Saturday, December 31, 2011

Art, Idea and Act

What can be conceived artistically can be assessed and developed according to its virtues.

Clearly, there are challenges to be overcome in bringing into being works that reflect truly the vision of the artist's imagination.  These will be numerous, and vary in degrees of difficulty.

The greater the challenge, the more patience proves essential.  There must be resources with which to work, there must be time to gain knowledge, skills, critical insight; these must be applied with an eye to risk, failure, and gain, and the will to accept results and modify approaches.

Acceptance of the idea of art as the work of a lifetime is an existential commitment.

To those who make that choice, and to those that support them, godspeed the new year's journey.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Creative Will

The exercise of will in artistic creation bears little resemblance to that of assertion of personal control over everyday events.

The expenditure of will in daily life is wasted on things beyond our control, unlike that focused upon artistic endeavors.  The latter evolve according to the artist's intent and efforts; the former will encompass much over which control is impossible, though this is not to say that none of these are within the scope of responsible influence.  Various things like health and reputation may be enhanced to some extent by effective choices and actions, as may gain and loss generally, but limits on art and creativity are few in comparison.

Art responds to individual will and temperament and is formed into a representation of reality.  Reality itself will not be compelled to be other than it is, a fact to be considered when contemplating the idea of life as art.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Forces of Art, and History

Music, like painting and the other arts generally, offers the artist a great deal of control over media.

Some mistake artistic control for refinement, but this is not always so.  To view Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine or a Van Gogh self-portrait elevates consciousness, though the artists' methods are completely dissimilar and at variance with each other in terms of control of execution.

The portrayals in stone and illustrations of the anonymous heroes of the Soviet era in the state-approved mode of "socialist realism" offer another view.  Demonstrating a subjection of art and artist to total control, these works reflect the stylized conformity of a vision of reality experienced through prison bars.  Affronts to the spirit, the productions represent absolute control at the expense of all else, and burden consciousness with oppressive implication.

Control of media, in any instance, suggests a force of will, in that the final work is a manifestation of the intent of the artist-- but it is through free expression that the arts, and musical arts particularly, are realized most fully and sustain their virtues over time.

***     ***

Pravomoci umění a historie

Hudba, jako je malování a další umění obecně, nabízí autor velkou kontrolu nad médii

Nějakou chybu, uměleckou kontrolu pro zušlechťování, ale to není vždy tak. Chcete-li zobrazit Leonardo Dáma s hranostajem, nebo Van Gogh autoportrét zvyšuje vědomí, i když metody umělců jsou zcela odlišné a v rozporu s ostatními, pokud jde o kontrolu provádění.

Zobrazení v kameni a ilustrací anonymní hrdiny sovětské éry ve státem uznaný způsob "socialistický realismus" nabízí jiný pohled. Prokázání podrobení umění a umělce úplnou kontrolu, tato díla odrážejí stylizované souladu vize reality zkušených přes vězeňské mříže. Urazí duchu, produkce představují absolutní kontrolu na úkor všeho ostatního, a zátěž vědomí tíživé důsledky.

Kontrolu nad médii, v každém případě naznačuje, silou vůle, v tom, že konečné dílo je projevem záměru autora - ale to je přes svobodu projevu, že umění a hudební umění, zvláště, jsou realizovány většinou v plném rozsahu a udržet jejich ctnosti v průběhu času.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Illuminations and Shadows of Sounds

A synthesis of sound sources and artistic perspectives is brought to bear within a selected setting:  it is an effusion of tones, colors, textures and movements.

We do not listen for one sound or another beginning and ending.  They merge and separate and reform in ways more common to weather patterns or tidal movements than to music.  Orientation in space appears to undergo changes, and time is perceived differently, or not at all.

This atmosphere is of the environment, and of the mind.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On Exceeding Parameters

Asymmetrical juxtapositions of varied sounds and their movements through time produce different musical effects than those dependent upon combinations of sounds in regular, recurring patterns and forms.

In standard musical frameworks notes and patterns are repeated with only slight variations-- if any-- as heard in the common combinations of verses, choruses, and instrumental breaks typical to pop/rock songs.  It is possible to become so accustomed to styles grounded in beat, rhythm, and melody these elements lose their force and become trite, boring, predictable, unlistenable.

To free tones, notes and instrumental lines from these paradigms and scatter them among each other in diverse movements disengages the ear from following and anticipating the cadence and action of the music and releases consciousness from the dominance of the sound.

