What Are Your Five Healing Music CD Picks…That Don’t Suck?

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by Andrew Young (Writer at Sounds True)

Can you help me out here? I need more great “background” music for de-stressing and sparking my creativity.

The skinny: I review healing and meditation music CDs for Sounds True and other retailers and labels and have listened to well over two hundred over the years. Most of them are, uh…just okay. Some totally suck the pranic wind. Of course, you’ll find none of those at soundstrue.com (nudge nudge, wink wink).

I play this kind of music for relaxing, writing, and drawing, so I don’t like distracting melodies, in-your-face vocals, cheesy synthesizers, or stuff that I’ll get sick of after a few weeks of frequent play. Recommendations please!

In the meantime, here are five of my faves:

1. Sampradaya – Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (Real World Recordings). Great for when I’m feeling mentally sluggish or “stuck.” Not marketed as a healing music CD—but incredibly effective as one. The Indian hammer dulcimer (santoor) master plays here with his son Rahul and tabla wizard Shafaat Ahmed Khan. These are traditional ragas, but sound nothing like the familiar sitar/tambour offerings: uplifting, resonant layers of bell-like melodies and jaw-dropping overtones arise independently from the actual struck notes and float beyond the room. Joyful and mind-expanding, sparkly and fresh like cool sunlit rain.

2. Crystal Bowl Sound Healing – Tryshe Dhevney (Sounds True). This is my favorite CD to play when writing, drawing, or photoshopping piles of photos. 100% organic (no synths), beautifully recorded in a giant natural cave (seriously). Tryshe uses rare customized gemstone bowls perfectly tuned for expanding consciousness via the Om frequency and other well-tested resonances. It’s so good that when I first got the 8-minute sample track for writing the CD package copy, I set it on “repeat” and listened to it looped for hours. Tip: if you download this album, don’t “re-rip” the tracks to make them smaller. You’ll want the highest sound quality to fully experience the effect of the pure, subtle harmonics.

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3. Aural Resonance Astral Harmony – Simeon Hein (Mount Baldy Press). Yes “astral harmony” sounds really new-agey, but this recording is not, and it is amazing. My massage therapist played this for me during a session years ago. It’s just a sustained, multi-layered perfect-fifth harmonic chord that goes for 70 minutes. Made with 100% synth, but works so well that I grant it full amnesty. This CD is my sure-fire last resort for insomnia and clearing writer’s block, BUT it is not for everybody: the effect is so intense that the first five times I used it, I would sometimes hear it resonating in my head for hours after turning it off.

4. Relax – David Ison (Sounds True). I play this album on my iPhone so often that if it were an old-fashioned LP, it would be worn out. What makes it so good? For one, David doesn’t use brainwave frequency entrainment—he builds his compositions using healing principles based on sacred geometries and proportional tonal relationships and rhythms from ancient Greece, Egypt, and his own intuition and rigorous experimentation. He also uses some very unique studio sound production tools to create tuned ambient spaces that have a clear and calming somatic effect. Even more relevant though is that the music on this album is simple yet incredibly beautiful. The first time I played it, it gave me the chills. The primary “voice” on this album is Ison’s guitar (a massive dreadnought Martin acoustic I think). David has been using this music program to help war veterans in the healing process with powerful results. For maximum effect, play this on a good stereo speaker system or with high-quality headphones.

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5. Audio Serenity (iAwake Technologies). These folks are at the far event horizon of brainwave entrainment research. For example, they’ve addressed the problem of frequency habituation—your brain adapting to sound entrainment so that it no longer syncs to beneficial effect. Problem solved here (don’t ask me how, but it works). And they use a suite of other acoustic technologies to massage your brain, nadis, meridians, and positronic circuits (if you’re a Star Trek android). Sound-wise, this program does in fact use synth, but it’s very gentle. Get ready for an extremely quick and deep calming effect. My only caveat is that it’s pricier than a conventional music track (iAwake’s first-hand research takes time and resources). That said, I can tell you that this program is as effective as the awesome MindSpa [http://avstim.com] audio-visual entrainment device that we reviewed here at Sounds True a while back—at a fraction of the cost.

