Water Ascending

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Wildering Haven

Humans and nature have lived together for thousands and thousands of years. Each natural object was carefully placed as if Mother Nature had a specific purpose in mind. A safe place is where someone can feel relaxed and find peace. Being outdoors and connecting with Mother Nature is probably as close to heaven as you can possibly get on this Earth.

Electronic and acoustic instrumental music of inspirational calm and great beauty, The Silence of Grace combines Jill Haley’s oboe and English horn, with the electronic music of Deborah Martin. There’s something very magical about the serenity of nature, and Jill has connected her music with the spirit of the wilderness. Deborah Martin’s passion is to visualize and create music that takes each listener on a journey through time and space. Each track contains the synergy of the woodwinds and electronics, creating consistently tranquil soundscapes with floating orchestral dimensions. The music reflects the peace that can be experienced in natural settings, such as forests, parks and by waterways. 

This rugged, beautiful land is filled with opportunities for adventure. The sound I hear represents to me the adoration of the Earth, seeking understanding of natural phenomena, finding commonalities between all living things, things that are best studied as a whole, seeking to understand how the world and universe around us works. The laboratory is alive. Jill brings the light and Deborah brings the love of mystery, both together create new dimensions of beauty. The combination of these two amazing musicians, stargazers, ambassadors from another time, is magical to behold.

The English word "oboe" is an anglicised pronunciation and spelling for the French "Hautbois," which means "High Wood." The sound quality of the oboe is very versatile, pastoral by nature, full of tenderness, sometimes shy. The English horn, also known as the Cor Anglais, Engellisches Horn, and the Angel's Horn, brings a wide variety of feelings, from melancholy and despair to carefree merriment and mischievous abandon, providing richly lyrical, expressive and melancholic airs. Combine that with the knowledge of the possibilities for harnessing the technology, adding synthesizer atmospherics, harps, percussion, and discover a sound representing the inexorable, titanic forces which have shaped the globe’s surface, a sort of a message in a bottle sent centuries ago, the runes spell it out: adventurers stay young at heart.

Grace has confidence. Nature has a way of slowing life down, presenting a complicated system of causes, allowing the inquisitive to discover common patterns. Mother Earth has her own agenda, see it in its beautiful nighttime and early morning light, "The Silence of Grace" (6:54) is filled with passion, dreams, and lots of innate rosy magic, delicate rising layers of floating light, recalling spacious skies and mountain majesties, expressing theories of form, perhaps the blueprints in the mind of God, determined to put it all to music. There is almost nothing to compare to it.

Hues change by time of day and season, wrinkles in the earth’s crust are actually mountains that wear the dawn like "Indian Heaven" (6:52), an immensely intense feeling of a state of love, peace and joy, celestial electronics and deep confident steps, hand percussion and a quiet reverence for the mysteries of life and death.

Rugged, remote and relatively untouched, meander the wilderness, discover ancient trees and dramatic cave formations which lends a mirage-like effect of great distance to objects, "Verdant Sanctuary" (5:01), chimes and swirling electronics joined by oboe to create a forest filled with life, a roadless wilderness, sacred earth begets butterflies, seeds thus contain form, vegetative souls, responsible for reproduction and growth, DNA ribbons of color, experience this most incredible sonic natural phenomena in the world, and make it part of your ear's journey.

The wild character of these vast sound regions is due, in part, to its sheer size. The water continues to flow, solitude is one of the many assets, allow yourself to be mesmerized by the greenest mountains, and the flora, fauna, ground and water, a gaunt beauty and place of profound quiet. "The Stillness of Forest Bathing" (6:20) is expressed with the sound of cosmic radiation that gives way to the calm glory of solitary interaction with nature, providing the spirits of the land a chance to shine their light directly on you.

Fog lies like a soft white blanket on the indescribable ghostliness, hundreds of miles of pure snow-covered rocks and virgin lakes and high timber, find yourself in a stunning place, a place buffered from change, and give yourself a reminder that you are a part of this magical world. "Fountains" (6:06) bring tingling droplets of water in motion lifted by complex layers of weaving instruments and air, filled with cascading melodic breezes.

The beauty that surrounds is both grand and subtle, come to its edge and look, explore with your ears a different walking path today, seek out that rugged vista, the river and its tributaries, and the wind calling, feeling as if you have found the very edge of the world, embarking on adventures that no one has before. "Earth Stone Water Sky" (4:06) evokes the beauty of the calm water, the light on the mountains, and mysterious elements containing light, whispers, and time.