Being fully absorbed in music is one way of listening, but it is not the only way, or even the most desirable of ways. 

This is a perspective of ambient music generally, and a starting point from which Black Mountain School compositions and recordings proceed toward extending the established capabilities and limits of the genre.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Sense of Meaning, and of Mystery

Impressions are interpreted in myriad ways.

When given expression and form, these impressions may be conveyed according to various artistic conventions, approximated subjectively, reproduced with emphasis on particular content, exaggerated for certain effects, and otherwise brought into being for any reason or as the result of any impulse whatsoever.  Order may be brought to chaos, or the reverse may be so.

The result is a generation of force.  In view of art and ideas, the extent of that force can be known in terms of history, even predicted accordingly, but upon leaving the artist's hands it belongs to an unknown future.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ancestral Shadows

Among the most imaginative of Christmas traditions in many places is the telling of ghost stories. 

Among the finest ghostly tales in the English language are those of M. R. James and Russell Kirk, and these are enthusiastically recommended to the reader.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

~William Shakespeare


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Expression, Impression

Common to musical forms is a sense of the emotional.

This sense may be communicated in such a way as to induce a cathartic release of inner tension or energy.  It may invite empathy with the singer, songwriter and performer, or provide a vicarious sense of romantic adventure.  It may offer an uplifting religious or spiritual state of being, or a frisson of intense excitement.  Certainly any emotional condition, from joy to sadness, to ecstasy, to fear, may be enhanced by music and sound. 

This effect of reinforcing or effecting changes in listeners' emotions is part of the appeal of every musical genre and style of recording and performance.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that, beyond the emotions, consciousness itself might be elevated in conjunction with the experience of a form of music-- or non-music-- as yet to be fully realized.

Friday, December 23, 2011

On Esoterica

Certain musical forms are so highly specialized as to raise the question as to whether it is the music or the rarefied knowledge related to the arcana of the style that is esteemed. 

Such are the ways of artifice and contrivance, but in any case it is the listener who makes the judgement, and very few listeners care more for exclusionary, byzantine aesthetics than trust their own ears-- nor should they.

A critical listener with well-rounded tastes is capable of appreciating music of all types, and of listening accordingly in the various ways that offer the greatest enjoyment.  The pleasure of music is self-evident, and, the difficulties of composition and performance notwithstanding, it is a chief source of satisfaction to the musical artist to convey that shared sense of enjoyment to the listener.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waves Through Time

Sounds as they occur naturally make no demands on the listener, but to listen is to be rewarded.

Original ambient music theories emphasize the idea that atmospheric music can be as interesting and stimulating as it is unobtrusive.  Such a creative goal can be achieved in any number of ways, and through simplicity or complexity.  As there is no specific or preferred method for developing works of this nature, there are as many variations in style as there are artists, and experimentation in developing compositions and recordings is the norm.

From an artist's point of view, this is the magic of the work; for the listener, it is an artwork in sound unlike any other, and a complement to the journey of the day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flowing Formlessness

Growth and decline are fundamentals of nature.  Emptiness is ever filled, and ever emptied. 

Sound designs that would express the phenomena of environmental changes and movements among various settings, when compared to musical compositions in standard forms, are of an altogether different order. 

The former are fabricated in ways that suggest the manner in which a listener might perceive sounds in various times and places in the absence of rhythm, percussion, melody, and so forth.

To call these forms "sketch" or "transformation ambient" for convenience is to distinguish them as being removed from musical forms or moving in  non-musical directions, albeit to aesthetically pleasurable ends and for the creative purposes of the listener, whether those purposes are to be immersed in the music, in thought, or in activity such as reading, writing, painting, or conversation.

Still, quiet waters may capture both sun and moon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pop II

Music is shared context.  It is public and personal. Artist, art, audience, and individual intersect.

Styles seemingly linked inexorably to subcultural phenomena become universally recognized, commercially co-opted and assimilated into mainstream culture.  In time, that which began as extravagantly original becomes commonplace, is reasserted and renewed for a period, and is finally replaced by a different perspective, as historical analysis of culture and social behaviors attests. 

As distinctions between the so-called fine arts and the popular arts have in large measure passed out of existence, and the broader public audience has greater access to a wider spectrum of entertainment and information, artists are more likely to follow a personal vision, rather than feel compelled to create according to the perceived tastes of specific "mass markets" that are no longer dominant forces. 

The position of the artist is more favorable in terms of widespread interest and acceptance as a result.