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Okay your turn: please recommend some of your favorites so we can all have more relaxation and creativity music options!

[FYI, this is a photo of my niece playing “Fur Elise”]

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73 Responses

  1. Wendy P
    | Reply

    Jonathan Goldman- Ultimate Om

    I play this song on repeat and I swear even the birds and animals outside our home camp out at our house enjoying it. Very soothing and great background music when relaxing. Not distracting at all.

  2. Lisa G
    | Reply

    Crystal Bowl Sound Healing – Tryshe Dhevney
    Tryshe’s unique sound is soothing, awakens the mind/spirit
    transporting you to a unique dimension of healing organic harmonies embracing
    calm and peace.

  3. Susan
    | Reply

    Aural Resonance is the only CD I play every night before I go to sleep. It masks sounds from my noisy neighbors and creates a deep relaxing feeling. It’s the only way to get a great night’s rest.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Yes, for me too. In fact, I take it with me whenever I have to stay in a hotel room or other new place to help me sleep. Thx for confirming that it works in this way for more than just me!

      • Susan
        |

        Hi Andrew
        Glad to know I’m not the only one as well! For some reason it works better than nature sounds, which i’ve tried many times. I love nature sounds but Aural Resonance has an added layer of calm. Sometimes I use both.

  4. Vivian Blaxell
    | Reply

    Ludovico Einaudi “In a Time Lapse”

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks Vivian, I’m listening to his YouTube post as I type this. ST blog readers: this is a solo piano piece that evokes in me the emotional palettes of Chopin, Debussy, Keith Jarrett, the soundscapes of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films, and Einaudi’s own unique style and feeling. Beautiful.

  5. cathy jo
    | Reply

    I listen to DeStress, Focus, and Inspiration classical recordings from Advanced Brain Technologies, and find them very effective. (ABT’S THE LISTENING PROGRAM helped me recuperate from a stroke.)
    I also listen a great deal to the wonderful Tryshe Dhevney CD–and you are so right about needing to keep the high quality for the best response. I’m hoping Sounds True will be putting out another CD from Tryshe soon!

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks, Cathy. I’m reading about ABT’s research studies now and it’s very encouraging work.

      If Sounds True releases another Tryshe Dhevney album, I am going to suggest that it includes her voice as well, as so many of us love that dimension of her work.

  6. Susan T
    | Reply

    Relish the lovely tones that David Ison comes up with on his album, RELAX. He conveys deep code that travels through your body and soul as you listen.

  7. katherine harris
    | Reply

    Anything by David Ison – takes me just where I need to be.

  8. Cyn
    | Reply

    Wow. Thanks everyone for all the new ideas. Checking out my iTunes meditation playlist – one of my favorites for just chilling and meditating is a group called Shaman’s Dream – lots of sitar, running water – lovely. Or anything by Nawang Khechog. Andew Weil has a program in vibrational healing that is outstanding – this must be Sounds True, but I can’t tell since I’m looking at iTunes. Christine Tulis for harp – she’s through Sound Temple recordings, and then there is Stevin McNamara’s Yoguitar from Etherean music.I love any Gregorian chant for creativity. For high-energy creativity, Beth Quist, who has an amazing voice and plays a variety of strange instruments to create otherworldly soundscapes. Find her at home.earthlink.net/~quistian/ oops, I think I’m over the limit.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thx, Cyn, many great suggestions hre. I’m going to check out Beth Quist’s and Christine Tulis’ music now….

