Richard Shulman's Blog

December 24, 2013

Transformation at Assisi – reviews and liner notes

Filed under: What's behind the Music — by richardshulman @ 6:21 am

Richard Shulman
“Transformation at Assisi” is a sacred musical journey conceived and recorded at the birthplace of St. Francis, and is the companion album to “Light from Assisi.”


Click to Listen to Transformation at Assisi

Released Fall, 1992 (CD release Fall 1999)

New Age Devotional/Meditative

This music inspires the seeker of God and portrays the effects of Divine grace available in this extraordinary place. Expansion and wonder are the emotional keynotes here, as the transformative power of grace weaves dark and light into a greater light. Orchestral synthesizers featuring sounds of strings, bells, flute, and horns. Total time 73:56

“..Now, after a two-year wait, the remaining compositions can be experienced on a flawless piece of art called Transformation at Assisi. This new recording creates a profound ecclesiastical atmosphere that I find ideal for introspection. Recreating the sounds of brass, strings, woodwinds, bells, pipe organ, and angelic choruses, Shulman paints a portrait of his wondrous expansion of consciousness…. The 75 minutes of beautiful music… tell me more about the composer’s inner experience than volumes of prose ever could. Although Shulman’s liner notes are profuse and intriguing, it is the grandeur of his music that portrays his extraordinary Transformation at Assisi.”
–Ken Gruen, New Frontier Magazine