Celebrity culture, of course, is always its own context.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Concepts, Systems, Time

In conversation, certain points come up regularly.

Technically, these recordings are made in a digital production studio specifically designed according to technologies observed and utilized in commercial studios over a substantial course of time.  As such they reflect an evolution in recording from that of a two track setup used in recording James Brown singles in the early sixties through the digital revolution of the early nineteen nineties, at which point the capacity to organize and construct a personal studio system became possible.  The completion of this studio from that point, including research, experimentation, and ordering of processes continued for another fifteen years prior to the release of the first albums, Past Haunted Present by Ghost Radio Orchestra and Elevation by Black Mountain School.

The Black Mountain School recordings are conceived and completed on a system that is three years old and updated regularly, although some programs date to the mid-nineties and are used as a matter of personal preference, as are the restored JBL Decade speakers used (among others) in determining final mixes. 

This is not "random" music, though it is not "controlled" in the sense of being precisely defined in any form other than the finished recording.

To the best of my knowledge, while it is certain that the concepts of ambient music that influence these compositions are owed in every sense to the ideas and recordings of Brian Eno (who similarly acknowledges the music of Terry Riley as inspirational to his work), no artist produces efforts using the same particular methods and sound design strategies involved in these recordings, or has released albums that, as a result, either directly impact or are reflected in the peculiar ambient style of Black Mountain School.

Left for the consideration of the listener or reader are the virtues and follies of curiosity and patience in the pursuit of art.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Depictions, Directions

Before an audience sees or listens from a different perspective, the artist must do so.

The expansion of Cubist expression into architectural and sculptural forms, particularly in Prague during the early twentieth century, demonstrated an openness and awareness of the potential of the Modernist perspective among artists and designers, which, coupled with the historical Czech artistic perspective with its emphasis on complex subtlety in decorative forms, produced unique and extraordinary works of great beauty. 

In music, perspectives expand as well, cultures change, and new forms emerge to challenge artist and audience.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fabrication and the Mind's Eye

Assemble various elements from any number of ideas and sources, craft and refine toward an indeterminate outcome ultimately given final form.

The artist's concept of the piece determines the framework and limits of the composition; the goals are dynamic developments in the process of creating a total effect.

Matters of individuality and originality will be apparent as aspects of the work, these being consequences of independent thought.

Before the authentic creative act, vision demands insight.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Form, function, depth, content, value, purpose, permanence.

To its listeners, ambient music is an open book, yet it is not a common musical phenomena in the sense that other genres are; that is to say, it is not introduced to young people as an essential element of musical culture, it does not saturate the airwaves, and one typically discovers or takes notice of it for oneself.

With time, it enters consciousness in the way of a new language, changing one's perception of sounds and imbuing them with myriad degrees of emotional significance, heightening awareness and stimulating the imagination.

This is no slight power.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Strange Pastorals

The pastoral ideal involves removing the complicated imagination of the urban dweller to the pleasant settings of rural life and an aesthetic of simplicity in the embrace of nature and human relationships.

This is utter escapist fantasy, of course, and has been so since Egyptian scribes wrote poetry in this style, assuming the narrative voices of unsophisticated, charming people to speak of romance and leisure in small villages along the Nile.  The shepherd in the fields represents the archetype of such a life: therefore the intimate association with the style.  "New Age" music often relates to pastoral settings and is meant to aid or induce relaxation, meditation, the alleviation of stress, and so on.

In contrast, the song "Grantchester Meadows" by Roger Waters reflects a more direct perception of such a landscape-- and soundscape-- as do numerous works by Pink Floyd from around the time it was written.  It is this directness that distinguishes works reflecting the ambient mode from the generic pastoral style, as listening to a track like "Dunwich Beach, Autumn, 1960" by Brian Eno aptly demonstrates.

Nor is this direct, impressionistic experience of aural atmospheres limited to environments outside the urban; cities and their architectural layouts offer as many interesting and aesthetically appealing settings as fields, mountains and deserts, and imaginary landscapes, though likely more abstract, are equally fitting for treatment in the ambient manner.

The links between a transformational ambient work or sketch-- and even a purely generative one-- to the pastoral are tenuous, but notable.  The contrast is not between the complex and the simple, or the urban and the rural, but between the perceptually mundane and the elevated.  And there is no shepherd, unless it is the composer who facilitates the journey.

To the extent that the Black Mountain School albums reflect such considerations and ideas, they are successful in concept and design for listening.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sonic Field

Acuity of perception and thought rebels against obstruction and distraction.

