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Ambient Chamber Music

Searching for Nepsis

Nathan Speir

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“Searching for Nepsis” is an acoustic electric album of ambient chamber music filled with cellos, violin, piano, singing bowls, electric bass, acoustic guitar, some synthesizers, a duduk, and cajon. Nathan Speir takes another step forward as a recording artist performing and overdubbing instruments to paint a deep and moving statement about the heart’s gravitation to find a transcending sobriety of consciousness in the midst of life’s transient shadows. The new album features the single “Forest Lights”, released September 2018. The title track, “Searching for Nepsis”, is truly the full quintessence of the album, and, with an intentional 20 minutes and 20 seconds track length, “Searching for Nepsis” serves as a meditation on the approach of a new decade in the future year 2020.

"Nathan Speir is an incredibly talented individual that creates amazing music for hungry souls to ingest and assimilate. For this listener, the end result is always positive and energizing. Get your ticket now for the journey."~ Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

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Part of A Kindly Plan

Nathan Speir

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In what some may call "bright acoustic ambient chamber music", Nathan Speir performs, records, and produces this LP with 90 percent acoustic instruments including piano, steel and nylon string guitars, wooden flute, cello, singing bowls, and harmonica.

“I try not to limit myself to just one way of looking at things or doing something,” explains musician Nathan Speir. That philosophy has led to an eclectic and varied musical career with his recordings having been described as ambient chamber music, acoustic-ambient, piano-oriented new age, and avant-garde. His ninth album, Part of a Kindly Plan, continues his fascinating experimentation.

The new album mostly contains acoustic instruments -- acoustic piano, steel and nylon-string acoustic guitars, wooden flute, cello, harmonica, rain-stick and singing bowls -- but a couple of tunes also include a little synthesizer (primarily replicating a string-section). “In addition,” states Speir, “silence has a big place in my music and I pay a lot of attention to the spaces between the notes.”

Part of a Kindly Plan (on the Neptic Music label) and Nathan Speir’s previous albums -- Between Earth & Sky, Nathan’s Piano, Brighter Days, A Day of Poetry, Ambient Piano Christmas Volume 1, The Emotive Leaf, Ambient Piano Christmas Volume 2 (and the associated 3-song CD Warmth in Winter with additional instrumentation), and Improv 16 -- are available at his website (NathanSpeir.com) and as CDs and digital downloads at a variety of online sales sites including CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic and many others.

Some of the inspiration for Part of a Kindly Plan came from a poem by Thomas Hardy, “On A Fine Morning,” written in the early 1900s and printed on the back of Speir’s CD. Speir explains, “At the beginning the poem asks a question: What is solace? Hardy says it is not this or exactly that, but at the end he is happy and content because he says everything is part of a benign or kindly plan that is proof that earth was made for man. I liked the sentiments expressed so I paraphrased various lines for the name of the album and several tune titles.”

The first piece on the album, “Hued Embowment,” could be described as “vibrant ambient.” It features piano, cello and singing bowls. “I was feeling motion like tides going in and out, perhaps at sunrise.” The composition “As We Turn” blends an acoustic-steel string guitar with piano, rainstick shaker, some sampled tympani and synth strings. “There are lots of turns in life, and as we grow older our perspective of life changes.” On “Good Seasons” Speir primarily plays guitar (with a string section and a bit of cello) and says, “This was influenced by some of the early acoustic guitar bands I listened to such as Acoustic Alchemy and Wind Machine.”

For “A Taste of Solace,” Speir plays both piano and steel-string guitar to give the music some counterpoint. “We all need a time for stillness, quiet, healing, meditation and contemplation. It helps us physically, mentally and spiritually.” He notes that “Open Ranges” was influenced by trips he has taken to the American Southwest, so he added harmonica to this piano piece. On the rapid, melodic, piano-cello “Passing Charcoal Clouds,” Speir says he went for a neo-classical feeling (“This was inspired by Patrick O’Hearn and his versatility.”). To capture the right atmosphere on “Serenity In This House,” Speir started with piano and nylon-string guitar, and then added wind chimes, some noises from his home, and an oldtime squeaky round spinning piano stool.

The tune “Praxis” mixes nylon-string guitar and Native American wood flute with a rhythmic drum-sound created by Speir hitting the cello fretboard with his open hand. “The idea behind this piece is that everyone should chose a discipline of some sort, seriously practice it, persevere, improve, and also enjoy the journey.” Regarding “Familiar Orbits” (piano, synth string drone, cello and singing bowls), Speir says, “The title refers to many things -- astronomical bodies going around a star, the molecular energy within us and around us, and the regular pathways we follow in life.” The album ends with the very slow, nearly-nine-minute “Breathing On This Shore” (piano, strings and singing bowls) created by Speir at 62-beats per minute “like slow, regular breathing, perhaps during meditation on a beach.”

