There was never a time when we needed prayers for peace more than now. This program is a four hour prayer for peace from us to the world.
On today’s edition of At Water’s Edge, we cover two polar conditions of humanity as expressed in music: War and Peace–sometimes in the same work.
Today we feature works by Doc and Lena Selyanina, Shamaniaq (aka Slate, aka Jonathan W. Mills), Tonalchemy (along with yours truly in the world premiere of “Collect for Peace”), Audio Gourmet, the Lily Pond Orchestra, Cousin Silas, Avana Method and many more.
1. Doc and Lena Selyanina – Last Day Before The War (14:32)
(Nangilima, Musictrade, 2007)
Since summer 2005, Finnish ambient producer Doc and Russian pianist Lena Selyanina have been co-creating ambient music based on classical material and releasing it on Musictrade netlabel. Their first album Distant Transmissions (MT002, July 2005) was meditative space ambient built on J.S. Bach’s music. This was followed by An Island of Joy (In a Sea of Electronic Dreams) (MT004, November 2005), an album of beautiful impressionistic ambient inspired by Claude Debussy’s ‘water music’. In March 2006 they released their third album together: Noble, Sentimental & Ambient Waltzes (MT008), a dark, cinematic work inspired by Maurice Ravel’s series of waltzes for the piano. The fourth album ‘Echoes from an Engulfed Cathedral’ (MT011) came out in January 2007; this impressionistic ambient work was again inspired by Claude Debussy’s music. Their fifth artistic co-creation, Nangilima (MT015) was released in December 2007. In January 2008 came out Cosmic Lullabies (MT018), a calm, cosmic and meditative work.
On their fifth artistic co-creation the duo make a musical dive into the magical world of childhood’s joys, fears and fantasies, inspired by the musical magic of Dmitri Shostakovich’s preludes for piano. These songs are deep, rich ambient adventures vibrating with life and intricate aural details. The mood is mostly relaxing and meditative, but there are passages of darkness and moments of heightened drama as well – as in life itself.
2. Shamaniaq/Slate – Tales from before the Event Horizon (Finale) (5:14)
(Stone Buddha Stories, 2012)
Shamaniaq, aka Slate, is Jonathan W. Mills, a professor of Music Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Bloomington. He began composing and performing in 2006 after buying his first synthesizer, a Roland Fantom-XA. As a child he loved music but was told he had no aptitude for it.
And the moral of the story is, according to Jonathan:
Ignore those jerks and just play!
Since 2006 he has composed and performed over 70 indie albums, all released at one time or another on his websites, and some picked up at places like Earth Mantra records. This prolific composer records an album a month, typically three or four songs a weeks that feed into them.
The Stone Buddha Stories are a collection of tracks and tales, both written by Jonathan Mills, heartbreakingly beautiful and bittersweet. Of these tales, Jonathan writes,
Ray Bradbury’s martian stories were some of the few that touched me deeply as a teen. Another author was Ursala K. LeGuin, and while I have not made music for her works, she has affected the style of writing I use to create stories that I later set to music. Gaia, Earth’s goddess inspired another cycle of derivative and intersecting stories, from the rise of the meerkats after humanity departed Earth, to stories of humanity before The Event, when Gaia transformed people into animals, some extinct or near-extinct, due to our species’ abuse of the planet.
Here is the introduction to Tales from before the Event Horizon:
I am the Historian. I will tell you what I know, and then I will tell you some stories. All of us who have been the Historian know stories, and will tell them to you, but we do not write them down. We know that our stories come from the other side of the Event, and lie beyond the Event horizon, and so must be kept in the memories of Historians, but we do not know anything about the Event.
We know we are forbidden to write the stories down, but we do not know who forbade us to do so. We know we are compelled to tell the stories, but we do not know who compels us, nor do we understand the nature of our compulsion. We know that the stories will vanish if there is another Event, but we do not know if an Event will come, or why the stories must vanish. We may write down our own stories, if we choose, but most of us do not do so.
We know there was a year, but we do not which year it was. We know there was a month in that year, but we do not know which month it was. We know there was a day in that month, but we do not know which day it was. We know there was a moment in that day, and we know that at that moment the world changed, and we found ourselves on the other side of the Event horizon, but we do not understand the nature of the singularity. We know that little knowledge has come to us from beyond the Event horizon, but we do not know how most of it was lost.
