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About Kuutana - AstreauxWorld Interview

posted Sep 21, 2013, 12:11 PM by Kuutana Serenity   [ updated Sep 21, 2013, 7:34 PM ]

AstreauxWorld Radio Interview with Kuutana 

Music as creative energy

Music is the Universes language. I can tune in to its infinite conversations when I compose music. My mood will affect which channel of the Universe I am tuned into. Its not unlike the old adage that you simply reveal the artwork waiting for you when you chisel away all the unnecessary bits in the stone.

Quiet, contemplative music, requires that I be in a quiet, contemplative state of mind. Once I chisel away at the stress and the noise in my mind, and begin to reach a peaceful state, thats when the right kind of music starts to reveal itself. Once that process has begun, it is self-creating. The calm and connectedness guides the music creation process, which in turn feeds the sense of calm and connectedness. I know it is all working and I am really tuning-in, when I gradually start feeling more and more Qi (or creative energy) flowing through my body.

I know this concept of Qi may seem ethereal and elusive to many, with many relating it to simple New Age mumbo-jumbo. But as a long time Tai Chi practitioner, I easily recognize when Chi is flowing. There is a warmth and tingling throughout the body, and just know you are connecting to something that is much greater than yourself.

Overcoming creative stagnation

I dont believe any artist should think that they can force creativity. If there is creative stagnation, there simply is stagnation overall; not just in creativity. The bodies of creatures  blessed with the abilities to feel emotions, have been given an innate ability to experience reality through a kaleidoscopic view. On the topic of negative emotions alone, some Buddhist scholars refer to their being as many as eighty-four thousand them! Now it is obvious that any artist is deeply impacted by their emotional state when either composing or performing. It is interesting to learn more about emotions, and to learn how to observe them in one􀂶s self. I think that if I was always as serene as a master meditator, I would probably wind up with some creative stagnation as I think that my music might wind up gravitating around one form of mantra or another. Who knows, maybe that is what I am unconsciously aiming for, somewhere in my creative process. However, I have also come to acknowledge the value of every emotion. So I know there are times when I will be more receptive to playing my contemplative music, and others where I will engage in a very different genre. I embrace these variations in my mood as opportunities to explore the possibilities given to us, in our abilities to feel different and to see things differently.

Also, there are times when I simply need to rest. If Ive explored the musical themes I’ve wanted to explore and I notice that I am basically just trying to weave the same old story, then it is time to take a break, and listen to other artists music also. They will have their own different ways of expressing how they feel. Although I have found that I’ve  liked certain tones and structural approaches to others’ music, in the end, I have always found that I needed to let my own music flow, and not to try to emulate others. But that doesn’t mean that others’ ideas aren’t a part of my own music in some fashion. If you feel in tune with someone else’s music, you are attuned to them somehow. Maybe sharing some form of collective consciousness or some collective soul, if you will.


Inspirations for your musical creativity

So, when reflecting on what inspires musical creativity for me, it is  clear that my emotions, what I feel, plays a very important part. Although emotions will give the basic tone of what I will create, the texture however, will be impacted by thoughts or ideas of an inspiring nature. This may be simply through the self-realisation of certain principles, or to my reaction to certain events. The desire to organize and to add complexity, can vary from time to time. Sometimes, the soul wants to be peaceful. At others, it is more adventurous. Places and peoples have an impact. I used to spend time training in traditional martial arts in Okinawa, Japan. I am not talking boxing or MMA-style here, but in the more ancestral arts. Ever since listening to Tomita and Kitaro as a youth, I have developed a fondness for some forms of traditional Japanese music, as well as some of these more modern interpretations. I’ve had some experiences playing Taiko drums and that has also been inspiring. Having travelled to India, and talking with music lovers there, musicians, and music shop owners, I’ve also been influenced by that culture. Indian culture has such ancient roots, a very rich history, and very rich influences.

Source of happiness? what gives you  the most satisfaction?

As a musician, an important source of happiness for me is simply to gain that feeling of attunement with the Universe, which comes when I compose or play music with all my heart and soul. There is a timelessness to it, as if nothing else matters, the world stops turning, and time and space become one. It’s not unlike falling in love. Energy flows through the body and the soul and all worries disappear. I also experience synaesthesia, meaning that I feel colours of all kinds when I am entranced in composition. I can say without a doubt that I feel happiness and contentment when I compose, and things are going well.

