Have you ever heard minimalistic piano music?  An extraordinarily restrained and slow-paced music that makes you think of falling snow, in a birch forest,  in the middle of the never-never on a very quiet day?  

I have heard it in movie scores and been moved by the quality of stillness that it can invoke.  But, I have never heard it in massage music.  Not until now.

Michael Strening Jr. (also a member of the AMTA) is a musical composer and pianist in Chicago and  has captured this picture, weaving it with the textures, tone and tempos found throughout Mist and Sand and Falling Water.   Both CD’s allure the senses with a beautiful tapestry of notes. 

Michael composes and records music for massage therapy, having found this calling when massage therapy provided clinical and quantitative healing which literally saved his music career. 

With each new play, you’ll notice another layer you missed previously.  You’ll also find that the tone of his actual piano is different from most one hears on ambient piano CD’s.  This unique sound comes from the way the piano is tuned and some well thought out technical aspects which occur during the recording process.

Normally, my ear can only comfortably take in deeper notes and because of this, I am very limited with the piano music I can use to accompany my bodywork.   When I received the press kit and was asked to review these two CD’s, I was quite worried that my review would end up less than remarkable.  Something a reviewer like me, who tends to be honest to a fault, does not like to have happen.

That said, I’ve logged over 50 hours of listening for both CD’s combined.  

I’ve listened to the full CD’s conscientiously and each time in their entirety.  Somewhere around the 30 hour mark, I felt I could begin to break the songs down individually and build a playlist for my taste.  As a side note: Approximately 42 hours was spent with full hour massage work (with a client on the table during the listening period).


One of my first clients who heard the music, fell into a deep state of relaxation, which is definitely not something he normally does.  At the end of the session he said, “That’s interesting.  It felt like for a while there, you stopped time.  I kept thinking the hour must be over and it was not.”  Actually, I noticed when he went under, and at that point the session was not to be over for a very long time (about 20 mins. more).


There is subtlety and craft in the structure of these pieces.  I’ve never seen someone make music so effective while doing so little.  It is not pomp and circumstance.  It is not ambient music for the sake of being ambient.  It has purpose in its looseness, yet it isn’t loose in its structure. It’s what the music doesn’t do that makes the difference. 


The style of the music is also quite different from normal piano massage music.  While the listener can experience the music completely and have a perfectly wonderful experience on a small gadget such as an iPod, in order for the well-seasoned massage therapist who uses music to enhance their sessions maximally, to work at a peak performance, I suggest you find a good set of speakers.  Any massage therapist will definitely want to be aware that less than competent bass will not allow you to really capture this music as needed.  Too high of treble and you’ll find the higher key work will be warped from its beauty.  The working therapist will need access to entire range to both appreciate and work most effectively with the music.

The flow of this music is an entirely different flow than what I normally work to.  So, although not all of the music on these two CD’s works with my massage, I found that the songs which don’t, fare very well with my style of reflexology.  This makes it a win-win.

Since the musical needs of each massage therapist differs, I would consider beginning with a purchase of the individual playlists I have pieced together after much reflection (at the bottom of this post) to get a feel for the flow.  I believe you will be happy with my choices. 

If, however, you are purchasing this music purely for relaxation, to curl up and read a book with, for sleep or as a backdrop to a candle & glass of wine, then you will enjoy the music as it is presented… without needing my playlists.  And, in that case, you would definitely want to consider purchasing them as a set, I would think.


Mist and Sand / music for relaxation
Released: January 2012 | Format: mp3, CD and on iTunes

Inspired by the success of his previous release for massage therapy: Falling Water, Michael created another CD designed to enhance concentration, relaxation, and meditation.

  1. Mist and Sand
  2. Waves
  3. Variations On A Theme From Rebirth*
  4. Variations On A Theme From Almost There*
  5. A New Day


Falling Water / music for relaxation
Released: January 2009 | Format: mp3, CD and on iTunes

Specifically composed performed, and recorded as a tool for massage therapy, relaxation, meditation, and healing.

  1. Sunrise*
  2. Moon*
  3. A New Beginning*
  4. Lullaby*
  5. Short Sands
  6. Falling water
  7. Escape
  8. Goodbye*
  9. Echo*



Massage Toolbox MASSAGE Playlist (60:39 minutes)

  1. Echo* | from: Falling Water (5:07)
  2. Escape | from: Falling Water (24:22)
  3. Variation On A Theme From Rebirth* | from: Mist and Sand (12:18)
  4. Goodbye* | from: Falling Water (5:24)
  5. A New Day | from: Mist and Sand (5:20)
  6. Short Sands | from: Falling Water  (7:53)



Massage Toolbox REFLEXOLOGY Playlist (61.01 minutes):  

  1. Sunrise| from: Falling Water  (4:14)
  2. Escape| from: Falling Water (24:22)
  3. Falling Water| from: Falling Water (5:34)
  4. Variation On A Theme From Almost There*| from: Mist and Sand (22:11)
  5. A New Day| from: Mist and Sand (5:20)
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