The whole valley as far as the eye can reach is full of hundreds, no thousands — literally, tens of thousands — of trails of smoke, curling up from its fissured floor. What I hear is a hot pulsing digeradoo, a dancing engine, joined by hand percussion as the woodwind breezes swirl overhead, electronics flow throughout until they transform into ascending spirits that trickle down as gentle drops almost like rain. It seems as if time has dropped away a million years and we are back in a primordial world, in the pouring rain, "From Fire Into Water" (6:36).

This is a river beyond the reach of change, the wild beauty and deep history flowing beyond the reach of humans, with cycles of precipitation, evaporation, run off, and infiltration, water is many mobile beings, bodies in motion, rising into the air to peacefully soar on the wind in a frolic, rugged but beautiful, "Water Flows of Clouds and Thunder" (7:32), I hear dark winds gathering power that becomes a sparkling celebration of motion and freely flowing joy as a delicate harp emerges to join the airborn dance. What I heard gave me an indescribable sense of a mysterious elsewhere, a vivid glow that illuminates the clouds and its plume a cloud-cloaked landscape, hanging pinnacled in mid-heaven, you can’t really see it clearly while you are there. 

The beauty is in its starkness something that seems worlds away.

Humans and nature have lived together for thousands and thousands of years. Each natural object was carefully placed as if Mother Nature had a specific place in mind. A safe place is where someone can feel relaxed and find peace. 

Being outdoors and connecting with Mother Nature is probably as close to heaven as you can possibly get on this Earth. Treat yourself to a musical nature walk. Find the place that makes you feel most alive. Head outdoors with your headphones and observe the beauty you are surrounded by. The  the views are spectacular! Experience the surreal musical tranquility of The Silence of Grace. Just sit and take it in.

Slow, serene and graceful expressions, feelings of open space and a sense of mystery come together to tell their story, capturing the spirits of the universal languages of music and evoking both the feel and the vision of the natural beauty of turquoise waters, towering mountains, and raging waterfalls. Feelings of isolation and solitude watching the moon rise while you settle down for the night, listening to time and weather combined in flowing water, the sweet alchemy and natural beauty of wind swirling the sand and setting everything in motion. The wind tells of places that are both intimate and vast, sometimes soaring and sometimes very haunting, a soundtrack that will take you on a passage exploring the magnificent wonders, the scenic deserts, forests, lakes and mountains, the open air and breathtaking views, an imaginary tour trekking around lakes, waterfalls, and rivers. You can almost feel the lilting melodies of the sounds of birds, the movement of long grasses in the wind and the call of rain on a mountain, wild and free.

Jill Haley is raising three children with her husband, David Cullen, to be responsible adults who are finding their paths, and she has created a catalog of music that she  has written about our National Parks based on her time spent living in the Parks as an Artist in Residence. She is an oboist, English horn player, pianist, educator, and composer who has created and released seven solo albums as well as played as accompanist on numerous albums on the Windham Hill label.

"Music, for me, offers an opportunity to feel emotions, when it’s the right piece of music,” she conveys. “It can help one remember special times in their past, or be stimulating or energizing. I feel that I am a conduit for a musical idea that is given to me and I give it form. If an audience is kind enough to sit and listen to what I have to offer, it is my job to make this an engaging enjoyable experience for them.”

She brings a gift, "I also especially enjoy sharing the music I have written about a certain National Park in that Park with folks who actually live and work there. This includes Glacier, Badlands and Mesa Verde."

Deborah Martin collects music in a wide variety of styles - classical, jazz, ambient electronic, country, folk, R&B, rock, etc. She is one of Spotted Peccary Music’s highly acclaimed top selling artists as well as a co-owner of Spotted Peccary Music. She loves to travel and has journeyed extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and the North American continent, experiencing firsthand the diversity of cultures and the historic threads that weave together connecting us all. This perspective enables her to recognize and recover hidden links between present and past, and to interpret the resulting guerdon with a compositional style all her own. How did she find the way to her gift?

“My father and mother love music and amassed a vast collection of records - every weekend there were records playing all day, and of all types of music, so I grew up hearing quite a variety of styles.”