  9. ezio
    | Reply

    I like Joanne Shenandoah, and the Elemental songs on Jeff’s Strong’s BrainShift Collection. I also love the wood flute- whether shakuhachi, Nawang Khechog’s tibetan flute, or the Native flute of Carlos Nakai.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thx for the recos, ezio. I especially enjoy listening to Nawang Khechog’s music outside on my headphones while sitting on the grass (or even lying on moist earth as I look up at the clouds) 😉

  10. Foster Brashear
    | Reply

    For about 10 years, I have been affiliated with a group of people, mostly musicians, who record amazing ethereal music in a huge water tank in Rangely Colorado. In fact, recently a KickStarter campaign raised a lot of money to refurbish “The Tank” and turn it into a more formal recording venue. I was introduced to The Tank by my friend Michael Stanwood, and was privileged to be present for part of the recording of his CD “PORTAL” at The Tank. I think much of the music recorder there fits your request. You can hear (or buy) PORTAL at this link: http://www.pansyproductions.com/
    Partly because of the recent campaign, there are actually many wonderful and inspiring recordings all over the net if you search for “The Tank.”

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Utterly amazing—this acoustic space makes NYC’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine sound like a shoebox! http://youtu.be/Ua-iXXwfM-E

      Thx for posting!

  11. linnaea b
    | Reply

    David Ison’s Chakra Illumination is the best I have heard in the 14+ years I have used music as background for massage. The composition entrains the breath and then the mind. Clients go “deep” without any effort. When I use it four or five times a day, it is as if I have been meditating for days.

    I never used music as background to craniosacral work, as music tended to take people out of cranial space. However, David’s Chakra Illumination helps them stay in cranial space.

    Before I bought Chakra Illumination, I used Theta by Steven Halpern for massage. That is also good, as it encourages people to go into a theta state.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks for your insights on Chakra Illumination for craniosacral work. A friend of mine in Utah is training in this modality now and I will recommend it to him.

  12. Mica
    | Reply

    There is only one way to go on the Science of Sound…true healing….anything David Ison….

  13. Diana
    | Reply

    #4 is wonderful and soul nurturing. It taught me how to mediatate, forgive and free myself. It’s also used by some of our Fortune 100 clients. They listen to segments of it on their lunch breaks

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      So cool that it introduced you to meditation—and that David’s work is infusing the business world.

  14. Kate
    | Reply

    I’m a hugh fan of Tryshe Dhevney’s music too. Her bowl work is always beautiful and when you add in her voice….it’s extraordinary! I love playing her cd’s in the background as I go about doing things in my home. It keeps me settled. And, when I sit quietly and use her music to meditate by, I can feel the energy moving inter-dimensionally. She is seriously gifted and shares all that so lovingly.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks, Kate, for mentioning Tryshe Dhevney’s amazing voice. It’s not on the Crystal Bowl Sound Healing CD but I was deeply moved when I heard her “tuvan” inspired overtone voicings at this year’s Wake Up Festival.

  15. Noah C
    | Reply

    Here’s a few I love. These are my go to, over and over, keep ’em on repeat because they keep me in the zone I love to be in.

    1. Heart Sutra chant of the Dalai Lama for the president of the united states. This is one of the most heart-full expansive courageously peaceful chants I have ever heard.
    2 Relax. David Ison does something different than most: he plays real music, only it does something to me that first relaxes me deeply, but then I start feeling very creative. It’s like a 1-2 heart punch of peacefulness!
    3. Sounds of the Soul, Sheila G. Sterling. This is great if you want to just go out there and fully immerse into loving bliss consciousness. I can’t get any work done with this one, but its epic for visualizations and midafternoon reset sessions.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks for these recos, Noah. I’m going to search for the Dalai Lama Heart Sutra chant now, as well as the Sheil G. Sterling CD. I’m glad you posted this one that is “non-background” music—”loving bliss consciousness…I can’t get any work done with this one” LOL! :O

  16. Janet Sussman
    | Reply

    I am a fan of David Ison’s and have been for twenty-five years or so. The consciousness that is embedded in the music is the main thing. The techniques are great, but it is what the intentionality speaks to that makes his material really work.

    • Andrew
      | Reply

      Yes, Janet, that is a great way of describing the healing source of the Ison Method music—I mean, he can use a conventional acoustic guitar (like on “Relax”) to produce such powerful effects. Thanks for your comment!

