For Shani Diluka, making music is as much a spiritual practice as meditation. In Pulse, which takes its title from the rhythmic repetitions and hypnotic patterns of minimalist music, the pianist and poet uncovers subtle shades of meaning beneath the surface of pieces by, among others, Philip Glass, Moondog, John Adams, Meredith Monk, and John Cage. Yet Pulse also speaks of the force that sustains life itself, the beat of the heart, the rise and fall of the breath, the ceaseless ebb and flow of the natural world, the frenetic energy of cities. “This is the paradox of humanity,” notes Diluka. “We’re connected to nature but are also able to be in this crazy city rhythm.” Pulse sounds echoes of a postwar American counterculture touched by the rejection of consumerism and the influence of Zen Buddhism, and of its global influence on contemporary dance and electronic music. The album’s tracklist, built around a framework of pieces by Glass, embraces the high-octane riffs of Julius Eastman’s “The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc,” performed with members of Chineke!, Moondog’s “Barn dance,” and Monk’s “Railroad.” There’s room too for the jazz-infused incantations of Terry Riley’s “The philosopher’s hand,” the flowing arpeggios of Scottish composer Craig Armstrong’s “Melody (Sun on you),” Diluka’s spellbinding transcriptions of Daft Punk’s “Giorgio by Moroder” and “Veridis Quo,” and her own “Shimmers,” a delicate song without words touched by the melancholy of French chanson and shades of Satie. The album closes with Glass’ undulating “Etude 5,” above which the pianist recites the first two lines of Patti Smith’s “Paths That Cross.” “When I sight-read Philip Glass for the first time, it felt like meditation,” Diluka recalls. “I was just playing it without thinking—everything flowed. That felt even more powerful when I played him in concert, because his music contains something which makes a communion with people. I then discovered that he was fascinated by Indian spirituality and that he had worked with Ravi Shankar. And it was the same with John Adams, who based his opera A Flowering Tree on an ancient Indian folktale. So I was quite surprised that my connection with these composers was unconscious in the beginning, especially as I knew nothing of that background before I began playing their work. I always discover music that way: I want to be completely virgin in my mind, to feel the music without knowing where it comes from.” Pulse, she notes, is about unity in diversity, an idea as central to quantum physics as it is to the world’s store of ancient wisdom. “I have friends in France who are famous astrophysicists, one of whom worked with Stephen Hawking. They tell me that we all come from the explosion of stars, that we are all stardust. Everything has this common point, which means we are all connected to the universe. The album contains these different voices with different ideas, diverse ways of looking at the world, but there’s something in each that connects them.” Diluka conjures infinitely subtle interpretations of simple compositions, rich in insight and exquisite in their kaleidoscopic breadth of expression. To reinforce her point about unity in diversity, Pulse includes transcriptions of Keith Jarrett’s take on “Shenandoah” and Bill Evans’ homage to “Danny Boy,” reminders of the folk roots and rhizomes of American music and their influence on modern jazz. It also reflects America’s cultural diversity with the evergreen example of “Be My Love,” composed by Nicholas Brodszky, a Jewish migrant from Odessa, for the tenor and Hollywood heartthrob Mario Lanza, son of Italian immigrants, and reimagined by Jarrett, the Pennsylvania-born descendant of Slovenian and German ancestors. “My first inspiration for Pulse was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road,” notes Diluka. “It’s about this connection with a human soul seeking the sense of life. When his father died, Kerouac decided to hitchhike from the east of his youth to the west of his future. On this Route 66 he will meet farmers, prostitutes, poets, intellectuals, and all this will feed his soul. And he will listen to music all the time. Yes, that means a lot of jazz. But he also hears Beethoven on the way. This album is about how music makes us explore ourselves and helps us connect to the world, to the universe.”

Etude No. 2
Be my love (Keith Jarrett Version)
Mad Rush
Etude No. 5
China Gates
The philosopher’s hand
Etude No. 9
Danny Boy (Bill Evans Version)
Bird’s Lament
Barn dance
Melody (Sun on you)
The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc (Excerpt)
Etude 5 + poem by Patti Smith (texte)

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