May 26, 2019
I am very pleased to share some more personal information about the music in "Searching for Nepsis" today. I am going to talk about the concepts, music, and recording behind the whole theme of "Searching for Nepsis" - the title track of this album.
In the early fall of 2018, I was video recording some nature around the woods in my backyard and I had some longer form composition ideas come to mind that may or may not go well with that footage. It was in this context that the 20'20" recording of "Searching for Nepsis" started to materialize. What happened in the process though, like other recordings I have made, was that as the tracks unfolded, I realized a slightly different concept was coming out of my heart into the music...one that was spawning in my mind for some time. The concept was expressing the process I experienced earlier in my life searching for truth and inner peace....searching for 'nepsis'...which is a state of spiritual heart that sets the stage for man's longing for union with God to slowly be fulfilled.
Two points here before I go on. 1) There is a much longer story to tell about this part of my life, and I am not intending to go that deep today. 2) I would like to explain a little more about this "nepsis" and what context it has for me in the music, without going on some kind of evangelical tangent, or imply in any way that "I have arrived". ;-)
"Nepsis"...what is that? It is a Greek word that denotes a kind of watchfulness and sanctity of the spiritual heart that arrives after a period of healthy catharsis. The context is Orthodox Christianity far removed from Western theology. In my teen and college years, I practiced many different religions (protestant christian, buddhist, hindu, moslem, and a new ager) and took all of those experiences to heart. Nonetheless, I found my home in Orthodox Christianity later on around 2005 after several amazing providential experiences which I believe brought me there. One book that really connects and expresses the thoughts and feelings around this period of conversion is "Christ the Eternal Tao" by Hieromonk Damascene. I have actually used some quotes from this book in the album artwork of "Searching for Nepsis". I am bringing this up because I think if you wanted to go deeper in what I am trying to describe today about "nepsis", this could be a great place to start.
On the cover album artwork, is a landscape from Sandia Park, New Mexico layered with a photo of a Greek Orthodox Monastic with his head bowed in introspection and compunction of heart. It was supposed to emphasize the potential of illumination through repentance and prayer to God.
This music started with recording stereo tracks of acoustic cello in my studio. I had just changed strings on my cello and was recording some longer drone like phrases. I am a self taught cello player, and I have to confess I often prefer digitally sampled strings for this kind of music over the cello at times...mostly when I feel like I am battling intonation. Ironically, the intonation that my fingers found on the cello in those tracks ended up expressing the bitter sweet feelings that I had when I was finding my own home in Orthodox Christianity. Albeit, some critics have expressed that they're own reaction to this music was a "a little too experimental" (avant garde"...my perspective was more about following some of the writing I've heard in John Tavener's "Protecting Veil" or Peter Vask's "Distant Light" or maybe more genre related David Darling's "Dark Wood". Those feelings of repentance and joy lead to brief yet vast glimpses of illumination for me, and still do when I spend time in humble, quiet prayer. I decided to add singing bowls into my mix because of the clarity and presence they can create in an ambient sonic field. I felt like adding the bell like sound added a call to the moment in a slowly drifting field of slow cellos.
Additionally, I was having excessive stress building up working in a very confined capacity for a government ran employer that was at times, for me, almost diabolic (I happily, I since found a new day job ). It was just the right time to dig in and go cave diving for some sonic treasure...that's what I did.
The time frame in the composition was so close to 20' minutes I decided to make an intentional edit mark at 20'20" because I found some parallel in my own silly mind with 20/20 vision as well as the coming new decade 2020. I added a brief note on my press release that the 20'20" song length had a relationship to the approaching year of 2020. It's a good point for me to clarify that I really have no specific expectation for the year 2020. I simply see it as a obviously nice round number and the start of a whole new decade of life on this planet...what that entails only God knows. I love to leave those details to the mystery of life...it's that 'mystery' that influences my taste in making this kind of ambient chamber music in the first place.
This is my joy in ambient chamber music...it always is evolving, never is too precise or definitive, and though it may arrive somewhere, it always opens up new territory to explore in the future.