  17. Beate Nilsen
    | Reply

    “For sparking my creativity” David Ison has had remarkable success w/ getting writer’s block dissipated Pronto: from the last chapter of a book to the last link in a sequence for a computer game on a deadline of TOMORROW.

    Try the Chakra Sound System;-)

    • Andrew
      | Reply

      Thx for the comment, Beate. I also vote for David Ison’s “magnum opus” Chakra Sound System as the best full-throttle experience of his work. I was also going to include the “Chakra Illumination” music CD within the big CSS program but had to keep my list to just five picks.

      ST blog readers: I’m not really into chakra energy healing, but you don’t need to be to benefit from Ison’s work. Here’s the link to the epic CSS program:
      http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/The-Chakra-Sound-System/4102.pd

      …and a link to just the harmonizer CD set “extracted” from the CSS (one music-only CD one CD with music + spoken-word guided meditations by David):
      http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/Chakra-Illumination/3821.pd

  18. Patrece
    | Reply

    Tryshe Dhevney’s Crystal Bowl Sounds Healing CD tops my list of favorites. I do hope to make it to one of her workshops soon but, until then, I treasure the recording. How she uses sound is truly amazing.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Does Tryshe teach workshop attendees how to actually PLAY the crystal bowls? I would love to give it a try myself.

      • Kate
        |

        She does do workshops on how to play the bowls along with workshops on using the voice and bowls for healing and other workshops. See her website, http://www.soundshifting.com. Also, her voice is extraordinary and combine that with the bowls and you go off into other places/dimensions.

  19. Patrece
    | Reply

    I have enjoyed Tryshe Dhveney’s Crystal Bowls Sound Healing CD as have many of my friends. Because of that CD, I try to attend as many of her workshops as I can. She’s a true inspiration and has made a huge difference in my life. Thanks for this opportunity for me to share how special her CD is to me.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      I didn’t know that Tryshe teaches regular workshops, thanks for the heads up, Patrece. At this year’s Wake Up Festival, she treated us to an opening ritual that was just amazing on a somatic-energetic level. It kinda flipped me out (in a good way)!

  20. Ira Liss
    | Reply

    When I took Simeon’s resonant viewing (RV) class several years ago, he played the Aural Resonance Astral Harmony (“the perfect fifth”) CD in the background. Learning and doing RV can be challenging so having this simple calming, serenity-inducing sound in the room was helpful. I learned it’s available here, http://mountbaldy.com/store/index.php?content=music

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Resonant viewing, cool, I need to check out Simeon’s workshops. Funny you should mention this type of practice because I didn’t mention in my post that I find this CD superb for traditional shamanic journey practice when combined with Sandra Ingerman’s drumming tracks.

  21. Eric Carr
    | Reply

    Thank you for this! Tryshe Dhevney’s Crystal Bowl Sound Healing is one of my top album choices as well, so I’ll have to check out the others listed here. I’m always looking for healing music. Dhevney also has another album that she did as part of the Lapis Ensemble that I have on near constant rotation even after three or four years since it came out, and I’ve had myriad clients ask about it when it plays. Shi De by Dechen Shak Dagsay, and Sei He Ki by Weave are probably the only other albums that my clients or friends outright ask about, but Tryshe Dhevney’s are by far the most popular (and my favorites).

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks for your recos, Eric. Are you a massage/bodywork therapist, energy healer, or other type of therapist? I ask because I have several massage-physical therapy friends who want my recommendations. I’m now searching for music by Shi De by Dechen Shak Dagsay and Sei He Ki. Cool, more possibilities that I have never heard of! Blog readers: The Tryshe Dhevney/Lapis Ensemble collaboration is titled “Lapis Ensemble” and is on iTunes and CDbaby.com I’m listening to samples now….