What gives me the most satisfaction is when I can reasonably capture what I am experiencing. As my recording and mixing skills and tools have evolved over the years, this has been getting more satisfying to me. Because the gap between the music thats playing inside me and what I can manage to record is getting smaller. But I must admit there is still a gap. Id so love to be able to just connect a wire to my brain and my body to directly record what is going on in there sometimes. Maybe in a few generations from now, this may become possible. But in the mean time, I much appreciate what tools modern technology has been providing the music producer these last few years.

Describe how your fans and listeners affect you

I also have to admit that I experience a sense of satisfaction when others find contentment while listening to my music. Although I primarily compose music for myself, because of everything it gives back to me, I don't want to be selfish. If listening to my music makes me feel better, then perhaps it will do the same for others; and I wish well-being upon others who might be attuned to the same musical frequencies. I realise that my music is not for everyone and thats ok. I can only honour my music if I honour who I am and what I feel. If that means that I might have a smaller audience, then so be it. But when I see that people are enjoying my music, it helps me feel less alone, and more attuned. It means that I am connected to some form of shared collective consciousness and I feel more connected.


Personal history/Your creative development

As a child, I’ve had the good fortunes of being exposed to several relatives who were musicians. Although I would not get to see them often due to distance issues, I knew that the genetic ingredients were in me. So, my mother spent a lot of time singing, my aunts and uncle playing guitar and occasionally teaching me. I remember, as a child, my sister receiving a small organ for Christmas. I remember feeling somewhat slighted by that, because I was so completely attracted to it. So, although my sister very rarely ever played it, she was nice enough to let me invade her room and let me play. I would spend days on end playing that thing.

Also, inspired by my aunts guitar playing, I eventually also picked up the guitar. I must say playing the guitar really helped me survive the ups and downs that life as a teenager can throw at you. Though I started playing acoustic guitar, as a young teenager I loved to listen to Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd. So I quickly moved on to exploring all kinds of effect pedals. In particular, I loved the Roland Space Echo, because somehow it helped give my music a life of its own!

Then Korg and Roland started making more affordable synthesizers and I just had to get some. Luckily, a wealthier friend of the family, who was my godfather, was so nice as to buy me a few synthesizers. I eventually wound up with a reasonably workable mini-modular set-up.

At this time, one of my greatest influences became Larry Fast, with his Synergy albums. I used to enjoy the melodic music of Kitaro and Tomita, and the rhythmic pulsations of Tangerine Dream, but the Synergy albums just seemed to stir something special in me. This led me to explore an increased use of sequencers, which were analog at the time. Also, I came to explore what Brian Eno and Robert Fripp were doing with loops. So I set up my own rig with reel-to-reel tap players and started doing my own “water music” My experience in playing that kind of music live was not very successful however, so any stage performance was tied to the more popular genres. So although I liked Robert Fripp for his more

experimental works, I would align myself with the King Crimson genre when playing live. I would also fall back on my experience with acoustic guitar. My passion for electronic music stayed on with me however, and although MIDI had not yet been invented, I was yearning for a way to better control all of my equipment. It just took way too long to reset my equipment to go from one song to another, and I didn’t have the financial resources to have enough synthesizers to be able to get the variety of sounds I was looking to play in a live setting. Once I had set up my modular synths for certain sounds, there were no quick presets to quickly go to another sound. Once I programmed an analog sequencer, I couldn’t quickly move on to another sequence.

