New Age Voice, April 1998
Pedersen draws his inspiration for this album directly from the famous book by the same name written by Thoreau. His piano breathes life into the writer’s passages, like the quiet rippling of the wind on the surface of the water with the sunlight dancing off of its sparkling in the morning.
Listen to the wind in the trees and the birds flying among them singing. And then we get to the place where joy so overwhelms the man who appreciates the beauty of nature that he is freespirited to dance in the woods alone, making his own melodies and rhythms from all the life surrounding him.
This is an album which is played with simple, yet expressive structures. His notes and chords convey the impressions of the simple pleasures of a day in the woods without any special effects, just elegant and well played melodies.
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New Age Retailer, March 1998
Rarely has an artist-owned label released such beautifully packaged, soundly themed, and perfectly produced music. Using Thoreau’s devotion to the wildwoods area known as Walden as a means of melding natural and philosophical themes, solo pianist Pedersen has lovingly crafted an utterly gorgeous selection of pastoral melodies that engender deep feelings of tranquillity and repose.
It’s amazing he can actually play keyboards at all, since part of one of his fingers was amputated in a skill saw accident. “It was a miracle that only one finger was hurt,” he notes, and attributes his admirably inventive performance style to having to “get creative” in order to share the melodies he often hears in dreams. Beginning with a motif or improvisation, Pedersen then composes the formal elements using classical principles of development. He says “the result is easy to enjoy, while providing substance for those who want to look deeper. Tracks like ‘Solitude’s Companion’ and ‘Simplicity’s Prayer’ are about as New Age as you can get, while the ‘Uncommon Hour’ (a duet with Russian cellist Martine Benmann) has an added classical underpinning. I believe there is an audience out there that hungers for the next step in musical refinement in a New Age package. I hope they see my music as that step.”
A philosophy major who became an Assistant Visiting Professor at Purdue University, Pedersen went on to write three books, two film scores, and numerous compositions for musical theatre. Recently retired as President of the Glen Ellyn District 89 school board, Pedersen notes “We get so focused on careers, sometimes we let our own well being get swept away in society’s tidal wave. It takes true bravery to value one’s family and oneself enough to act against that tide. That was a key point for Thoreau’s philosophy.”
-P J Birosik
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NAPRA Review, Spring 1998
While the title of this album may be a bit hackneyed for our market, the performance of these brilliant solo piano compositions certainly is not. Each piece is a gem of repose and response to nature, hence “Walden.” The cover is a photograph of water with leaves floating on it, a la Monet’s mural “Nymphias” — quite lovely — and the liner notes are heavily sprinkled with Thoreau’s more famous and pertinent quotes. A sure sell to the solo piano market, New Age or classical.
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Wind & Wire Magazine, November 1997
From the first notes on his debut recording, Walden, Ken Pedersen makes it clear that this listening experience will be one of warmth, understated drama, and poignant beauty. Ken involves the listener emotionally via his heartfelt compositions and expressive playing.
The first two cuts (which are indicative of the majority of Walden), ‘Simplicity’s Prayer,’ and ‘The Leavetaking,’ are slower numbers in the vein of George Winston’s impressionism, but the compositions are, at times, less minimalist than Winston can be at times. Even after just two songs, it’s evident that great care has been taken in this making this CD. The piano sounds less ‘bright’ than it does on some solo releases. The result for me was that I turned my receiver up farther than normal. However, when I did, the sound quality was very lifelike.
Ken sometimes lightens the mood and speeds up the tempo, such as on ‘Day at Walden Pond’ which brings to mind images of sunny autumn walks in the woods. Ken’s playing is much less ‘pop’ structured than someone like Jim Chappell (which is no knock on Jim – read my review of Acadia in issue one for proof of that). It’s definitely a more tone-poem compositional process. Overall, the album strikes a subdued and reflective note but seldom, if ever, a melancholic one. That’s obvious on ‘Neighbor to the Birds,’ a jaunty (but not demonstrably so) and light-hearted piece that, at times, has a very classical sound to it.
Ken collaborates with other musicians on two songs. ‘A Waltz in the Woods,’ features Jeff Kust’s acoustic guitar. This song is a bit of a departure from the remainder of the album. Here the sound is almost Baroque sounding as Ken and Jeff play off each other in a spirited fashion. The song has an edge to it that flirts with mystery but usually comes closer to playfulness.
Cellist Martine Benmann lends her able support to ‘Uncommon Hour’ and her cello is right out front, not hidden in the background. If the song sounds classical to you, it should. It’s based on the Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Minor for Unaccompanied Cello, except the cello is accompanied here. If you dislike classical music, this song may not go down well with you. Personally, I liked it.
Ken did a nice job on the details, too, like the liner notes (quotes from Thoreau’s writings), front and back cover artwork (quite beautiful, actually, in my opinion) and overall graphic layout of the insert. One would have a hard time perceiving this as an artist’s recording debut. Walden is as accomplished a CD as you’re likely to hear this year.