Speir was born in Southern California, but his father worked in the aerospace industry (including the Kennedy Space Center), so the family moved around and Nathan also grew up in Florida and Connecticut. “My appreciation for music started at an early age because my grandfather built an extensive high-end stereo system with more than a hundred speakers and he had a collection of more than a thousand classical albums. For several years we had the system in our house and listening to music on it was an awesome experience.” Nathan started playing piano at age eight and composing when he was twelve (“I remember one of my first songs was called ‘Suspenseful Dream’.”). “One of the things that influenced me the most as a child was seeing George Winston and Yanni perform on PBS television. In addition, my father turned me on to music by Cusco, Patrick O’Hearn and Tangerine Dream. I also took a course on MIDI music in high school.”

Speir attended Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and earned his Bachelors degree in Music Theory and Composition. “I took a computer with me to college and it allowed me to create music on the spot. I could work out ideas wearing headphones. I also helped make recordings of recitals and learned about recording gear. Part of my music scholarship required me to be part of a concert choir, and the college choir traveled to Europe and we sang some sacred works in cathedrals around Krakow, Poland.” In addition to music, Speir during his university days also was involved with visual art (drawing, illustrating and painting), and in recent years has designed most of his album covers.

After college, Speir, who now lives in North Carolina, began to actively record his own original music and release an impressive series of albums and singles that include recordings ranging from solo piano to all-synthesized as well as a combination of the two keyboard sounds sometimes supplemented with other instrumentation such as Native American flute, guitars and cello. He has sometimes recorded alternate arrangements of some of his compositions.

Speir draws musical inspiration from a wide variety of sources including modern classical, jazz, new age, minimalist composers and Sacred Byzantine music. “I got my Byzantine bug from my college choir director who turned me on to the modern religious-music composer John Tavener. In recent years I have produced three vocal albums by the group Byzantine Ark. I have spent a lot of time studying this type of music which precedes and has a different approach than Gregorian chants.” Other musicians who have influenced his music include George Winston, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Steve Roach (“who reminded me to not forget about ambient”), Harold Budd, R. Carlos Nakai, Chopin and Erik Satie. Speir also gets inspiration from his family, poetry, fine art, space and astronomy, the study of religions, and nature.

“I have a perpetual need to create,” explains Speir, “and making music teaches me many lessons in life. I hope that my creations enhance the ambience in the listener’s life, and in doing so, the listener holistically benefits. This kind of music lends itself to solace, relaxing, thinking and reflecting on life. Studying your inner life and identifying your personal beliefs is serious business, but I believe that serious things can bring great joy. I want the music to feel like taking a pastoral retreat, or going to space and then returning to earth, but afterwards feeling more at one with things. I feel strongly that each person needs to contribute in some way to our world. With my music I try to do my small part.”

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The Emotive Leaf

Nathan Speir

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The Emotive Leaf is a two-disc album with rich melodic ambient chamber music in this beautiful moving soundtrack of disc one, and disc two reinterprets mainly the same compositions on solo piano, which offers a complementary experience to disc one.

"The Emotive Leaf" is a rich experience that connects broad emotive themes with a universally 'personal' journey. From 2013 to the present date Nathan Speir has written, performed, recorded, and produced a double disc album that has become "The Emotive Leaf." It is his sixth album self-produced as an independent artist.

As a pianist and composer putting on the 'producer cap', Nathan Speir used the best resources for piano he could afford, and then he painted several other textures around it. Having no desire to hide the beauty of solo piano, as most of his music has been piano based, Nathan Speir was compelled to relay a host of impressions from recent inner journeys that needed to be expressed this way. The result on disc one was an emotionally moving, piano based, ambient chamber soundtrack.

Describing in his own words Nathan Speir says "Producing this album was like getting in my only and best car (my home studio) and driving it to a new and unknown destination, setting up camp and bringing back photos and memories of those recent experiences. Kind of an emotive novel summed up on a leaflet ....'The Emotive Leaf'. All these new instrumental textures were included to relay those impressions from the recent journey...internal. I found a place there that was on the edge of timelessness....impressions of the maze of time casting a shadow on eternity, it was where no words can reach.

I know that I was able to capture the essence of this music because I had to wipe the tears off after performing each piece during the recording. I believe that deep inside our heart is a well of experiences and emotions, and they are precious. In my inner journeys these past seasons, I put some of those archetypes on a musical leaflet. I imagined that part of us is like a leaf on a tree that processes food and, at the same time, plays the role of a catharsis for the oraginsm. What I am describing is 'The Emotive Leaf'...our noetic heart."

In disc one, Nathan Speir painted synths, classical guitar, native american flute, and several fine digitally sampled instruments around the piano. Its a noticeably evolutionary step in Nathan Speir's sonic palette. In other respects, this first half of the album is a comparative milestone of overall production from his first release in 2006, "Between Earth & Sky".