Just about at the time where I was getting a bit frustrated by my lack of ability to control the equipment, personal computers started to become affordable. Here, I’m talking more about the availability of microprocessors, because such marvels as the Commodore 64 and the Atari ST hadn’t yet hit the stores. Talking with a friend who had started to work in a company who produced peripherals such as printer switches and the like, I explained to him that I want to explore making music with computers. Strangely enough, our conversations didn’t wind up going down the path of digitally controlling existing analog synthesizers, but instead, we explored how the computer could produce waveforms directly. We didn’t have access to digital signal processors at the time (DSPs), but he postulated that we could simply use counter-timer chips to generate a clocked pulse, and could use flip-flop logic to turn them into square waves. So, if you could believe it, within a few months I had a custom made motherboard with a hexadecimal keyboard entering programs in hexadecimal which created square waves and pulse-width modulation. Without knowing that vendors would eventually come out with their own, we had come up with our own DCOs (digitally controller oscillators). Obviously this was a huge pain to program, but it led me to think about music in a different way. I started to think about producing music algorithmically. Its interesting that eventually, Brian Eno had also explored producing music algorithmically, when he was introduced to the Koan generative music software. By then however, I had gradually been seduced into the world of computers and software programming. For many years, the world of writing programs took over my life, and I eventually had to invest most of my time developing my skills in that field. I would continue to play both acoustic and electronic music, but just for my own ears or with a few friends.

After many years of travelling worldwide as a software-programming consultant, I eventually found myself teaching programming to a company in India for a few weeks. The customer who invited me there was very passionate about music. As I shared with him that I also had a musical life, he made sure I got to visit local music stores where I could meet with other passionate musicians and instrument makers. It was a wonderful experience and I remember it fondly.

I think that it’s at this time that some world music elements started to sink in to my musical persona. It’s also a time where I probably started to connect with contemplative music. I left India with several percussion instruments and wooden flutes and spent years enjoying playing them. Later in my life, when it came to a point where I felt that my life as a computer specialist was leaving something of a void in my soul, my wife did something wonderful. She bought me a guitar amp. You see, by then, from all that moving around, I had gotten rid of a lot of equipment, keeping just a few synthesizers around, an electric guitar (but no amplifier and pedals left in a storage box) and would only keep my acoustic guitars around. So, I plugged in my electric guitar again, and started to gear-up once again.

It became clear that, although I had come to computers wanting to explore how I could integrated them into my music, I had lost my way at some point, and that what impassioned me so, that is my music, and been waiting sadly in a corner. Although I had dabbled with the earlier forms computer based music technology, the early computer-based sequencers and composition tools, the more recent technology had evolved a great deal and could now happily integrate both the acoustic sounds from my acoustic instruments with those of my analog and virtual synthesizers.

I, once again, became entranced with music composition. For years, I think there wasnt a day where I wasnt composing, and this lead to my first album, Kuutana Serenity. My first published album was my attempt to integrate the various parts of my existence. As I had been practicing tai chi for many years, I was looking to perform some form of musical tai chi when composing this album.

Also, as I was rediscovering musical technology, and it had advance so much, I was exploring the vast possibilities that they could offer. The ability to guide and control the various aspects of my composition seemed somewhat boundless, when compared to the earlier days, when technology was quite primitive, by comparison.

It was my practice to compose either very early in the morning, or late at night before going to sleep. For me, these were the quiet times, the only time where I could compose music that evolved at a pace I wanted for this project. When I would initially start out to compose, I would find that I was running too fast. I had to slow down. I would listen to what I came up with, and it told me that I had to slow down. So, composing music on the Serenity album was a wonderful tool to reflect back to me what my mental state was. And so, I slowed down, I explored the textures, I experienced connectedness with the Universe. And then, when it looked like I had more than an album’s worth, I decided that I might as well share the music. I must have spent at least a year of just listening, in the quiet times before going to sleep, to the music I had selected for the album. I had to feel that I could listen to this over and over again, on not get tired of it too quickly. If I did, it didnt make it to the album. You see, I have no problem with anyone who would say that my music puts them to sleep. Because, just as someone who starts the practice of meditation would often go to sleep and not quite reach his goals, at least there would be moments where, perhaps my music, had a role in creating moments of peace. I found that I came to need to have these musical lullabies, they had to bring me to the right kind of place, to ease me into the world beyond the waking state. Ive always enjoyed nature and nature walks. So you will find that I often use these in my work. I blend them in as key ingredients, because they have such a therapeutic effect.

Who do you want to become / who have you been?