Liner Notes
There is a magical feeling in the little town of Assisi, for this is the birthplace of St. Francis. Transformation at Assisi is a musical journey inspired by my experience at St. Francis’ Assisi and is a companion album to Light from Assisi. While Light from Assisi is primarily a portrait of the Grace I found there, Transformation emphasizes my introspective journey towards Grace, replete with its ups and downs.
The inner transformation which began at Assisi continues, with reminders and blessings as I learn to live a life in tune with the Divine. There remain ups and downs as I learn to recognize intimations towards joy and right action which often show up when I least expect them.
Although this is the second release from my trip to Assisi, this album contains the music created during the first two weeks of my stay there.
1. Angel Talk (Arrival)
A lovely way to get to Assisi is by train, passing through rolling hills and round, green mountains. Dotting the landscape are quaint stucco and stone houses, each with its ever present cypress trees.
Periodically we would pass a medieval-looking village on a hill top. “Could that be Assisi?” I wondered. I couldn’t help smiling with anticipation.
The train finally stopped at Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels), the town at the foot of Assisi which has grown up around the church of the same name.  I was to stay here at a friend’s apartment, venturing out each day in search of the sacred.
2. Compassion (First Impressions)
So many of us find a place in this world that triggers a memory, a feeling of home. For some, it may be in nature, a forest, the ocean, a mountain, the sky, the stars. Some of us are moved by great art or the edifices created by man to celebrate the Divine. Sometimes we are moved by a personal moment of understanding between two people, when a seemingly irreconcilable gap is transcended.
To feel the compassion of a being who has “touched the hem of God” and especially to recognize such a compassion living within oneself is a great gift. For those who choose to experience the unconditional love of St. Francis, it can be found at Assisi in great strength and in sweet subtlety.  A feeling of love and holiness pervades the town and surrounding countryside as if the whole town were in a giant sacred cathedral.
3. In the Hills
A walk in the countryside was a perfect way to remember the joy of life.
4. Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels)
When I first walked into St. Mary of the Angels Cathedral I hear a voice within me say, “Look what they’ve done to my little church!” The tiny church, one of those which St. Francis rebuilt by hand, now sits at the crux of a giant cathedral.
Nicknamed the Portiuncola or “little portion, ” St. Mary of the Angels is the Mother Church of the Franciscan Order.  Here St. Francis received a full pardon for all who seek the forgiveness and love of God. There is a feeling of great devotion, sanctity and gratitude here.
5. Dream of the Heart
We all have visions ideas and landscapes within our hearts of dreams we would love to see come true, personally and for the world.
6. Walking Theme
By putting one foot in front of the other I believe we can bring our dreams to Earth. This was one theme that came to me as I walked.
7. Confession
I found that each person I talked to had his/her own experience at Assisi and that my experience of inner communication with St. Francis was at times subtle and easily broken; so I experienced periods of grateful learning, great bliss and then great sorrows when I failed to keep my eye on the Divine.
There were plenty of opportunities for me to become aware of thoughts memories feelings and interactions which pulled my attention from God’s joy.
8. Love of Christ
“Love of Christ, Love of Christ, You are the light in my darkest night,
Love of Christ, Love of Christ, You are my joy and my soul’s delight!”
9. More Angels
At any moment we could rise with the joy and love of the Angels!
10. Heavenly Heights (Upper level, the Basilica of St. Francis)
The Basilica of St. Francis is in three levels, each one a church in itself. Walking into the upper level of St. Francis’ Basilica can be an expansive experience. It’s great height and beautiful frescos by Giotto remind us of a glory we may not normally contemplate.
11. O Light of Christ
“O Light of Christ illumine my heart for I am nothing without You,
O Light of Christ illumine my heart for I am nothing without You,
O Joy of salvation, it brings me tears of joy
O Joy of salvation, it brings me tears of joy.”
12. Introspection/Transformation (Middle level, Basilica of St. Francis)
Built in a Romanesque style with a low rounded ceiling, the middle level church is perfect for looking within and releasing the thoughts and feelings we sometimes torture ourselves with.  St. Francis’ body is buried directly under the altar in a stone sarcophagus (which forms the center of the chapel below).  The atmosphere here is dark and womb-like.  This is a place for going deep.  My experience was that I could delve into past memories and pain, and again and again, feel the grace of God lovingly wash away what was no longer useful to me. I became aware that I needed to let go deeply in order to reach the heights.
13. Oh Happiness
“Oh Happiness I thank you for being with me,
Oh Happiness I thank you for being with me in this world,
You’re always welcome here.”
Looking back on my experiences of getting to know St. Francis and making him one of my beloveds, I now see that the process of letting go of fear and allowing love in my heart and mind is a continuous one. This is my transformation. Being at Assisi was a trigger for me, and in that role, very necessary.  I now find as a musician and in my personal life, the grace and friendship of St. Francis are available at any time and any place, especially when I am forgetting my own needs and praying for others.
There are many doorways to the qualities of God, each quality being a doorway. Francis’ path of impeccable devotion, joy, simplicity, love, charity, faith, and most of all, the willingness to place the Presence of God foremost in every step, is a path which has transformed my life forever.
I believe that an unconscious connection of love and recognition exists among all beings, and that by many paths we each can experience this connection consciously.  I view this album as a doorway through which one may enter into a state of conscious connection with St. Francis.
Experiences I had while at Assisi made it clear to me that my connection with St. Francis has been continuous, although mostly unconscious throughout this life.
The second day of my trip to Assisi, I walked up Mt. Subasio to try to find the Hermitage of the Carceri.  Instead of following the road I went straight up the mountain. After a rest to enjoy the view, I took a path into a wood. Suddenly I felt a great grief, as if I had lost my best friend, and began sobbing and calling “Francesco, Francesco!” I didn’t know what such an outburst could mean but it got me to thinking, and a few pieces of a jig-saw puzzle came to mind.
Growing up Jewish, I had learned nothing about St. Francis, although my mother did have the “Prayer of St. Francis” framed in the basement. Years later I was hired as a substitute organist at a Spanish Catholic church. When the priest took me through a courtyard I asked if a particular statue was of St. Francis. How did I know?
Once in a meditation class the teacher had us meditate on the Christ. I didn’t understand why I had seen the sleeve and then the torso of a Franciscan friar, while some others had had visions  of white light or Jesus.
Is it possible that I was with St. Francis as a Minor Brother and he had been my doorway/teacher, revealing the Christ to me through his example; and is it possible that I, believing in the path of controlling the mind and emotions for the sake of remaining in the joy of God, had never fully grieved the loss of my beloved teacher when he died? Is it possible that I had returned to Assisi unknowing, for the purpose of releasing this grief? These are the thoughts which cam to my mind that day.
Whatever the answers are to the above questions, it is clear that my trip to Assisi enabled me to feel my direct connection with St. Francis, and likewise, realize my connection with all of creation. These connections are not affected by events in time but remain always now available. It is my sincere hope that this album will prompt you to re-experience your own relationship with the Divine.
“All-Highest, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith, firm hope, perfect charity and profound humility,
with wisdom and perception o Lord so that I may do what is truly
Your holy will. Amen”
St. Francis
Much Love and Many Blessings,
Richard Shulman
DEDICATION: To lovers of God everywhere.
Executive producers: Pierre Nadeau, Scott Petito, Richard Shulman, Mariola Barilli
Producer: Richard Shulman
Engineer: Scott Petito
Art Directors: Pierre Nadeau and Diane Couture
Design: Pierre Nadeau and Diane Couture
Cover Photo: Pierre Charland
Basic sequences were recorded November 1989 at Assisi, Italy using a Korg M1 music work station and a Mac Plus computer with Performer software. Mixing and mastering were done at NRS Studio, Woodstock, NY in July and August, 1992.
Special Thanks:
To Ron Young who initially brought me to Assisi and suggested this project /
To Pierre Nadeau, Diane Couture, Scott Petito and Mariola Barilli who have generously invested their time and money to bring this album to fruition /
To Lou Caimano for his excellent production suggestions /
To Rocco Macri who opened his home and heart to me during my stay at Assisi /
To all of my dear supporters who have bought and loved this album and Light from Assisi; you have helped me continue my work.
Thank you!
total running time 73::58
Transformation at Assisi is a sacred musical journey conceived and recorded at the birthplace of St. Francis, and is the companion album to Light from Assisi.
Do Not Drive while listening to this music.
RichHeart Music

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