TODD BARTON “Ro” (Flying Moonlight)

I had a colleague who played the shakuhachi, but unfortunately he passed away a few years ago now after a prolonged battle with cancer. I can only imagine he utilized the practice as a centering tool or a meditative outlet to remove himself from thoughts or pain associated with it. In fact, “Ro is the lowest note on the shakuhachi  … Blowing the note Ro for 10 minutes to an hour a day is traditional training for shakuhachi players. Ro focuses breath, embouchure, timbre and listening.” That sounds about right. My colleague was certainly a contemplative soul.

Todd Barton’s been around a long time – in fact, Ro was originally self-released in 2003, but we get a reprieve from its scarcity with this new edition from Flying Moonlight. While you can usually find Barton tooling around a Buchla, Serge, or Hordijk synthesizer, or giving a talk or a workshop in Rome or Berlin or Vienna or some city far away from his hometown of Portland, Oregon, but here we’re treated to the talents of a true multi-instrumentalist. Not only are the recordings on Ro remarkably tranquil and dreamlike, but they’re also focused and purposeful, and concentrating all your attention and energy on them produces a sort of clearminded trance – an elevation of mind to a higher level? Who knows, and my mind is certainly not one to take that next leap to a hitherto unreached mental state (despite my impressive vocabulary), but maybe I’m just not doing it right. Maybe I just have to adjust the knobs and dials of my focus a smidge … ah,


…there we go.