We know that there are several million of us left alive, but we do not know where an estimated ten billion people went. We know that we live in automated luxury that gives us food and clothes and hobbies and entertainment and transportation and communication and whatever we ask for, but we do not know how to re-create this infrastructure if we needed to.
We know that we live in a pleasant green world under blue skies with sparkling clear lakes and oceans, and we know that the Earth was once polluted, but we do not know how it was cleaned up. We know that we live in harmony with a diverse population of animals, and we know that many of them were once extinct, but we do not know how they were revived.
We know that the people beyond the Event horizon had dates for the events in their lives, but we do not know how much time has passed since the Event, and we do not know by their reckoning what day, or month, or year it is today. For us, we know that this year is the Year, and today is Today, and the moment is always Now, and there is plenty of time to tell the Stories.
We know that a new story may be found this Today or another, but we do not know when, nor do we search for them. We know that a new story may be found when a sculptor splits a rock or a farmer tills a field or a logger runs a tree trunk through a sawmill, or a child wades in a creek. We know that the stories are always sealed in tubes of gleaming silver metal that we cannot damage with our tools, but we do not know what the metal is or how the tubes came to be inside rocks, or under the Earth, or within living trees, or under water. We know that our people always bring the tube, unopened, to the Historian, but we do not know why they claim that they “felt a need to” or “it just seemed right” or “it was as if a voice I could not hear” compelled them to do so.
We know that the Historian is the only one who can open a tube, and that he reads the story only once, but we do not know why he remembers it for a lifetime and never reads it again. We know that when a Historian dies his tubes and stories vanish, but we do not know where they go, or why some are found again. We know that a Historian tells the stories at night around a campfire, or in the morning to a room full of children at a school, or in the afternoon at a gathering in an elegant urban city hall, but we do not know why a Historian is sought out to do so when he is on a journey near those places, nor do we know why a Historian journeys through the land.
We know it is Today, and we know I am here Now. We know I am the Historian. We know I have told you what I know. Now let me tell you my stories.
3. Tonalchemy and Rebekkah Hilgraves – Collect for Peace (29:02)
For some time now, I have had a musical vision where voices of peace gradually get overtaken by modern noise and war, and finally the war noises get subsumed again by the prayers for peace. This work is a collaboration between the very talented Tonalchemy — Daniel Robert Lahey — and myself. He managed to capture the background sounds both of peace and of cacaphony, modern living and war. I supplied the voices, which are built on the Latin Collect for Peace and two English translations of it.
Single voices speak and sing peace in different languages, and are gradually overtaken by the dreadful noises of war. The only thing that overtakes those noises in the end is a multitude of voices, finally working their way out of the clashing battles into quiet harmony.
I am grateful to Tonalchemy for so precisely capturing the vision.
4. Tonalchemy – Peaceful (thing 071) (9:20)
(Things, unreleased, 2012)
Part of his ever-growing canon of “Things” (so named because he considered “Etudes” to be too pompous), this is one of the works that inspired me to mention the “Collect for Peace” to Tonalchemy when it was still just a vague concept in my mind.
5. Audio Gourmet – 7 Minutes of Peace (7:23)
(Subconscious Substance, Webbed Hand, 2008)
This album, according to the artist, is built around the idea of nostalgia, subconscious and distant memories; that strange intangible feeling triggered by a familiar stimulus. The brain associates these stimuli with a dormant memory in the brain. Sometimes, these memories can be relived clear as day…others so faint a glimmer that you cannot possibly comprehend what your brain is trying to tell you.
This track is an effort to preserve and transport the listener to the amazing level of peace the artist felt as he wandered around Caldey Island, near Tenby, Wales. The piece captures the sheer tranquility and general aura of the island, and serves as a vivid nod to the nostalgia evoked by that visit.
6. Lily Pond Orchestra – A Time For Peace (60:03)
(Beautiful Day, Earth Mantra, 2010)
The late Douglas JP Lee (aka djpl) was an ambient artist who created lush symphonic ambient music as Lily Pond Orchestra. Born in and having lived in Andover, Massachusetts, USA, Douglas was a self-taught musician, composer and technician with an undying love for all things New England.
According to the artist, the collection Beautiful Day has only two purposes: to brighten the day and relax the mind. Though only a subset of a much larger work that Douglas had been crafting over several years, Beautiful Day carries much of the weight as one of the central pillars of this larger work, holding things up and allowing in the light. Douglas believed that every moment in space and time possesses an innate, unique beauty, and that all life demands of us is to be open to them as they ebb and flow around us. As he says: “Simple really … BE in the moment. It’s as real as it gets”. The music of Beautiful Dayseeks to capture this ineffable beauty and present it to the listener as an immersive ambient experience.