Visual, auditory, and intellectual limits are not necessarily abhorrent in themselves, but clarity is desirable in any case as providing conditions in which such limits might be extended.  Obstruction and distraction, in cases of  blurred vision, loudness masking quiet sounds, or emotional tension overcoming thought, for example, frustrate the capacity to fully concentrate and focus on such things as complex situations and concepts. 

The design of ambient sounds to fill an environment for contemplative experience is more than a matter of volume and distance between sound source and listener; there must be tonality of a nature conducive to equable sensibility and contrasting movements, shades, tints, and textures of sound to create an atmosphere that is intrinsically interesting and has the potential to transform perceptions.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Listening Beyond the Present

Consider the time prior to the existence of recorded sound.

Music was originally reproduced by instrumental performance, conforming to the symbolic written language of musical notation, as interpreted by musical groups or soloists.  Variations reflecting the diverse interpretations characteristic of different orchestras and conductors were to be expected, and these are are indeed notable in modern recordings.

Recorded audio reproduces the same performance every time, providing the interested listener opportunities to increase familiarity with the work and pursue an awareness of various aspects of the musical recording in greater detail. 

On the other hand, the more limited the style or content of the work, the more saturated the listener becomes with continued listening, and, as with pop music in particular, the greater the disposability of the sound and style, even given listeners' emotional attachments to various popular genres over several generations.

The richer the content of a recording, the greater the rewards of repeated listening.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Altered Presences

Light and sound change perpetually and subtly over the course of time.

To a very young child, the immobile beam of a streetlight is starkly different from the daylight, or the lighting of home at night, because it is fixed, and not seemingly omnipresent.  The environment of the child's neighborhood is unchanged, but rendered mysterious by the depth of shadows and the stir of moths in the clear shafts of light that cast a pool of brightness down upon the sidewalk. 

Like moonlight on the ocean, there is a plainly visible source, but the the effects created in the atmosphere-- and the imagination--  are strikingly different from those of the day.

This is the appeal of ambient lighting, of pleasing sounds encountered unexpectedly in the natural world and in the human spheres of influence, and of the tone poem or stylized ambient music composition.  These things afford a change in atmosphere, a different perspective, and altered perceptions.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Underground  minimalism.

These musical efforts have their origins in underground rock dating back to the late 1970's through the early '90's, when small music clubs proliferated in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.  Magazines like Trouser Press, Matter, and the New Music Express gave some coverage to the scene, and ultimately some bands were esteemed by music critics and grew to be popular and successful in the mainstream.  My musical interests tended toward the experimental and improvisational, as reflected in the aforementioned journals' comparisons of recordings by groups I worked with to the Doors and the Velvet Underground.  Such press coverage was minimal; the groups were insignificant, except that they provided a great deal of experience in performing and recording, expanding my awareness of both cultural and technical ideas and processes.

As to nostalgia, that would be absurd.  I do recall one evening after a long rehearsal, relaxing and listening to an album titled Evening Star by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, and becoming aware, with sudden certainty, that this music was, in terms of heightening intellectual and emotional awareness, far superior to anything possible with rock, jazz/fusion or otherwise, and that beside it rock and roll was, at best, boring. 

That moment made all that is under consideration here possible.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Commonplace events and objects generate sounds that go unnoticed, their subtlety lost to perception.

Heightened awareness of sounds such as these may have been more common in the distant past, but this faculty is by no means lost in the modern world. 

The exercise of this ability through contemplative listening can be a creative and aesthetic process as well as a connection to instinctive knowledge and the depth of understanding it obtains.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Light and the Absence of Light

Opportunity to think.  Freedom to be more fully aware.  The arts offer these things, and more, or they may be misused or subverted, through ignorance or by intention, to deny them.

Totalitarian propaganda comes to mind first, then mindless frivolity and escapism, humorless ideological passions, and the mediocre satisfactions of vicarious emotional experience, all made the more speciously attractive under the aegis of "art".

Undeniably, these are representations of one thing or another.  Do they speak to the soul, the higher aspirations of the heart and mind, or to simple and direct perceptions of reality? 

One makes choices regarding such matters.  Or one does not, and follows.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Times, Places, Sounds and Forces

There are various goals in these audio works, with specific strategies and tactics to attain them.