However, Nathan Speir didn't stop there. He felt obligated to included a second disc that was entirely solo piano for his fans of solo piano and for the sheer enjoyment and simplicity that these compositions had to offer in this medium. Disc two offers a wonderfully toned grand piano sound. Comparative to a George Winston solo piano album, you could say that Nathan's solo piano tone is a little 'darker' in timber and overtones, but it is effectively pure solo piano nonetheless. "The Bicycle" is the only unique composition that the second disc features apart from disc one. More importantly, the re-interpretation of the tracks from disc-one's ambient chamber into solo piano is a very complementary experience to this album in its entirety.

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    Tears That Heal

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    The Emotive Leaf (Solo Piano)

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    Mindfulness of Your Pain (Solo Piano)

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    Ambition (Solo Piano)

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    A Little Fear (Solo Piano)

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    Tears That Heal (Solo Piano)

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    Accepting the Medicine (Solo Piano)

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    A Dear Friend (Solo Piano)

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    The Bicycle

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    Telescopic (Solo Piano)

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    Where No Words Can Reach (Solo Piano)

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A Day of Poetry

Nathan Speir

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Nice dark piano, elegant strings, and tasteful reverb. This falls right into the department of ambient chamber music. A Day of Poetry is an expression and fruit of poetic moments lived and dreamed. Currently available in a four panel Digi Pak case (limited quantity).

It's a return to solo piano and a new found interest in compositions for four hands, chamber string accompaniment, and tasteful reverb. A Day of Poetry is an expression and fruit of poetic moments lived and dreamed. Like the artwork on the front cover, this album has a somewhat ethereal nature to it. It has a fluent and gentle pace that every melody and phrase played embraces with ease and enchantment. With the nice dark piano and elegant strings, this album falls right into the the category of ambient chamber music.

A Day of Poetry ranked #7 in the Echoes Top 25 for September 2012. The physical cd is currently available with a four panel digi-pak case...a definate collector's item.

"Born in California and based in North Carolina, Nathan Speir reinvents new age and contemporary piano music with solemn pieces of splendor and contemplative tunes of magical joy. The instrumental work, A Day Of Poetry, is a nine-track release than incorporates solo piano with some sampled string accompaniment. In this case, Nathan’s piano textures are fluid, inspirational, and relaxing in a very poetic way.

“Morning Duo” opens the set with very delicately-played piano notes that sparkle with morning sunlight and echoing beauty of sonic resilience. However, the song is rather short and void of vocals or additional instrumentation. Nevertheless, Nathan opens the album with a very poignant song that is rich with inner and outer brilliance.

“A Little Sanctuary” begins with piano notes and the low drone of an electronic string instrument. The higher violin tones permeate the primary instruments with heavenly beauty. The higher tones appropriately offset the sparkling piano tones and low cello-like accompaniment perfectly. The music is instrumental and meditative, but there are more instrumental effects on this track than on others throughout the album. The pizzicato effects even appear near the end of the song, before the high shrill of the violin sounds signal the end of the song.

“Mysterious Perspectives” begins with a pensive piano melody and low, reverberating electronic string accompaniment. The cello-like sounds make the song eerie and dark; especially with the lower piano register. However, the piano notes reach a higher climax and the string sounds brighten in unison. Both instruments seem to wander about almost aimlessly, but that is not necessarily a negative attribute. In fact, the manner in which the song is composed creates an experimental approach that is different with each repeated listen. Specifically, something new is discovered with each listen.

“Floating” begins with a few quick piano notes that ambulate slowly throughout the entire song. This is one of the slowest compositions on the album, but that does not make it entirely boring or negative. In fact, the song is an instrumental ode of poetic beauty with plenty of room to think, dream, and reflect. The spacious song is something Hearts of Space would welcome or fans of new age piano. Do not let the spacey description deter a listen, since the main title of the song suggests a light, airy, and simplistic musical masterpiece, which Nathan delivers admirably.

“Legend Of The Pelican” opens with wispy piano notes and an electronic string sample that resembles low cello tones, but the piano becomes more pronounced. The pizzicato sounds interrupt the piano and cello-like sounds, but they provide a more Enya-esque quality that is serene and beautiful. The different musical tones provide a more textured song that glitters with classical, new age, electronic, and easy listening moments suitable for any occasion. Near the end of the song, the electronic strings resemble the higher notes characteristic of a fiddle or violin, which seem to move in and out of varying timbres. The result is a very emotive piece; especially near the end of the song.

Nathan Speir’s impressive new release, A Day Of Poetry, is an instrumental wonder on contemporary piano and a few other electronic strings. The music is void of vocals and percussion, which is not a negative. The music moves in different directions weaving a tapestry of aural sounds into enticing packages of musical candy for listeners of new age, instrumental, classical, experimental, and ambient music. There are no worries here, as the music is intelligently-composed and deliciously-delivered with heartfelt intentions. "

Artist: Nathan Speir Album: A Day Of Poetry
Review by Matthew Forss Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)

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