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Nathan's Artist Blog

News & Notes

Nathan's Album Notes - Finding A Way To Be 

Finding A Way To Be is my sixth solo piano album and thirteenth full length solo artist album. I made the music available early on my own website, but the digital distribution date is scheduled for June 21. (I had to change it once because I had not considered the slower turn around rates going on in the covid-19 pandemic). 

The last solo piano album I made was Quiet Wonder, which I wrote song maps for, performed and recorded all in one night (song were re-recorded later over some time but initial recordings is what I am talking about here). Finding A Way To Be was created over several months time from late 2019 to early 2020. I had been setting up my piano for recording just one or two songs at a time as they came to me, and, although I often recorded more music afterwards, I was intentionally spreading out this project in order to capture a broader "personality" in a solo piano album than the previous one. I also created this album in anticipation of my fifth daughter, Lydia Joy...she was born on May 21 and I gave a free album download to everyone on my artist email list in her honor just the other weekend! In between those piano sessions I was working on multi-instrumental pieces which have a totally different character. I also have been in the electrical construction industry (I just started my own business called Safe Current Electric) for over 15 years now...I am bringing this up because as I get older (i will be 40 in December...not too bad) my fingers need a little more warming up to do what I want them to do...trade work has a unique effect on a musician's hands (I am not complaining...just saying). 

The first track "One Way Train Away From Politics" is based on a classic habit of mine on piano...redirecting my mind and emotions. I usually accomplish it on long tangents that would fit great on a long rock ballad that has a 4-6 minute intro before anyone even starts singing. I constructed a shorter and more structured form of it in this song and the other one called "No Good Way Is Easy". The title "One Way Train Away From Politics" expresses my sentiment for politics in the general sense...I do not find much satisfaction or edification in my life dwelling on politics be it government, local, religious, or even amidst family units. I do not think the ostrich approach is helpful burying my head in the sand, instead, I think keeping my mind and heart focused on what is eternal, what is going to make me a better person, what I can improve on myself is the way I want to go...it's a one way train away from politics. I wanted to start the album off with this sentiment...it's like when you want to begin something spiritual for a moment in your day like prayer or meditation...you have to make an effort to clear your mind first before you even begin sometimes. 

 Finding A Way To Be is the album title track. I have a Youtube video out with some footage of elements around my home that help paint my general concept of faith, family, love. Finding a way to let these things be, to let them live and breath in the midst of an ever demanding world of greed, politics, and self righteous indulgence is...an art. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but this song really made sense of things for me in the moment I recorded it. 

I used some footage of elements around my home to make a music video for this song here

https://youtu.be/OjWgdhzwr8w 

See the Sky in the Water....the music itself is fairly paced and supposed to be peaceful. I made an effort to encompass more melody in some pieces like this one...what happened was I had a few pieces like this one and I needed one to be more of a "daytime" moment and the other a "nighttime" moment...so my idea was adding a clearer thought through melody in this piece and less melody in it's sister "See The Stars In The Water". Both of these titles are very "Zen"...on purpose. 

Gentle Waves is a piece I tried to perform with a romantic spirit. It's painting, hopefully, an image or feeling in you about gentle positive energy lapping beside you. 

Rest For A Sullen Heart...the emphasis in mood was more about getting the "rest" then keeping the initial "sullen". Composition style...long time influence Steve Roach..."Structures From Silence". 

No Good Way Is Easy...I referenced this once before. It is thru- composed. I couldn't resist the dynamic changes in this one...in the moment decisions where I go for it! The title...it is the way I feel about lots of things in my life right now. It's beautiful, challenging...no one said it was going to be easy. 

Waltz Of A Whale....I had not done a waltz like piece in some time for myself let alone for a recording...so i decided to break things up and go for it once again. Also, Tchaikovsky seemed to surface in my mind at the time and it reminded me of learning some of his music as a child. Obviously, whales do not dance, but they have quite the cosmic swim across the ocean...we could explore other symbolic metaphors here with whales and oceans...but I hope people enjoy this waltz regardless. My oldest daughter made some sketches for a little music video we did together for it here

https://youtu.be/L2SKUnzLr4U 

Life On Purpose, Pastimes, Good Gardens To Keep...maybe I was watching some George Winston, or maybe I was in an exceptional mood...I really desired to make sure I had a little bump up in tempo somewhere in this journey. My wife has said I do not make enough happy music...which I always feel is relevant...but I made an effort to do something different nonetheless.  I felt these titles described the content pretty good. Life affirmative...is the bottom line. 

See The Stars In The Water...tried to get a fuller use of piano range and paint that dreamy interstellar scape. 

Lost In A Pleasant Place...I put this towards the end to keep the pace of the last song and fit in a nice slower and more minimal piece. I tried to take the listener on a field trip for an hour, at this point I hope they felt like they got away, were touched, inspired, had fun, and now they have totally forgotten what they were ever thinking about before they started the first track...lost in a pleasant place. 

If you go in my backyard in the mornings...it is a chorus of beautiful north carolina songbirds echoing through the woods. It's a refreshing and timeless moment I often enjoy with a cup of coffee, and this song is my last offering to the listener before this album ends.

Autumn 2019 

Into the Fall season of 2019, I have been working out new music to fulfill an album concept that I created earlier this summer. The music is developing nicely. In this process, I have already decided on an album theme, and even song titles! The music concepts have already been simmering in my creative sub-consciousness for some time, and I am trying to keep momentum on excavating them into the new year. My life, like many of us, has many potential distractions and temptations that can really slow down our path of progress...if we let them. My goal is to stay persistent and not sacrifice quality for myself or any music enthusiast. 

A new studio desk is coming to my studio soon, which I am very thankful for! It will help me lay out the gear and instruments in a much more productive and streamlined setting. This is one of my solutions to ensuring the completion of this next album happens sooner than later. The music is an electric-acoustic nature that is going to have some great textures and melodies. 

Additionally, in this last couple months of the year, I often get involved recording solo piano ideas in addition to the other projects I have on board. As ideas collect and get recorded, a solo piano album sometimes surfaces.

Please keep me posted if are excited to hear another solo piano album, if the next upcoming album is something you would like to hear samples of in development, and if there is more you would like to read about in this blog. 

Enjoy this beautiful Autumn Season!

~ Nathan

 

Deeper Notes Behind Searching for Nepsis  

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.