Sounds to fill spaces, to complement environments and activities, to enhance thought, study, reading, creativity-- writing and drawing or painting, for example-- and for listening, as works complete in themselves, are among the desired outcomes when experimenting with tones and textures, designing sound structures and patterns, and otherwise fabricating or composing these pieces. 

The listener-- or participant, if you will-- should engage with the works to any extent that is pleasing and useful.  It may be a different way of listening, one most familiar to aficionados of ambient music, but it is, in fact, innate, given the various levels of attention accorded to sounds and music throughout the average day.

These transformative sketches in sound are made in consideration of the idea that music is an application of force, and that such forces should be fitting in regard to circumstances, activities, situations, and sensibilities.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Beyond the Unfamiliar

The reader, tolerant of these observations and perhaps finding certain directives to myself informative on occasion, knows fully what is meant by mainstream music and cultural arts of that nature. 

Certainly many people, like fish in water, take no notice of being immersed in it, and this is no criticism, but a neutral and objective point.  The mainstream is a cultural constant and one is everywhere aware of it, including its manifestations as alternatives to itself.

Live performances and recording sessions in the pop and rock milieu offer much in the way of creativity of the mainstream sort, but aside from the improvisational aspects of the former and the experimental opportunities of the latter there is a necessary element of predictability that is tedious and ultimately stultifying. 

The show must go on, coupled with give the people what they want and that sort of thing, holds interest for those who find it fulfilling, of course.  On the other hand, it is the motivation to create and explore that must take precedence for some, curiosity and the desire to know and learn being the dominate forces of their temperament.

Thus we move away from the cultural expectations.  The distance increases between us and the mainstream and its associated perspectives, on into the future, and as far as our journey will allow. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Stir of Vibrations

Consider music experienced in the course of the day.

Multiple sources.  Multiple situations.  Alone, in domestic, work-related, and social settings.  Through television and radio, in advertising, by personal selection on digital devices.  For multiple reasons.  In complete form and in fragments.  By choice or not.  Given full attention, barely noticed, interrupted, or ignored.

No one considers it unusual; it is unprecedented in human history. 

Upon reflection, literally at the end of the day, it may be observed to have produced effects at the time, or none at all.  The individual would be the one to determine this, and to recall what those effects, if any, were, and whether or not they were desirable. 

To propose and design forms of a musical nature intended to make atmospheres and activities cohesive is to create a paradigm of auditory art that establishes an aesthetic relationship between sounds, ideas, emotions, environments and actions in ways contrary to the effects of transitory and fragmentary musical events. 

Monday, December 05, 2011


Communications via resources that render them immediate result in untoward cultural effects.

Answers to difficult questions are expected to be reflexive, and, rather than being fully assessed with respect to facts, the replies are merely expected to conform to popular prejudices, and thus they are accepted or rejected as nothing more. 

Ideas and issues that have provoked debate for centuries, treated in this manner, will not be resolved.  Even concepts that are demonstrably wrong and absurd, clearly based on false premises or fatally flawed and transparently biased "research" continue to be given serious consideration long after they have outlived their relevance.   Ironically, the rapidity of communication that should speed their ultimate demise contributes to their longevity.

In forbearing to mention the many long-endured, obviously wrong and obsolete notions here, the point is to give consideration to the fact that a thoughtful approach to problem-solving, to conceptual creativity, and to the virtue of patience in the evolution of an artistic vision is not an error of judgement, and regardless of cultural norms and expectations, it is an asset to the artist and to the thinking person.  The coercion to think otherwise must be resisted, with intellectual authority and the strength of moral reason.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


In general terms, entertainment is meant to provide diversion or escape, and to garner applause and acclaim.

Art is created to yield effects.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Convergence II

To trace the progress of music through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is to observe developments in artistic vision and technology and the rise and decline of familiar musical genres.

Common elements of these developments are the movement from the simple to the complex (and back again), the merging of styles, the standardization of commercial products and, in contrast to the latter, experimentation and risk in the pursuit of change.

Question, reflect, challenge, envision, and bring into being.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Perception, Reason, Nuance

The past lies in the future, the present in both; nothing appears out of thin air.

Life in a frenetic atmosphere is often represented as a cultural ideal, as a life of excitement or a state of affairs in which one is continually engaged in a series of passionate extremes in work and at play.  One sees particular historical periods as well as virtually all contemporary life portrayed in this manner, that is to say, in a romanticized and absurd way. 