  22. Heather
    | Reply

    Jennifer Berezan and friends have sustained me over the past few years… In These Arms, or Praises for the World, or Returning… All of her albums are both grounded and sublime. No ickiness, and deeply connective. Check out http://edgeofwonder.com/

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks for these recos, Heather. I’m going to listen to samples right now! – Andrew

  23. Elisa Brown Music
    | Reply

    I am SO pleased that Sounds True recommends Simeon Hein’s Aural Resonance CD. This simple, elegant and highly effective mediation CD is a mainstay in my relaxation mediation CD collection. With this terrific review in Sounds True, I hope it becomes a Go-To CD for all your readers, too!

    • Opening Minds Music
      | Reply

      Thanks Elisa, it’s available now both as a CD and download at http://AuralResonance.com .

      • Andrew Young
        |

        Thx for finding this page, O.M., I couldn’t find a download source on google. ST Blog readers: As with the Tryshe Dhevney, don’t “re-rip” this music to make it smaller—you’ll want highest sound quality to experience its effects fully!

      • Simeon
        |

        That’s right Andrew, the high-frequency harmonics won’t appear in your room with a lower-quality version. You have to have the full-spectrum sound to get the complete effect. It’s like a sparkling timbre that appears about 10-15 minutes after you start playing Aural Resonance. The longer you leave it on, the stronger it can get.

      • Andrew Young
        |

        Thanks for chiming in, Simeon, and for this amazing recording. I’ve always wondered if those really high overtones were intentional—now I know that they are! ST blog readers: Simeon Hein is the creator of this awesome CD.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks for chiming in, Elisa. I should probably tell blog readers here that these are my personal favorites, not “official” Sounds True recommendations. I’m glad that you also give it a “thumbs up” too—it’s one of those largely unknown recordings that everyone should try at least once. Cheers! – Andrew

  24. Aural Resonance Review |
    | Reply

    […] to Andrew at Sounds True for his kind review of my Aural Resonance CD, I appreciate it! More info about the magical sounds of Aural Resonance […]

  25. Grayson Towler
    | Reply

    For creativity, Jeff Strong’s percussion music from “Brain Shift Collection” is my go-to. This is something you can put on soft in the background in an office situation and not bother anyone, but you still get a good effect.

    I also find for creativity that you can’t really go wrong with the classics. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff… maybe it sounds cliche, but they always do the trick.

    In terms of healing, my own experience (confession time here…) is that merely listening to music creates the weakest result. For me, singing and sometimes dancing are the things that really kick musical healing energy into gear. So I get more mileage out of something like the soundtrack to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog than I do from any kind of instrumental music for healing, no matter if it’s supposed to be intentional or bioacoustic or whatever.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      ALL of Mozart’s piano sonatas I would put in my top 10 for both de-stressing, creativity, and sheer pleasure…but I didn’t want to sound like too much of a fuddy duddy. 😉 I mean, when I was raving about Mozart to my 85-year-old NYC uncle, he said that I had the musical tastes of an old man and that I needed to get hip to Amy Winehouse and Ricky Martin. Seriously! Re: Jeff Strong’s super-quiet entrainment tracks—definitely a thumbs up from me, I’ll prob list his “attention and focus” CD if I do a “Part II” post of this thread. Trueski fans, here’s a link to Jeff’s amazing stuff: http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/authors/Jeff_Strong

  26. cindy
    | Reply

    Prayer circle by Jonathan Elia which is the most beautiful piece of music that I’ve ever heard.

    Anything off of the only two albums by Stephen Walters.

    Migration by R Carlos Nakai

    All beautiful.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Wow, thanks Cindy for these recommendations. I found a Jonathan Elia album titled “Prayer Cycle”—with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Alanis Morissette, & others. Not sure if this is the one you mention or another…but it’s really cool. “Migration” by R. Carlos Nakai and Peter Kater is quite beautiful; Peter’s style reminds me of of Keith Jarrett’s sublime “Koln Concert” album (which is definitely in my top 10 for creativity sparking CDs). Stephen Walters I could not find but will continue to look. Thx again!

