Ambient Guitar – Barefoot Summer is a seasonally-inspired ambient guitar track that I created when I was longing for summer and walking along the beaches of northern Michigan during the 2020 Pandemic. The hot sun, the warm sand and the cool refresh of Lake Michigan. This video was shot at Sleep Bear Dunes National Lake shore.
Huronic Minor was originally released in 2001. The original release was completely mono, while the source recordings were all stereo, mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing. Over the last 20 years, however, I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting my sound and my audio skills and I feel like the 20th Anniversary Remaster brings out the drones and tones of Huronic Minor in all their subtle nuance and sonic brilliance. If you’re familiar with the original Huronic Minor, you will hear things in this new version that you never could have heard before, I know that was the case even for me.
Recently, I found myself listening to Huronic Minor. This is by far my most “popular” recording. It’s had millions of streams and before I went exclusively digital, I had sold several thousand CDs. Huronic was released completely mono, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing, whereas the source material was all stereo. I was after the sound of the drones and their creation, something that was totally new to me. I did four complete iterations of Huronic Minor, trying to get those drones just right, for what I had in mind, sonically. After several months, I achieved it, but totally overlooked the idea that the final master recording was completely mono. Nobody corrected me, initially, and people seemed to really like it. I say initially, because I remember a conversation a year or two later, with Dino Pacifici, where he kind of mused “Why did you record it in mono?”. Good question. I’d never really thought about that.
Recently, though, as I listened back, I was somewhat embarrassed. This is not uncommon for artists when they review to their earlier work, but the really disappointing thing as I listened with fresh ears, having not listened to it in probably, well, 20ish years, was that there was so much brilliance and sonic nuance lost in the mono recording. As somebody who has spent years cultivating their approach, vision and process, I listened to this and thought, I can bring those things out with my current audio workflow.
As I became a better music producer, refining my ear to match my audio engineering and production abilities, my expectations for sonic experience have changed. When I did Huronic Minor, originally, I was interested in the content not the fidelity or perhaps I enjoyed the noise-oriented grit of the soundscapes, as they seemed quintessentially, sonically, Detroit – A goal of mine for a very long time. Now, though, I want the balance of content and fidelity, so with that in mind I have decided to revisit this collection and see what I can do with the mixes and the mastering of these recordings to bring out the sonic nuance of this recording.
This is a work-in-progress, but initial run-throughs have been very good and I anticipate a release of this new collection of remastered tracks in the months to come.
I created this track as part of the mourning process for two artists who passed away recently, Harold Budd and Tony Rice. Both of these artists, in different ways, have inspired my work significantly. Both of them spent their lives committed to their craft and bringing about their musical vision. Both of these artists were mostly unrecognized outside of their respective genres. Their commitment, however, made great and long-lasting contributions to the world of music, the likes of which more will come to understand in the years to come.
For years, I’ve wished that I could bring a Harold Budd-like sensibility to my work with the acoustic steel string flat top guitar, using it the way he used the piano. And of course, Tony’s playing, touch, feel and general virtuosity, but never just for virtuosity’s sake, was a guidepost on the path of being an acoustic guitar player and flatpicker. I’ve tried to capture this hybrid sound many times and many times I’ve fallen short. This time, however, I feel that I’ve gotten quite close. Perhaps the spirit’s of Harold Budd and Tony Rice were riding shotgun with me as I composed this track, as their work has been with me so many times when I’ve been trying to grow as an artist, musician and composer.
This track, “The Entering”, isn’t part of a larger recording. It’s a snapshot of a feeling and a moment in time. I was going to call the work ‘Departure’, but I wanted to look on the bright-side: We’re entering into a new phase, where many of the souls who’ve defined our world have been lost due to a mis-managed health pandemic. Those elders who helped us navigate based on their experience and wisdom have moved on from this plane. They’ve prepared us, mostly, and how we have to stand our two and be the guideposts for the years to come.
I hope to do more work like and I hope that you enjoy this track, but also take the time to listen to Harold Budd and Tony Rice. At first blush, they might seem like they’re worlds apart, but true and timeless artistry knows no boundaries, least of all by some mind-made genre categorization.
For folks that use Insight Timer, I’m now posting music there. You can access my profile and the music here. The entire Insight Timer system works on donations and it’s a great tool for meditation, relaxation and stress reduction.
I’m considering doing some guided meditations there, along the lines of the group meditations that I lead. Please comment on this post if that’s something that appeals to you.
Program note – The title of this work – ‘Eye of God in Infrared‘ refers to a feature of the Helix Nebula known as the ‘Eye of God’. Additionally, the title of the work has a cadence that reminds me very much of Harold Budd’s titles and poetry.
It’s been a couple months since my last email. I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy.
