Six Elements Biography
Six Elements is a progressive rock studio project by Atlanta-based musician Michael (Misha) Shengaout. It was founded in 2007 with the dream to create music for thinking people, with the conceptual music combining meaningful, inspiring lyrics (like Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If”) and arrangements in the tradition of Russian Romantic composers (think Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky). Misha spent the next two years developing material for the band’s first album.
He met guitarist Jeff McGahren in 2009. They hit it off, co-wrote two songs for the album, and spent the next year developing arrangements for their first CD. In mid-2010 bassist Dave DeMarco (Crack The Sky, Oblivion Sun) and drummer Marc Norgaard signed on for the recording sessions. It was Dave who introduced Misha to vocalist Stanley Whitaker (Happy the Man, Oblivion Sun). Funny fact: most of the piano parts on the album were recorded by Misha’s octogenarian mother, Inna Satunovsky. The female vocals were provided by Betty Seni, Atlanta-based remarkable vocalist. These two honorable mentions ultimately complete the list of the core musicians on the album.
Six Elements took the next year to lay down their inaugural album, Primary Elements, after finding Brandt Fincher, a top-tier sound engineer who could mix their ambitious, polyphonic arrangements into crisp, clear, compelling tracks, many of which flow seamlessly into the other. By the end of 2011 the album was perfected, and the release date for Six Elements’ debut album, Primary Elements was set for March 5, 2012 under the Tower of Harmony label.
Critics compare the band’s vocals to early Genesis with Peter Gabriel with solo guitars reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Whatever their influences, Six Elements’ vocals and guitars are harmonic gift wrap for the band’s message, which Victorian novelist George Eliot summed up well: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”. Not surprisingly, the album’s break-out single is the song “If”, which channels the inspirational words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. The song is featured prominently on the first page of the semi-monthly webzine “All Things If”, which is devoted to the ideals of this poem.
In the fall of 2019 Misha resurrected Six Elements and started preparatory work for the second album, “The Elements of Love” with some new and some old participants. Stanley Whitaker, Dave DeMarco, Betty Seni and Inna Satunovsky were available to participate, but Jeff McGahren was not. New technology allowed to recruit additional session musicians across the globe. Guitarist Alessandro Maffei hails from Italy. Drummer Dima Mulin hails from Russia. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taras Kuznetsov is from Odessa, Ukraine, recording some of his parts despite the war, bombings and electricity outages. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, sound engineer and co-producer Ben Karlstrom hails from Vancouver, Canada. Composer Tal Babitzky (“Ice Age of Love”) lives in Israel. Scouting for the musicians truly spanned the globe.
The work on the album was completed in August, 2023. The initial two-song single “Let’s Fall in Love” is scheduled to be released on October 6, 2023. The release of the full album is planned to be release in early 2024.
Let’s Fall in Love press release (October 6, 2023)
Atlanta, GA, September 4, 2023 Six Elements is releasing its first record in 10+ years on October 6, 2023. Single “Let’s Fall in Love” features two songs from Six Element’s forthcoming album “The Elements of Love”. The songs continue where the previous album (“Primary Elements”) stopped – crafting emotional songs in the genre of the melodic progressive rock. The two songs on the single include happy “Let’s Fall in Love”, and sad “End of the Road”, reflecting the happiness and sadness, which follow side-by-side over the span of human lives.
After first hearing “Let’s Fall in Love”, performed by his friend Marat Rickelman and his wife Nora, Misha approached Marat and asked whether he knows how unbelievable, uplifting and potential-rich the song is. Marat responded that he had no idea, but would be open to have Misha unfold song’s full potential. Misha accepted the challenge, translated the lyrics, changed the arrangement to include ukulele, reminiscing Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. The resulting song is arguably one of the happiest song ever made.
“End of the Road”, as the title implies, is the sad song of the release. Just like the rest of the songs on “The Elements of Love” it is about love, except the winter of love. Love does not disappear or lose its savor in the winter. However each season of love has its color and its taste. Back in 2012 Misha saw these remarkable lyrics as a poem written by his friend and remarkable wordsmith Susan Hawkins, and he vowed to make a song out of it. The music was written back in 2013 and waited for the right opportunity ever since, until the work on “The Elements of Love” commenced.
Both of these songs have an additional meaning. Misha is one of the happiest people out there, which resonates with the first song of the single (and the last on the album!), “Let’s Fall in Love”. Unfortunately, he is also has Stage IV incurable cancer, which means that the End of the Road is not too far. Yet, this release, as well as the forthcoming full album, is his attempt to demonstrate the world that you can be happy even while suffering, and that living a fulfilling, meaningful life may continue under any circumstance.
Primary Elements press release (March 5, 2012)
Six Elements Releases “Primary Elements” To Help Bring Emotional Order to Life’s Chaos. Progressive Rock meets Rudyard Kipling’s “If”
Atlanta, GA, February 10, 2012—Kipling’s poem “If” is more than just a collection of sentences that rhyme; it inspires an idea–the idea of being all you were born to be. You see this idea embodied in the lives of Socrates and Joan of Arc, expressed in the words of Kipling’s “If” and Henley’s “Invictus”, visualized in films like “Forrest Gump” and ”The Shawshank Redemption”. In their new album, Primary Elements, Atlanta-based symphonic rock group Six Elements imparts this idea through music, including an arrangement of Kipling’s “If”.
Six Elements’ founder Michael (Misha) Shengaout, who fused the idea with his passion for progressive rock, says, “If our bodies are what we eat, then our souls are what we read and listen to. Our society, so obsessed with the diet for the body, utterly overlooks the diet for the mind. Some ideas deserve to be on the daily menu and shouted from every rooftop. The idea of Kipling’s poem “If” is definitely one of them. Our album takes this idea and applies it to the different “elements” of life. We want our music to remind us the ups and downs of our existence can culminate in a triumphant, meaningful “final chord.”
Music is the harmony of the human soul expressed in sound. An effort to appreciate the complex harmonies of music can lead to an appreciation of hidden harmonies in life. An appreciation of seemingly disconnected chords coalescing into a majestic musical creation can help us recognize the triumphs of tomorrow behind the difficulties of today.
Six Elements has earned the right to create this kind of music by living it first. Stanley Whitaker (vocals) has experienced life’s ups and downs both in music (performing with cult bands like Happy The Man and Oblivion Sun) and in life (fighting off cancer). Jeffrey McGahren (guitars) has had his share of existential frustrations. Misha Shengaout (keyboards) has been tested by immigration and raising a son with autism. Their brand of progressive rock reflects their life experiences and the attitude that makes it all worthwhile. Primary Elements (released on March 5, 2012) takes the idea expressed in Kipling’s “If” and weaves the perfect musical clothing for it.
Media Contact: Michael (Misha) Shengaout, Michael dot Shengaout at TowerofHarmony dot Com