Recently, Jill and Deborah spent two weeks exploring the Pacific Northwest and creating musical impressions in Deborah’s recording studio. This ambient musical recording, The Silence of Grace, is a combination of Jill’s acoustic voices on oboe and English horn combined with Deborah’s musical expressions through various electronic sounds. Each track contains the synergy of the woodwinds and electronics, creating consistently tranquil soundscapes with floating orchestral dimensions. The music reflects the peace that can be experienced in natural settings, such as forests, parks and by waterways. 

I had the opportunity to ask each of them some questions about their creative expressions and path to making this remarkable music. As they are both very busy, our conversation was conducted through email, and I have taken some liberties in connecting these ideas together here for you to read.

Robin James: How did this album come about?

Jill Haley:  Deborah and I met at a Zone Music Reporter (music industry) event in New Orleans a few years ago and chatted during a dinner there.

Deborah reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in collaborating with her on a project. Since we work in such different mediums (Her – electronic, me – more acoustic) I thought it would be an interesting and exciting thing to explore. We then agreed on a date for me to travel from Pennsylvania to Washington to spend a couple of weeks with her creating this project. We spent the time exploring the Pacific Northwest and creating music in her studio.

RJ: How do you bring about such amazing beauty? Creating such music is quite a supernatural and mysterious gift to share.

Deborah Martin: Composing is an adventure in arrangements - there are so many ways to create parts that weave together into an emotive expression that could  appeal to anyone who hears it - of course, that is very subjective to each listener, but that is not something I think about when in the creative process  itself.

JH:  For me, writing music is truly self- expression on a very intuitive level. I just sit at the piano and “mess around” with chords, melodies and rhythms.  If I give myself a task to write something specific, it is usually thrown in the trash. I don’t see creating music as a task, but rather I feel that I am a conduit for a musical idea that is given to me and I give it form.

RJ: What are the most beautiful places you have ever performed in?

DM: There are many places over the years I have performed in - one place that comes to mind was in Germany in the mid-70s and I was in my late  teens, singing and playing guitar at a small venue outdoors at a ski resort guest-house in the mountains and I remember how beautiful the forest surrounding  the area was, and how the sound carried - it was beautiful.  Another place was at a retirement / convalescent home in Northern California in the mid-80’s -  there were a few others with me to sing as a group. In the large room we were in, the caregivers had brought in many of the residents who were confined there,  mostly in wheelchairs. I remember walking over and sitting next to an elderly woman and I began playing and singing to her (the song was “Amazing Grace”) and  she started to sing with me - the whole room was watching us, and I found out afterwards that she had not spoken in a very long time - it was a beautiful  moment and it holds a very special place in my heart. Someone there actually took a picture of me singing to her and gave it to me a few weeks later, after  sharing with her family.

JH:  Whom I play with and what I play are actually more important than the place. That said, I can say that a vineyard in Southern California,  Carnegie Hall, some lovely churches and theaters I have done orchestral concerts with all come to mind. I also especially enjoy sharing the music I have written about a certain National Park in that Park with folks who actually live and work there. 

RJ: What was your most positive surprise in life?

DM: I’ve had so many, I couldn’t even begin to try to list anything - for me life is a positive endeavor always, and yes, even though there are terrible atrocities and terrible occurrences that happen around the globe (as has been recorded throughout history) there is always a light, and I prefer to go in that direction, so each day brings a surprise of one sort my way.  But if there had to be one, I’d say spending a day in a field with cows and a guitar, and emerging at the end of the day actually playing it!

JH:  Listening to music is a very visceral and personal experience based on the person’s past and their familiarity with different types of music.  Music, for me, offers an opportunity to feel emotions when it’s the right piece of music. It can help one remember special times in their past, or be  stimulating or energizing.

I have enjoyed visiting schools local to the National Parks I have spent time in and sharing with the children there how I write music inspired by THEIR park! I may bring in an audio recording of a bird singing and show them how I imitate that on the oboe and then how I harmonize the melody on the  keyboard. Then I show them how it all comes together in a finished piece.

RJ: What is your goal as a performer?

DM: A sharing of expression with sound to an audience - and if working with other “performers”, as a community of like-minded folks who enjoy  their craft - it’s a very special place when playing music alongside other talents and everything just falls into place - it’s magical.

JH:  The performer’s goal is to entertain an audience and I take that responsibility very seriously. If an audience is kind enough to sit and listen to what I have to offer, it is my job to make this an engaging enjoyable experience for them. I do this with the music I write about the National Parks. I create videos of images that inspired the music I am sharing in the concert so the audience has a visual experience as well as an aural one. The listeners seem to really enjoy this combination of music and video.