I haven’t been feeling very promotion-oriented lately, but with the release of The Lost Year and the release of the first three Dronearium series (1, 2, 3) recordings over the last couple months, I decided that I should probably send out a note.I am really excited for the release of The Lost Year. This is a recording that I’ve been working on intermittently for the last year. If you liked Consciousness of Light, it’s the follow-up that I promised would be out in early 2020 but, when COVID hit, work crawled to a halt. The Lost Year brings together two things I’ve been trying to successfully merge for years: My deep love for textural, ambient drone music and the other side of my artistic self, my songwriting. I’ve gotten close to merging these at times, but never quite hit it in a way that lasted, for me. Consciousness of Light marked a change in my process, formula and approach; The Lost Year continues what started there. For me it perfectly merges what Brian Eno talked about with ambient music – ‘a music that be listened to as easily as ignored’ but also a music that comes from a deeper part of my artistic self. A quick bit about the Dronearium series:
“Dronearium is a series of long form musical soundscapes that takes listeners into an array of ambient soundworlds, all anchored in resonant drones and treated with texture and melancholic nostalgia. Inspiration for these works come from science fiction, archeoastronomy, pre-Columbian peoples and myths, as well as landscapes, seascapes and the natural world, imagined and reimagined.”
The Dronearium series (1, 2, 3), for me, started when I wanted to take a break from the songwriting work and just make drones, sounds and textures of a sci-fi or otherworldly nature. The Dronearium series is different than my other ambient music, of late, because music for meditation and sleep has been the focus. With that music, I avoid sharp tones, dissonance, rhythms, etc. things that I enjoy in other music, Stanley Kubrick’s soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind. All told, the Dronearium series is still very ambient, but the intention behind it is different.
That’s all for now.
Enjoy the new music and let me know how you’re doing.
My new recording, The Lost Year, is out now. I am really excited for the release of The Lost Year. This is a recording that I’ve been working on intermittently for the last year. If you liked Consciousness of Light, it’s the follow-up that I promised would be out in early 2020 but, when COVID hit, work crawled to a halt. The Lost Year brings together two things I’ve been trying to successfully merge for years: My deep love for textural, ambient drone music and the other side of my artistic self, my songwriting. I’ve gotten close to merging these at times, but never quite hit it in a way that lasted, for me. Consciousness of Light marked a change in my process, formula and approach; The Lost Year continues what started there. For me it perfectly merges what Brian Eno talked about with ambient music – ‘a music that be listened to as easily as ignored’ but also a music that comes from a deeper part of my artistic self.
As was started over a year ago with the release of Consciousness of Light and I continued to work on through the early pandemic lockdown, it’s all about the songs and songwriting. I’ve released a few things in that time, a new series called Dronearium (1 and 2 are out now) of mostly long-from atmospheric soundscapes – I have about ten of these that are mostly finished that I’ve worked on over the last year, as well as releasing a recording that Michael Teager and I had worked on for quite some time, Subterranean Bearings.
Through it all, through all of this crazy 2020, the songs have been a touchstone. I constantly come back to the songs. I’ve tried to create a follow-up to Ambient Guitar not less than 40 times and I have dozens of guitar-centric ambient tracks. The smart money is on an Ambient Guitar follow-up, which folks have loved and has given me no shortage of good energy inspiration, but the inspiration continues to move to the songs – Back to basics.
I’m particularly proud of this May YouTube performance, where I brought together the songs with ambient guitar in a live performance setting:
I feel like this is the future, right now, but usually no sooner than I’ve said it, the muse takes me down some other creative rabbit hole.
For the better part of this year and last, I’ve been working on a recording I’ve been calling “Within/Without” but then I found another record with that name, so now I don’t know what I’m calling it. This record is song-centric. It could be summed as songs with ambient drones and textures, like Olagra, like Consciousness of Light, but, presently, there’s only one instrumental track.
It’s been with no shortage of self-consciousness, which is likely why it’s taken me 15 years and more start/stops that I can recall, to make the songs the focal point. I’ve loved my exploration of sound and textures and raw, unbridled creativity, but I’ve also felt, at times, emotionally absent from those recordings, perhaps its the lack of ego in that music and perhaps it’s a good thing. Perhaps the songs are the ego’s way of pulling me into myself rather than focusing on a music that’s beyond myself and not about me. That’s plausible, but I have to take the journey. No shortcuts.
So, yeah, that’s where things are. I’m writing songs. I’m singing songs. I’ve called it ambient folk, drone folk and dreamt up many more marketing categories to try and relay, in a few words, what I’m trying to achieve. It just doesn’t work that way.
I hope you’ll stay with me, but I understand that, as a friend once told me as a punchline to a joke: “I’m not interested in growing with you as an artist; just play the hits.”
Since I started facilitating group mindfulness meditation sessions, I found, even more than when I started the Ambient Soundbath Podcast, the need for specially composed works designed for meditation and sleep. I’ve created the meditation and sleep series for just that purpose: Long form work, ever-evolving, consonant works that create relaxed states of mind.