INTERVIEW WITH CONSTANCE DEMBY
By: Jorge Munnshe
Constance Demby creates new sonic worlds of a contemporary orchestral character. To do this she utilizes the latest in electronics technology, including digital samplers and synthesizers.
Can you tell us about your last album Aeterna?
"This is intensely emotional music that delves into a deep exploration of the emotional tone scale, activating and working with the feelings. It works like a therapeutic, sonic bath that cleanses the area, so that after several listenings, the original emotion that may have been brought up by the music, (sadness, grief, whatever comes up) becomes transformed into the higher resonance. The music works on several levels. One can enjoy it simply on the musical level of melody and harmony, on the spiritual level to heighten and inspire, or on the emotional level to allow deep feelings to emerge, process and transform."
"The themes in Aeterna were hanging around my studio for the longest time, waiting for their "turn." The pieces grew and harvested themselves over the years, the actual recording of the album went very quickly, less than four months."
"Some music requires full absorbtion, or "frontal listening" for the full emotional impact. Eyes closed, phone off, lights down, sound system up, heart open, no interruptions for the full hour."
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about your musical projects for the near future?
"Aeterna, with its grand cinematic, emotional themes has drawn the attention of more than one film producer. I have several projects on the burners at present."
What is your source for inspiration when composing music?
"Well...what can I say... I'm simply overtaken... I kind of "get out of my own way" and let "it" come through. My source is The Source. It seems all I have to do is put my attention on composing music, and a trickle starts, which turns into a stream, which turns into a river, and then waves of oceanic forces engulf me, and there's no turning back!"
"When "it's" happening, the studio gets kind of "crowded"...lots of energies and forces are hanging around... and when "it's" happening, it's like making love with the whole universe..."
How is your current studio? What instruments and other musical equipment do you have in your studio?
"I'm very please with the Kurzweil digital sampling synthesizers. I have some special sounds that have been custom designed for my particular use. I compose with a Mac 7300 using Opcode Studio Vision Pro and Galaxy. I have some Roland effects processors, a Roland A80 midi keyboard controller, Opcode Studio 5, Jaz drives, 44 MG Syquest cartridges and drives, Sony DAT mastering unit, a Spirit Soundcraft automated console, The Sonic Steel Instruments, the Space Bass and Whale Sail, original designs, the hammer dulcimer, tamboura, gamelons, chu'ng, and other instruments and devices."
"Aeterna was a fully automated in house master mixdown. With a current upgrade in my studio, acoustic recording with the computer is now possible, with midi synch to an ADAT unit."
"Composing with the computer, once you get used to it, is a great adventure. The editing capabilities are awesome, and once you've experienced it, it's hard to go back to a tape recorder. The miracle of it is that you operate as the composer, the performer of the instruments, the conducter of the orchestra, and the recording engineer, all in the push of a button!"
How did you discover the electronic instruments for the first time and when did you realize that they were necessary to develop your particular ideas about musical art?
"My first synthesizer was an analog Roland Juno 60. It's on my earlier tapes, the ones before 1986. Novus was growing in me from 1982 to 1985, while at the same time, the first digital sampling synthesizer, the Emulator II was being designed. With the release of that instrument, the grand choral symphonic work I was hearing inside my head finally had a mode of expression. I was so pregnant with Novus, that if the Emulator had not appeared when it did, I probably would have exploded ! But then, things like this are always divinely designed and divinely times."
"Without that piece of electronic equipment appearing at the perfect moment, I would have had to write the score note for note with pen and paper, then find a symphony and chorus to perform it, and it would have taken years to realize."
"With today's technology, the Vision program writes the musical score for you, measure by measure, with all accurate musical notation, and prints it out for you with the touch of a button."
In which way has the technical evolution of the instruments influenced your music?