If asked what I want to become, I would have to say, more of what I truly am. Its no secret that many musicians today have to have jobs outside of their work as musicians. Although Ive found that I could make good use of that experience with computers and integrate it into my music, I would like to have more of my activities be directly related to composing or performing. Ive been asked to contribute and help engineer other peoples work, but I feel that I still have so much music inside me and not enough time to record it all. I hope that in time, I will be able to set more of my time aside to dedicate to producing more albums and sharing the music that lives inside of me.  More recently, I’ve branched out to work with a number of wonderful artists, including pieces included on their albums. To name a few, there is Celestial View, for which we’ve created a project name “Sundown Cafe” which is a nice blend of Chill and Smooth Jazz, there is Cousin Silas with a piece reminiscent of Eno’s Fourth World Volume 1, possible musics, there is Wolfgang Roth in the Berlin School genre, and more recently Chris Pearre (Synthesist) which is in tune with my work under the Sequential Dreams project.  

Other music that inspires you?

If asked what other music inspires me, I would have to say that we are truly blessed to be in an age such as ours. Just a few years ago, a musician used to have to be picked up by a big label to produce albums and have them get distributed. Today, they can post their music online, create their own labels, and get it distributed internationally at little or no cost and with little effort.

This is not to say that everything that is out there is good, but lets keep in mind that beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. Nevertheless, with such an amazing quantity of music out there on the web these days, it’s good to be able to tune into selected sources.

This said, I now find that I prefer music from people I can connect with. They are located anywhere social media has provided a platform to establish lasting connections and collaborations. I hate to label either people or their music. I listen. If I like the music I like the music. I tend to shy away from trends or tribes. I’d say I often prefer music that crosses across established genres or define their own.

How can musicians positively make changes to our world?

Musicians have a tremendous impact in society. People listen to their favourite music in cars, while going to school or going to work, in their homes, basically everywhere. Whereas a popular singer’s words may be inspiring or otherwise at least help people relate, I hope that my music can help by providing moments of calm and serenity. I also think that if someone doesnt feel well, and perhaps are ill, then they may feel that my music can help them get through it. I recall a story from Brian Eno about how his ambient music came out of his reflections during times of illness that he had experienced.

Although I have my personal preferences as to music genres, I celebrate the fact that there is so much variety and that people can find something that enriches them somehow in music. I think musicians, through their music, like other artists with their art, help contribute to adding colour and depth to our lives… a dimension that would be lost without it. As our information society begins to saturate us and possibly deaden our senses, thankfully, music can help us reconnect with our emotions and who we really are.

Undiscovered Shores - Towards a New Earth

posted May 26, 2013, 3:45 PM by Ron Charron   [ updated Sep 21, 2013, 7:35 PM by Kuutana Serenity ]

Having prepared for the launch during A Summer in Antarctica launch-station, our trip to New Earth launches with a survey of Undiscovered Shores. Upon arrival to destination, the colony lands and sets up base. Upon the sunrise of the first sun, A Beautiful Day on New Earth begins. Work progresses in building the colony, and everyone settles into their new homes on a new world. Life continues with a beautiful Ocean Sunset Romance. To find our way back to camp, there are Fireflies in the Moonlight, much brighter than on Earth. As the second of three moons rise, everyone comes out Walking Towards the Light. A glow of lifeforms of New Earth seem to perform a Rain Dance, to the reflections on the water. Behind the second moon, there is The Hidden World, lurking close-by. We transmit back to Earth that all is well, hoping our message is received, due to an Ion Storm on Jupiter Station.

The Making of Serenity

posted Mar 19, 2010, 2:51 PM by Ron Charron

Serenity is defined as being a state of being serene, calm, and peaceful. This is precisely was sought during the creation of the Serenity Album.  This album was created with many of the same considerations of any soundtrack producer.  In a soundtrack, the goal is to induce the viewer into a mental and emotional state that supports the imagery of the scene.  In the Serenity Album, the video production is the one that the listener will imagine during the soundscape induced adventure through imaginary places painted throughout Serenity. Nature sounds are interwoven with rich blends of natural ethnic percussions and instruments, complemented with exotic virtual instruments.

During the several months over which this album was composed, the state of being its tracks induced in the composer helped shape and reshape the pace, tone, and imagery until it was felt that the musical story was fully told. 

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