The first disc, entitled A Time For Peace, opens the door and invites us in, encouraging us to find a peaceful interior place. But peace, as defined in the world of Lily Pond Orchestra, is a state of mind and not an outward condition. Douglas asks the question: does peace mean the end of conflict and strife? He thinks not, and argues that peacefulness instead means “dealing with our nature, and all our interactions, in a more mature, moral, ethical, and spiritual way”. Thus, Disc 1 can be interpreted as a hymn to a bright future that Douglas feels we are “inevitably evolving towards, assuming we will muddle through our species’ teenage years”. Whatever the interpretation, the music of this piece soothes as much as it enlightens, allowing the listener to bathe their thoughts in waters of purest light.
7. Cousin Silas – In The Shelter (13:31)
Also composed for this episode of At Water’s Edge, Cousin Silas’ interpretation of the vision of peace could be similar to Douglas JP Lee’s: that is, that peace and serenity can be found even in the midst of strife, in a quiet moment, in a brief respite of safety and peace.
Cousin Silas is based in Yorkshire, in the UK, and draws inspiration from such diverse sources as JG Ballard, Fortean events, memories and Brian Eno.
8. Dweller At The Threshold – A Warrior’s Tale (11:20)
9. Avana Method – Peace (23:43)
(Journey of Spiritual Evolution, Avana Method, 2009)
Avana Method is a spiritual practice developed by Joyce and Christopher Salvo that combines meditation and sound to create healing and well being. This track is part of an ambient collection designed to support that practice.
10. Sara Ayers and Ryuta.K – Golden Warrior Prince of Saka (11:02)
(Kyzyl to Samarkand, Musiczeit, 2008)
Kyzyl To Samarkand is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between Japanese dark ambient experimentalist Ryuta.K and US vocalist-composer Sara Ayers.
The music is foreboding, ethereal, plaintive and dense; diaphanous vocals float over surreal beds of field recordings, molten noise and nervous guitars, evoking the sound of an ominous yet ecstatic journey on a pan-Asian silk road. The entire 51-minute, 5-song project is available both on CD and by download.
Tokyo-Chiba based experimental musician Ryuta.K (oVdk & Bunk Data, Overdose Kunst, Ryu) creates electronic and electro-acoustic sonic textures that he describes as “Post sampling kinetic non-hierarchical nonlinear non-equilibrium fourth world muziq!”
New York composer Sara Ayers creates haunting soundscapes using her voice: sampled, layered, looped and pitch-shifted, building intricately woven washes of sounds that ebb and flow from delicate lullabies to banshee wails.
11. Paul Adams – Of Passion and Peace (12:32)
(The Property of Water, Lakefront, 1999)
Paul Adams studied ethnomusicology, and the diversity of sounds he encountered there has informed much of his music. He has enjoyed commercial success, but prefers to create music simply for the love of creating music. He has teamed up with David Hoffman, and together they compose music in the areas of Meditation/Healing, Jazz, Ambient, New Age, and World fusion. Both believe that music is a powerful art form with the power to transform. They also perform and lecture on topics of the creative arts.
12. Paul Avgerinos – Peaceful (9:12)
(Gnosis, Magnatune, 2006)
By the time Paul Avgerinos graduated from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1980, he had already performed as a bassist with The Beaux Arts Trio, Baryshnikov, Isaac Stern, Jean Pierre Rampal, and many other world renowned classical artists. After graduation, Paul served as principal bass of several major symphony orchestras around the world, and also performed solo at festivals in Tanglewood, Aspen, Grand Teton, Taos, and Spoleto (Italy).
Expanding into more popular genres, Avgerinos then toured with Charles Aznavour, Liza Minelli, and the jazz legend Buddy Rich. Eventually, however, Paul decied that he wanted to further his original composition skills and childhood passion for electronic music, so in 1984 he built Studio Unicorn—a comprehensive digital/analog recording studio.
13. Robert Carty – Arriving Peace (5:32)
(Skyhearts, Deep Sky Music, 1994)
Robert Carty has been around for a while, and has been a pretty prolific composer along the way; he recorded and released over 30 CDs in the ’90s. Skyhearts is one of his earlier albums, and is one of the efforts that leans more toward minimalism. The instruments he used on this collection included various synthesizers, samplers, native flutes, voice and environmental sounds.