized by seemingly processed environmental sounds permeates the album, while highlighting minimal classical motifs throughout as expressed via Karen’s beautiful viola playing. On the second track, “Life’s Persuasions”, her lovely instrument weaves in and out of swirling metallic timbres, which are gently guided along by a lightly tapping electronic rhythm. The fourth track, “Still Crying”, is a most hauntingly gorgeous piece and quite easily my favorite on the album, in which Karen’s viola shimmers and vibrates among glistening electronic textures and a slow breakbeat-type rhythm. By the sixth track, “Facing Fear”, the perceptual notion of this album being about an inner personal journey of sorts really comes to fruition. Here, the viola is more at the forefront of the composition’s somewhat stark and foreboding yet inherently minimal soundscape. Lending a subtle contrast in mood is the seventh track, “Going Beyond”, which conveys a gently comforting and radiant aura with its sparkling piano and soothing viola. The eighth track, “Life Force”, is another favorite of mine, in which an emotive viola melody intertwines with environmentally lush layers and a liquid chill rhythm. Concluding the album is “Epilogue”, which paces along in a procession-like manner, lending cinematic touches to the ensemble of viola, organ and synths, as well as the occasional brush of symphonic drums.

Comprised of twelve compositions spanning over an hour, A Hero’s Journey is essentially a classical-laced ambient album which boasts sensually warm atmospheres with an underpinning of poignancy throughout. Perfectly understated with many subtle intricacies and improvisational nuances, a constant stream of restlessness or stirring beneath the music’s overarching serenity also felt present – a most intriguing aspect that I intimately connected with. An essential album to own, A Hero’s Journey is easily among my favorites of recent musical discoveries!

muzikman97 ,

A Hero's Journey Or Yours...

My three favorite tracks came in succession “Life Force,” “Inner Wanderings,” and Heaven’s Gate.” They seemed intrinsically linked to each other and the titles certainly got my attention. This music serves the listener well as it is meant to. It is soothing, contemplative with a hint of sadness and then there is hope and a shining bright light at the end of the musical tunnel. Karen Olson has a multitude of talents that she brings to bear. It is all on display on 11 tracks that are presented here.

This can be your journey or A Hero’s Journey. Whatever the music can provide you at any time day or night, it has the power to do so. With such clarity and command Karen Olson brings her music to you with grace and the knowledge of an enlightened spirit willing to share her own glimpse of heaven.

Keith Hannaleck

More By Karen Olson