"I have an "orchestra in a box" (the digital sampling synthesizers) that I conduct with a mouse (the computerized composing programs.) I know the great composers, the Bachs and Beethovens, would have loved to realize their symphonic works in this miraculous way. There's a story about Beethoven going into a deep depression after spilling a bottle of ink on a new score. We know he didn't have a photocopy of it..."
"The danger with technology, is that the composer needs to keep the music breathing, keep the dynamics alive, and avoid mechanical repetitive sounds that have no life in them. The point is, the music has to come first. When a piece of electronic music has no heart or soul, and the machines have taken over, I invariably lose interest in listening. The mental realm can never take you to where you really want to go. When music comes from a mental realm, well, that's where it will take you, and the listener can only go as far and as deep as the composer went when they brought the music through the dimensions. If the composer touches Source, then that's where the listener will go."
"There is much the artist must be wary of... the entertainment industry is a sea of shark infested waters, all pulling on the artist to "make something that sells more units." If a composer is authentic and follows the deeper call of the soul and heart, avoids music industry pressures, then works that are timeless classics that last through time can appear. They must also have a lot of patience, realizing that not everyone will be able to hear right at first what they've offered. Bach, Beethoven and Brahms were all booed and criticized with some of their more revolutionary works that broke the traditional form."
How do you see the question of analog versus digital?
"A good example of the complaints about digital: Aeterna, my most emotional album, the one that makes people cry, is digital from front to back, from the sound samples, to the digital synthesizers, to the computer, to the Vision program, to the master DAT tape..."
"So you see, it is the music. And the intent behind the music. And the skill of the artist. And where it takes you. And the way it makes you feel. Who can notice whether it's digital or analog when they're crying and having a spiritual experience?"
How have the spiritual issues influenced your musical style?
"My music is the song of my heart, the call of my soul. My intention with my music is to inspire, uplift and heal. These spiritual intentions, both in my life, my purpose and my music, are one and the same."
Can you tell us about your collaboration with Eterna? How did you decide to work with her?
"Eterna and I have known each other since the mid 80's. We are good friends, and respect and honor each others work. When we channel word and sound together, which we have done several times, the effect is quite extraordinary. There is a new set of tapes soon to be available from the events we did recently called, The Master Healing Ray."
What do you think of the definition "New Age Music"?
"The term has been bastardized, trashed by the press. It's unfortunate. In the 80's we tried to change the term to "Adult Contemporary" or "Contemporary Instrumental," but the die had been cast. Though it has a negative connotation, the music we all are drawn to and want to listen to is found in the new age shelves. Though I am put, along with Vangelis, Enya, and all the others, in the new age bins. I consider myself a composer of contemporary, classically based, symphonic music."
"Advances in synthesizer technology, combined with lower prices, has allowed many the opportunity to purchase a synthesizer and a tape recorder, making it very easy to create a new age tape. As a result, a glut of "new age" albums were made as everyone jumped on the bandwagon. According to NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants), there are currently 62 million amateur musicians in the U.S., (many of whom, it appears, decided to make a "new age" tape.) The listening public needs to exercise and develop a discerning ear in order to sift through the thousands of choices to find the gems."
"The new age movement has infiltrated the general public to the degree that we have the "Celestine Prophecy" and "Conversations with God" on the best seller list, we have insurance companies including acupunture and chiropractics, we have the general public wanting to have healthier lives and bodies, and the spread of new age music into more and more avenues. So it's pretty hard to stop a movement that is dedicated to health, spiritual growth and upliftment. But you will find that many artists, musicians and authors generally do not want to be branded "new age" because it has been demonized by the press. Hopefully, we will all find the balance."
Would you like to add something else?
"I recommend Novus Magnificat and Aeterna, and the recent Japanese music video production, Constance Demby - Live in Tokyo"
You can find more information about Constance Demby here, in Amazing Sounds, at:
-CONSTANCE DEMBY: WHEN CLASSICISM BECOMES VISUAL MUSIC
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More information about The Master Healing Ray tapes by Constance Demby & Eterna: LBandino@juno.com
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