Consider, only briefly, the kinds of music associated with such situations.  It is predictable, unchanging, propelled by the same instruments according to the same formulas, and geared to dominate, if not to overwhelm, the attention of the listener.  In other words, enjoyable as it may be from time to time, as a constant in the course of everyday activities, it becomes nothing special, bland and finally boring.

Other ways of listening and composing have developed separately over time, not as reactions against the time-worn flavors of popular music, but according to different points of view about art, and life.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Simplicity, Complexity, Reality and the Imagination

Sensory experience is a means of making connections.

The fundamental nature of seeing and hearing directs the observer, consciously or intuitively, toward an intellectual and emotional grasp of the nature of things and their innumerable relationships.  The creative or artistic impulse engages and orders these relationships into a statement, in one form or another, about what these relationships might possibly mean.

Light strikes the eye and the vision of an artist confronts perception; vibrations strike the ear and we share and respond to the sounds of a composer, or the words of a speaker.  As an artist brings a statement within our awareness, we bring experiences of our own to art.  If moved to do so, we reflect upon what these connections we have made say about the world and ourselves. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free Expression

There are no longer stark divisions between the fine arts and the popular arts.  Such distinctions are matters of individual discrimination and taste. 

Individuals who are less likely to be bound by cultural limits are by nature more receptive to imaginative works of art that appeal to their intellectual and emotional dispositions. Their tastes in films, music, and literary works reflect their own interests, rather than those of a narrow range of common experience that was once much more prevalent than it is now.
This is not to say that an age demographic is in play, but, in point of fact, to state the opposite. Works of aesthetic virtue are more accessible to a more diverse audience than ever.

Fashions and styles that once dominated cultural conditions (and cultural conditioning) no longer have a lock on the collective consciousness. 

This affords freedom of expression in ways as yet not fully realized.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Imagery communicates sensory impressions, especially in their absence, in an appeal to one's fund of experience.

The imagined sounds of times and spaces, shapes and colors, physical gestures, textures, shadows and lights-- and so on in myriad diversity-- when combined in speculative sketches, bring to an environment an artistic portrayal of shifting perceptions.

A room takes on aspects of an aural action painting, an open field of impressions; the imagination of the listener contributes unique perspectives of meaning and detail.

Words free of predictable limits rise in the directions of poetry, and sounds released from mundane musical structures flow out into poems born of tones and permutations.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Imagined Musics

Forms suggest their elements in other forms.  Environments propose visual and auditory imagery.

Given creative consideration, a synthesis of elements comes into being-- sounds, instruments, voices, scenarios for performance or composition-- tones, moods, atmospheres-- impressions, spatial designs, proportions and textures, dynamics-- and a concept develops of musical forms evolving over a course of time. 

Spaces created, filled, emptied, reconfigured, all illuminated with sounds, challenge ideas of what music is and what it may become. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mosaic, Collage

Sound to reflect impression; tone to express emotion; pattern to engage perceptions, all interconnected and interchangable.

Each sound contributing to the following sound and to the whole; pattern combining with phrase and complementary pattern; tone and phrase echoed and reflecting each other; metaphoric color, light, temperature, distance, depth, implying meaning, apparently effortless and impossible.

All react and relate in part and in fullness to sketch out a sense of the sublime, a breath of balsam forest daybreak, a cafe filled with voices in unknown languages, a journey shared over a course of seasons.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Things passed by unnoticed in the grip of routine may reveal insights into the nature of things, given but a degree of conscious observation.

Simplicity or complexity, whether in processes of design, with regard to human emotions, or in consideration of ideas, often depends upon subtlety of perception.

Friday, November 25, 2011


A profusion of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions is characteristic of works such as Ulysses by James Joyce, in which expressions of direct experience are conveyed through descriptive literary imagery.  While such works were considered originally to be breaks from traditional forms, they have ultimately become traditional in their own ways.

As T.S. Eliot conveyed a poetic vision via fragmented imagery and the objective correlative, Charles Olson proposed that poetry render direct experience through direct expression, patterned after speech and delineating a flow of perceptions, unlimited by formal structure.  The vigorous nature of his ideas gained momentum outside the environs of academia, developed into forms carried forward by the Beat writers, and remains influential in numerous fields, including contemporary popular music.

In William S. Burroughs's novel The Ticket That Exploded the author expanded upon the idea of capturing elements of subjective psychic states by suggesting the use of cutting and splicing recorded sounds on tape and recombining them, as he had done with words using the aptly-named "cut up" technique.  Here is another instance of the stream of consciousness literary form being further modified in the attempt to communicate myriad levels of meaning simultaneously. 