RJ: What would you tell a youngster about how you get ideas for composing?

DM: I would ask them about what their dream and vision was, or what were they most interested in. Then I would describe how I seem to imagine lots  of scenes, ideas, places, or would get inspired creatively just from looking at a drawing or a scene in a painting, then imagining what it would be like to  go there, and the, what it would sound like -from there, the imagination takes wing - and each youngster would certainly have their own ideas about how they  think about the world and such.

JH:  Don’t try to force something. Relax and be open. If the time is right, an idea will come. If the time is not right, you must wait.

As a college student I was seriously studying classical music as an oboist. I began to listen a lot to Paul McCandless, an improvising oboist and his group, Oregon. The possibilities of doing more with the oboe than learning and repeating (not nearly as well as my predecessors!) the classical repertoire became more real as I began to work as an oboist. I performed a lot with a folk dulcimer player/singer, and in a trio of 2 guitars and oboe. I was able to improvise and eventually began to work with Will Ackerman, the founder and guitarist of Windham Hill Records.

RJ: What music has changed your path?

DM: I do not think any music has changed my path - I’ve always been involved in some way with many styles of music, so to create in one style or another seems to come naturally to me.

RJ: I see what you mean, how can your path change if you are always discovering new directions as you go along!

What is listening?

DM: To me listening is a passive act or participation; it can be in experiencing the audio of music, or it can be applied to life in general, listening to someone who is expressing to you their thoughts, comments, ideas or expressions. Whether it be “listening” to music, or “listening” to  someone, or just “listening” to your surroundings (like in a crowded room, out on the street, or at a large gathering), you may be passive, but you are a  participant and not a bystander.

I learned to play guitar on my own - it took a day sitting in a cow field (with cows, yes) in Germany when I was around 14 or 15; a friend of the family gave me a guitar - it was a Framus (wish I still had it) and by the end of the day I was strumming a few chords! (not sure what they were, but later found out) and from there began playing - perhaps the cows in the field listening and looking at me lent some directional inspiration!

RJ: Listening is definitely part of the experience of music, perhaps as important as making it. One starts by responding to what they hear, or think they hear.

Are you able to bring music back from your nocturnal dreams?

DM: I dream a lot and yes, sometimes phrases come into being and I usually remember them - sometimes I’ll even wake up and go write down whatever  downloaded during that dreamspace - whether it be a musical melodic line, or a theme for a song - it’s a mystery to me sometimes but all seems to come  together.

RJ: What is next?

JH:  This year I will be spending time in two National Parks that I was offered an Artist in Residency to for last year that were rescheduled to this  year: Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona and Acadia National Park in Maine.

My next personal recording project is a collection of pieces I wrote that were inspired by the Psalms. I decided during the pandemic that my  travels needed to be inward so I read the book of Psalms and created 10 pieces based on the lovely imagery in these writings.

DM: Jill and I will be working on our second album this year; and Dean De Benedictis and I will be working on our second album also this year; I  have a few other projects in the works, not sure on the time frame for completing them, but hopefully soon.

I love to travel, the list is endless; with the current situation it is difficult to plan out, but I’m looking forward to Ireland, Wales,  Scotland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, to name a few (I’ve been to several of these locations, but want to further explore).

JH:  Oh, my travel list is ridiculously long! I have so many places I still want to visit and this past year has been SO hard with the travel restrictions.  Hawaii, Switzerland, Canada, Ghana, England, Ireland... the list goes on and on!

RJ: Thank you both for your time, for sharing your ideas and most of all for sharing the beautiful music that you make!

Humans and nature have lived together for thousands and thousands of years. Each natural object was carefully placed as if Mother Nature had a specific purpose in mind. A safe place is where someone can feel relaxed and find peace. Being outdoors and connecting with Mother Nature is probably as close to heaven as you can possibly get on this Earth. Treat yourself to a nature walk. Find the places that make you feel most alive. Head outdoors and observe the beauty you are surrounded by. The views are spectacular! Experience the surreal musical tranquility of The Silence of Grace. Just sit with your headphones on and roam the verdant cosmos with Deborah and Jill.

https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/the-silence-of-grace/


Submitted: May 04, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Robin James. All rights reserved.

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