  27. Michael Boxer
    | Reply

    Andrew, I have to admit that I have had my creative spirit COMPLETELY raised in the last 4 days by listening to Schoenberg’s “Les Miserbales” I have now seen it 8 times in 4 days and have been listening to the influence of Sondheim which is SO deep. As a projection, I have been comforted by musical theatre and opera from my youth. I know you have a hard time with lyrics, but the music is absolutely powerful!

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Cool! I wonder if Schoenberg ever did a 12-tone version of “Grease.” 😉

  28. Cierra
    | Reply

    Temple by Thomas Barquee. As a massage therapist I could (and did!) play this CD for hours, for days, and for weeks without ever getting tired of it. Absolutely beautiful!

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Aha, I’ve never heard anything by Thomas Barquee. I’m going to search for a sample track of “Temple” right now. Thanks for the tip!

  29. Serge Lanoë
    | Reply

    * Yi-Ching Music For Health (5 CD’s : Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Regimen)

    * Chinese “Five Tones” Healing Music (5 CD’s : Jyy Tone, Yu Tone, Kung Tone, Chueh Tone, Regimen-Chi Circulation)

    * Music for Beauty (4 CD’s : Day, Night, Spring & Summer, Autumn & Winter)

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks, Serge. I believe I found them on Amazon. I’ve recently become interested in five-element Chinese music (feng shui, but also trying to find traditional or ancient compositions as well).

  30. Akaisha Kaderli
    | Reply

    I like Alex Theory Music (Air, Earth Water, Light) and also Sacred Accoustics Foundation Series (OM, Earth, Blue, Portal) http://www.sacredacoustics.com

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Thanks, great recos, Akaisha. I actually wanted to list Alex Theory’s “Water,” but I made myself stick to just five. I may have to do a “Part II” post! 🙂

  31. Jennifer
    | Reply

    Victorialand by the Cocteau Twins

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      This is so cool—I had no idea there were so many people who consider the Cocteau Twins to be relaxing or healing music. I wonder if Elizabeth Fraser and/or Simon Raymonde would ever consider doing a meditation-oriented or therapeutic music album? I’d definitely order it in a heartbeat!

      • Michael Boxer
        |

        Completely!

  32. Joanne W.
    | Reply

    I love anything by Tom Kenyon. A few favorites are Imaginarium, Sacred Chants, and City of Hymns. I play these for myself and when giving energy healing treatments! LOVE ’em!

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      These are great recos as well, thanks for mentioning Tom Kenyon’s resonant work. Sounds True had the privilege of hearing his amazing voice right here in the office entryway atrium a few years ago. Wow.

  33. Michael Boxer
    | Reply

    Chick Corea Piano Improv # 1, Pink Martini Sympatetique, Nanci Griffith One Fair Summer Evening, Puccini La Boehem, Cocteau Twins Aikea Guniea.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      Ha, thx for the recos, Michael. The Cocteau Twins’ “Treasure” is definitely in my top 20 for this list, as well as Alla’s “Fundou de Bechar” improvisatioal oud gem. I recently bought a fresh, fairly clean used vinyl LP pressing of the Chick Corea Piano Improvs Vol. 1 myself and it’s sublime….

      • Joe D
        |

        So that’s at least two jazz references in this thread, bop bwee a doowop!

  34. Joe D
    | Reply

    Vibrational Healing Music by Marjorie de Muynck. It is one of my choice migraine remedies. And what’s great is that, at least for me, I can just play it in the background and let it do its thing while I continue doing whatever it is I’m up to. In other words, you don’t have to sit in silence in my opinion for the benefit. I second your motion for the iAwake music. My son and I have been using that music for a few weeks now at nighttime for unwinding and getting ready to transition to sleep. Quite effective.

    • Andrew Young
      | Reply

      I am embarrassed to say that I’ve not sampled any of Marjorie de Muynck’s om-fequency-tuned music. It’s not too “new agey?”

      • Jennifer
        |

        Marjorie was a jazz musician before she became a sound healing pioneer. She also is the only sound healing artist I know who has made effective and beautiful use of the banjo on her recordings!

      • Joe D
        |

        I don’t think there’s an ounce of cheese in the recording, if that’s what you mean!

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