Reflections of these concepts are found throughout the arts of the twentieth century and those of contemporary times, and are by nature intimately connected with diverse aspects of the music under consideration in these observations. 

Ideas, even recondite ones, do not simply cease to exist, but carry live sparks.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Balance and Emphasis II

There is always a collective consciousness of ideas manifested in cultural and social settings.

Shadows of ideas perceived vaguely or half-formed, some unconscious and others clearly ill-conceived, motivate expression and communication over a wide range of activities. The arts and sciences are no more or less subject to such errors than other fields of human endeavor, but these errors permeate works of weak foundation and, as history demonstrates, they fail the test of time.

All ideas are interwoven, and their value comes from their conceptual integrity.  When the world of ideas and the cultural arts demonstrates impulses that are critical as well as creative, a renewal of human awareness is one necessary outcome.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Abstract Atmospheres

Rimbaud spoke of intentional derangement of the senses, and, metaphorically, these long-term experiments in tone and technology (1996 to present) have brought about works that subtly evoke a similar aesthetic of auditory perception.

In general terms, ambient music as made by musicians adheres to the standard musical paradigms, and listening makes that clear-- its design and execution is admirable for these qualities. From much listening, it appears the popular "new age" stylings are mostly of the elegant and "mellow" sort, while the "dark ambient" takes the opposite tack, and other approaches are akin to jazz or novelty music, some pieces interesting and experimental, others a bit trite. This is oversimplification of a rich and dynamic genre, to be sure, but the point is self-reflection, not academic or pop cultural analysis.

In contrast, to listen to Black Mountain School is to hear Cubism, Impressionism, and Abstract Expression engaged through generative manipulation. It tends to be a bit on its own, somewhat anomalous, and, perhaps, remote.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hills Beneath the Mountains

Every setting has its unique sounds and sound characteristics.  To become aware of them is to hear music, formless and flowing.

In a remote rural area an hour before sunrise a crescent moon revealed by a scattering of dark, heavy rainclouds provokes the sound of roosters crowing a mile or more away.  Traffic sounds rise and fall on a distant highway; the shrill hissing of night insects reaches a crescendo and goes silent. 

Hushed winds stir and wildlife moves among the shadowy trees with cracklings of leaves and branches.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Frames of Mind

Constraints on twenty-first century composition are few.  Structures may be expanded, sounds explored and modified, and methods and strategies given flexibility in the design of expressive works.

Artistic vision is shaped by sensibility, receptivity, and perception.  One chooses one's cultural tools-- ideas and technologies-- from those accessible, and develops according to proficiency gained through their use. 

A Black Mountain School recording is designed in such a way that, with each completed piece, listeners may engage their individual emotions, experiences, and visions through the context of the work, as though they were finding shapes, patterns, and pictures in clouds in the sky.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reason and Vision

Ideas imply responsibilities.

The gifts of knowledge and and understanding bring with them an awareness of the necessity of sharing them, and of expressing them with integrity and honesty.  To be realistic, one must be cognizant of the negative aspects of cultural phenomena as well, and be prepared to counter them with reason and example.  It is a challenge to see beyond the superficial and the absurd, and to creatively engage in communicating ways to look beyond the trivial and mundane.

But it was ever thus, and thus the value of the arts and sciences.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Transformation Listening

Each piece recorded by Black Mountain School is oriented in such a way as to sustain mood over a length of time through a slowly evolving dynamic series of independent combinations of sounds.


These are sounds to be perceived as they are; it is not necessary to "follow" them, especially by the typical means of melody, rhythm, and beat, those being elements that commonly dominate the listener's attention.  While serving as enhancements to the environment, these recordings also exert a subtle influence on one's state of mind, providing atmospheric space in which to think outside the often frenetic pace of things generally given to be "normal". 

What these works are and what they do is unconventional, though accessible to everyone receptive to diverse musical styles and to different ways of listening to music. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Observe the ways in which the attention is directed to certain aspects of cultural reality, and away from others.

Through artifice, glamour and attitude are generated to fulfill needs and expectations of a consumer audience for atmosphere and a sense of connectivity and community.  Some would argue that this is an incomplete and unfulfilling arrangement, but that is not of moment here.  What is notable is that the context itself is often more interesting than the activity designed to engage the attention, for what it says about cultural conditions and the vision of those involved in producing or opposing them.

