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Dark Wood

David Darling

David Darling cello
Darkwood IV: Dawn, In Motion, Journey
Darkwood V: Light, Earth, Passage
Darkwood VI: Beginning, Up Side Down, Searching, Medieval Dance
Darkwood VII: The Picture, Returning, New Morning

Recorded July 1993
ECM 1519


This review is from The Daily Om ... and this CD is also available at The Daily Om Shop.

Hushed and almost foreboding, peaceful but fathomlessly powerful, this album by cellist David Darling plumbs the dark depths of the instrument's power to create mood, and the result falls between the cracks of genre categorization. This is much too somber and orchestral to be New Age, too melodic to be ambient, too ambient to be classical, too classical to be jazz (though that's where this album usually ends up in record stores). The title, Dark Wood refers to the wood of the cello's body but also to the dark woods of the world and of the mind, and Darling's music twists the three together until there is no difference. Long, drawn bowed notes hold themselves in the air like trunks of old oaks, with overdubbed upper-string notes slowly branching out of the bass like a Grimm's fairy tale tree. The powerful, mournful notes stay where Darling bows them, timeless and immortal, until darkness obscures them from view.

The composition "Darkwood" is divided into four pieces, each with three short subsections (enigmatically, the series starts at number IV). Each section is short—with some just under a minute, creating part of the structure and moving on—compelling the listener to embrace each new tonality as part of the whole. "Darkwood V: Passage" echoes the reverberation of the strings, so that the simple, slow bowing of the cello becomes all consuming and haunting on the low strings, inexplicably sweet and mournful on the high. In "Darkwood VI: Searching," Darling invokes the feel of an ancient wooden flute via staccato; in "Darkwood IV: Dawn," softly plucked refrains sound like the trickle of a gentle stream while mournful bowing passages stand in the foreground with the immediacy and permanence of a dripping oil painting.

Enhancing the mystery of this album, the CD liner notes consist solely of a short story by author Barry Lopez. It’s the tale of a group of men who climb a strange mountain on a divine mission they scarcely understand, and it eloquently captures the mood of this grandly emotive and exciting work. This is perfect music for meditation and midnight walks through the dark woods, a time when heavy thoughts and emotions are able to transfigure into poetry, a time when the ancient permanency of the trees can be felt in our fleeing, wayward hearts.

Sampler of Selected Tracks


Dark Wood
  More info ...

» ECM Records Web Site


  1. Darkwood IV: Dawn
  2. Darkwood IV: In Motion
  3. Darkwood IV: Journey
  4. Darkwood V: Light
  5. Darkwood V: Earth
  6. Darkwood V: Passage
  7. Darkwood VI: Beginning
  8. Darkwood VI: Up Side Down
  9. Darkwood VI: Searching
  10. Darkwood VI: Medieval Dance
  11. Darkwood VII: The Picture
  12. Darkwood VII: Returning
  13. Darkwood VII: New Morning

ECM Description

David Darling continues his extraordinary solo cello voyage launched on Journal October (1979) and continued with Cello (1992). The cinematic qualities of Darling's solo music has led to its use in films by Jean Luc Godard and Wim Wenders. Dark Wood inspires a different art form: the CD booklet contains a short story, "Disturbing the Night", specially written to accompany the music by Barry Lopez, American author of the acclaimed Arctic Dreams. Lopez wrote the story as a literary counterpoint to the evocative music of Dark Wood. The music experiments further with the unique multi-tracking techniques used on Cello, creating haunting harmonies and rich textures. "David Darling produces a ravishing cello sound ... The result is haunting and seductive." Gramophone "Darling's range of stylistic evocations moves from early music to ethereal, swarthy impressionism to folk sonorities ... transcendent." Down Beat "Soulful, seductive" Echoes Radio.


Selections from Dark Wood were used by Sandra Nettelbeck in her film Bella Martha.

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  Updated: August 30, 2016 3:00 PM
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