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Music Review: Dustin O’Halloran – Piano Solos Vol. 2

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Music does not need to have words in order for a story to be told. A song does not need lyrics to paint pictures in your head, bringing your senses to life. Sometimes, all I need in my music is a mysterious, haunting, and beautiful melody produced from the delicate keys of a piano.

In Dustin O’Halloran’s current full length album, Piano Solos Vol. 2, ideas and scenes are presented through only the notes of a piano. It’s classical music with a fresher take. As I listen to this album, I am reminded of early classical music brought forth by the early composers such as Chopin and Beethoven, but O’Halloran has his own style and sound. This album is by far one of the most beautiful CDs in my expansive iTunes library.

O’Halloran is a renowned American pianist, spending most of his time at his home in Italy. He has been featured on several soundtracks for films and is also half of the band Devics. Several of his songs were used in Sofia Copolla’s film Marie Antoinette. O’Halloran has also written a full score for the indie film The Beautiful Ordinary as well as Boy of Pigs, which premiered in the Zurich Film Festival. Throughout all these projects, O’Halloran has kept up his solo work by releasing two piano solo albums, including Piano Solos Vol. 2.

What I love about this album is the story within it. There are no words, just notes, but every song stands alone, separate from the others, telling its own story. The first track, “Opus 20,” paints a picture of a dark, snowy night being watched from a frosted window with a glass of wine. “Opus 23,” the fourth track (which is also featured on Marie Antoinette), is a light and pleasant song. It speaks of sunshine felt on a carefree day. The notes are delicate and soft, adding a tone of innocence to the scene.

The seventh track, “Opus 28,” is my favorite. It has a haunting melody full of constant notes, giving the feeling of someone running. The way the notes weave in and out of each other describes a forest on a cold day, with a mysterious runner searching for the answer to life.

I know it may seem cliché to describe these images, but after one listen to this CD you will not be able to stop picturing different landscapes, each with a story of their own. With this CD, seasons come and go, the weather changes, and every track produces its own setting and a different story. What helps makes this CD truly incredible is that these songs were not played on a $200,000 grand piano. O’Halloran used a restored 1930s Swiss Sabel, and if you listen closely you can hear a few notes that are out of tune or even delayed. This adds character to the album, and because the piano is an old, restored piano it has its own story within itself. The sound is pure, elegant, and beautiful.

Anyone would love this album, whether you’re a rock-and-roller or a fan of classical music. The melodies are eerie, personal, enchanting, and every time I listen to a track a new picture comes in my head. This album will never get old or tiresome because of the interchangeable stories each track presents. There is something about the arrangement of the notes that allows the listener to be swept away in an air of grace, vulnerability, inspiration, and beauty. This album can be loved by anyone at any time of the year.

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About sarahgray

  • Ellery

    Couldn’t agree with you more! I discovered Dustin’s music when I read that he was going to be opening for k.d. lang at her upcoming show at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Arizona this November. I already had tickets for the show when I read that Dustin would be the opening act, so I went online to research him, having never heard of him. I then discovered that two of his albums were offered on eMusic, to which I subscribe. I previewed a couple tracks and immediately downloaded his entire catalog. This was just a couple of days before I saw him live, and I was so glad I had had that time to become somewhat familiar with his music. His live performance was wonderful. He played with such feeling and precision, the audience was transfixed. And his stage presence was completely charming. Given his talent and personality, I think he can write his own ticket in music. I’m looking forward to his future releases.

  • Ruth Mills

    I’m a big fan of Dustin’s music too; I discovered him after doing a Google search for who had composed the music for the ITV trailer “The Brighter Side” in the UK (which reminded me of Michael Nyman’s score to “The Piano”)… which through serendipity brought me to his website, where I fell in love with his beautiful piano music which I then proceeded to order on CD (both Piano Solos and Piano Solos vol. 2).

    I’ve always been a fan of the piano, particularly the more reflective side of piano music; I love the way that Dustin’s music, whilst having a beautiful simplicity on the surface, has hidden depths and conveys such rich emotions.

    I think his albums will especially be appreciated by fans of composers such as Satie and Debussy, as many of his piano compositions have (to my ears) the simplicity and directness of much of Satie’s music combined with the impressionistic flair of Debussy.