Postulate music that appeals to sound emotional temperament and invites reflection and creative reasoning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Technology and Technique

The studio process, and the studio considered conceptually as an instrument, have undergone change over time that rivals that of the evolution of other twentieth century technologies.

Beyond the elimination of financially prohibitive recording scenarios and esoteric equipment, the means of manipulating sound forms and reproducing aural textures has led to conditions through which the imaginative artist or producer can envision entire sonic territories that may be brought into being. 

With due emphasis on patience and meticulous precision, it is possible to develop a repertoire of strategies and methods to create works that have never before been possible.

The Wright brothers first flight took place in 1903.  In 1969 Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the lunar surface, on the Sea of Tranquility. 

People of vision are even now touching the future.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Form and the Formless

Visual and musical arts, like those of a poetic or tactile nature, may direct perception in unexpected ways.

Before we take notice of weather reports we are fascinated by the way raindrops dance on hard surfaces, the ways they form wide patterns while disappearing in a sudden flash of liquid silver; only later do we first think of carrying an umbrella.  With the acquisition of information and familiarity with the commonplace, it is easy to rely on the routine ways of seeing and being, hearing and thinking.  

Easier still is to become distracted by the pressures of responsibility or the popular diversions, losing, along the way, the sense of the unexpected or unknown.  But the beautiful and the marvelous are always to be found, sometimes in simple things and sometimes in complexity.

This is to explain nothing, but to take note, as always, of artistic ideas and intentions. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Art, Music, Poetry, Mysticism

Much of what is considered ineffable with regard to the arts has more to do with coming to terms with reality itself than with the mysterious or the paranormal.

"Who we are" is more than a function of society and culture, and more than self-image, persona, and intellect.  Measurements of character and integrity, and of the genuine or spurious nature of the appearances of things, convenient and useful as they are in navigating day-to-day experience, do not confer more than a deeper regard for the problems of human nature.

The arts challenge all of these, and the complacency that accompanies dependency upon any of them as sources of smug self-absorption.  That these values and ideas have their place is not in question; that it is possible to rise above attachments to the mundane and the narrowly limited, in culture, ideology, and world-view, is of equal importance to the expansion of consciousness.

To see beyond the present and to strive for the fulfillment of higher ideals is a transcendence of the "given" in our lives and a more powerful understanding of what it is to be human.

The arts offer perspectives from which to consider these possibilities.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ways of Meaning

Correspondence between setting and sound implies application of the same freely nuanced juxtapositions of imagery as those that appear in poetry.

T.S. Eliot conceived the objective correlative as a set of objects or events that objectify and evoke emotion through concrete sensory imagery.  The connotations associated with such things as walls and windows, rivers and horizons, running and waiting, and the familiar archetypes may bring, in the context of an artistic work, moods and states of mind to bear on a reader or audience. 

In terms of music, emotions are aroused by the full spectrum of audible sounds and their myriad combinations, though much of it is melodramatic and bombastic, or trivial.  Nevertheless, as more is communicated at times by tone of voice than by words, so may expressively tinted music, unfettered by inflexible formula and form, reveal or elicit subtleties of heart and mind not always perceived directly.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Danube Riverfront, Saturday Afternoon

Now consider the imaginary landscape, having attended to the phenomena of sound in a number of given situations.

If every significant line, shape, form, pattern, and emotionally suggestive impression in this image corresponded to a sound, tone, pattern, and musical texture, the sound design would be reinforced by spatial separation, impressions associated with the acoustic properties of the elements therein and the perceived distances between them.  The resulting composition, then, is contemplated with attention to total atmospheric effect.

The same place at another day and hour would sound completely different.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Visual Music

Today my wife and I visited the 77 Million Paintings exhibit by Brian Eno at the YMI Cultural Center, 39 S Market Street, Asheville, NC USA. We would urge anyone with a love for the arts to attend this "visual music" presentation between now and November thirtieth. This is the first installation of 77 Million Paintings in the US outside Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is a unique work of art, and it is a masterpiece.  Below is a detail of an original Eno work we purchased at the Cultural Center gallery, where the installation is now open:

Still images and other means of representing this profound and marvelous work, beautiful though they are, can do no justice to the direct experience of the installation itself any more than a photo in a textbook can a Brueghel, a Van Gogh, or a Warhol. For true insights into the future of art and media, it is an opportunity that is not to be missed.

YMI Cultural Center Hours: 11:00 AM to 6 PM Wed - Sat / 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM Sun (closed Mon and Tues)