Sunday, 16 March 2014

Spirit of the Wood

Digital art by early man, circa 1995

I've just finished finally getting online Spirit of the Wood, an album of American Indian flute music, with assorted electronic accompaniment. So where did that come from ?

In or about 1995 (I guess - my memory for dates is unsurpassably bad) I was working for The Santa Cruz Operation in Watford, England. Reading that Wikipedia page about SCO, I actually remember being at the mentioned Jefferson Starship concert at UCSC. I also recall the result was losing my voice ahead of the presentation I was giving the next morning as leader of the Unix device drivers group .... ah, happy days. The week before that company conference I managed to take some time to and camp and hike for a week in Yosemite National Park, where I did not get eaten by a bear. I'm not sure whether it was on that trip to California or another that I stopped off in Capitola village at a New Age emporium the name of which I have now forgotten (I think it was owned by a nice lady named Cheryl!), where I spent a lot of money on a really nice Native American cedar flute made by Stephen de Ruby, then of San Diego, and a buffalo-skin drum made by Tom White Eagle of the Oglala Sioux. I do remember that right after buying the flute I went up the coast to one of the Redwood National Parks and played it for the first time sitting under one of the giant sequoias at sunset.

This was a time when PCs were big beige towers and if you had a bit of cash you could actually have sound available by installing a Creative Soundblaster PC card and hooking up a pair of speakers. This was cutting-edge hi-tech in those days. I do seem to have been one of the first to realise that those sound-cards had inputs as well as outputs, and that meant it was suddenly possible to make high quality digital music recordings at home. Suddenly digital quality was no longer the sole preserve of big-money studios.

Accordingly, with the aid of a camcorder mic, the built in MIDI synth on the Soundblaster AWE32 soundcard, and a Korg synth, over many months of long evenings after work, I recorded the album 'Spirit of the Wood' - largely improvised along to electronic backings created using all sorts of software tricks as well as playing the keyboard. I used notation software, algorithmic composition, graphic scores and everything else I could lay my hands on to try out and played the flute over the top, lovingly hand-crafting every note in the Digital Orchestrator Pro sound editor module until it sounded (to me at least) perfect. The very wonderful Justine Hart contributed vocals. This was before the days when you could go straight to CD (at least within my budget) so I mastered the album digitally onto a DAT tape machine borrowed from sound engineer Chris Braclik (recently spotted on a documentary about Mike Oldfield & Tubular Bells!) and made some demos which went off to record companies.

Spirit of the Wood was eventually released a year later on cassette tape on the now defunct Blue Crystal Music label. It never made any money and although they made a CD master it was never actually released as a CD. When the record company deleted it I got the master back and it sat on my shelf for a long time. At some point I ran off the CD image onto my hard drive and it has lain there ever since.

Spirit of the Wood was made during several intense months of musical effort, largely 'in flow' as a meditative experience, and I always meant to do something more with it - it's not likely I'll ever have the time and energy to make another album, so it should be out there somewhere. Since it became possible to release music online, I finally decided to do something about it. No one may ever notice, but hey, I made a solo album and it's out there in the wild! Feel free to go get it.

Spirit of the Wood: American Indian flute and electronica: is available to stream and download on my website:

You can also stream it on Spotify.

Or if you'd actually like to optionally part with money, try these places - all sales will be helping to fund my MA course starting in September, so thanks in advance!

RouteNote (If you buy via RouteNote I get the money straight away, otherwise I have to wait)

1 comment:

Peter Hughes said...

Martin, I have listened to my audio cassette tape of Spirit of the Wood many hundreds of times. (I am surprised that the tape has not worn out.) The streamed (thus entirely digital) version you have made available online is wonderfully clear. It would be delight were you to make more recordings. With best wishes, Peter Hughes.

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