E C O L O G Y O F S O U L S / K E N N E T H N E W B Y
Both the primal sounds of Lights in a Fat City and worldly beat of Trance Mission have been fashioned by Kenneth Newby's inner vision. On his own he demonstrates virtuoso instrumental prowess, the musical intelligence of a master composer, and the ambient sensitivity of an Indonesian jungle cat. One of the top serious alternative instrumental releases of 1993, in a newly mastered edition on our Fathom label.
A B O U T T H E M U S I C
When Kenneth Newby and his partner, choreographer Lorraine Thomson, decided to collaborate on an opera on the subject of consciousness, they called it Ecology of Souls, after a phrase from the book Food of the Gods by consciousness explorer Terence McKenna. The opera, involving music, dance, and video projections, was performed three times, and a CD version featuring Kenneth's music for Ecology of Souls was later released on a new Vancouver label called Songlines. It went on to be hailed as one of the top serious alternative releases of 1993, garnering glowing press in Down Beat, CMJ, Option, and i/e magazines, and making several critics' Top 10 lists for the year.
The complex, absorbing soundscapes of Ecology of Souls invite deep listening. Each is built from discrete, subtly textured layers of sound, often working at cross purposes. Shimmering percussion, the acoustic sounds of a Balinese gender wayang quartet, suling gambuh, and ecstatic, whispering voices are entwined upon a precisely tuned aural tapestry of electronic drones, sonic transformations of didgeridu, chanting voices, and natural sound environments. As the music unfolds, time seems suspended. Heard passively, it can function as ambience; heard closely, the hidden contrasts create an atmosphere of intriguing tension that builds slowly as the music flows onward.
Into these dynamically shifting ambient spaces Newby introduces the eerie vocalizing of the suling gambuh, a meter-long bamboo flute with a remarkably flexible range of technique. Breathing into this simple but powerful instrument he develops an expressive voice that ranges from brilliant peals of harmonics to passages of deep melancholy.
The result of this layering is a music that seems at first strange, yet begins to capture the subtle dynamic of the flow of thought, the experience of time. This sense of meaningful mystery is the essence of Ecology of Souls. Like a hyperdimensional procession, this is travelling music for repeated listening, revealing more of its secrets with each audition.
With its powerful mix of advanced music techniques, soulful sensitivity, and images of the teeming multi-cultural matrix around us, Ecology of Souls becomes sonic alchemy, an expanding sprial of chaotic yet delicate proportions -- deeply atmospheric, meditative, expressive, almost mournful. It is a conscious celebration of the one world mind-space we all inhabit but so rarely glimpse.
Until now Ecology of Souls has been a rare import, available in a limited edition only through specialty stores and catalogs. Now it finds a home in the depths of the Hearts of Space Fathom series.
K E N N E T H N E W B Y
Kenneth Newby combines the experiences and influences provided by a wide-ranging imagination with the ability to synthesize these into a new sound. An accomplished composer, multi-instrumentalist and improviser, he was a longtime part of the Canadian music scene. Based in Vancouver, he worked with several music and dance ensembles before moving to the San Francisco area in 1993.
He developed his techniques of computer-aided composition while receiving a Master of Fine Arts in electroacoustic music and performance at Simon Fraser University. Since 1984 he has spent several periods living and studying in Bali and Java. Returning to Canada, he further refined his compositions to include the subtle tunings, timbres, and massed textures of Indonesian music.
He co-founded Cymbali, a collaborative music and dance company, and was a founding member of the Vancouver gamelan ensemble Kyai Madu Sari. Since 1984 he has received a number of arts awards and commissions from the Canada Council for travel and creation of music for dance and interactive music sculpture.
During his stays in Indonesia he worked with some of the country's finest young composers and performers and contributed his performance to the recording of works by composers Wayan Sadra, recently released as part of a CD collection entitled Karya on the Lyrichord lable.
He has been a broadcaster on community radio in Vancouver and is currently an assistant editor of Mondo 2000 magazine. Other projects include an upcoming article of transcriptions of Balinese shadow play music in Balungan journal, occasional concertising with Gamelan Sekar Jaya, and work on a new opera to follow Ecology of Souls.
Newby is also known for his work with the group Lights in a Fat City (Stephen Kent, Eddie Sayer, and Simon Tassano). Their debut recording Somewhere is now on City of Tribes, and their 1993 release Sound Column is on Extreme. His music was featured on Sub Rosa's recent release The Poetry of Ira Cohen. He is also a member of the Bay area quartet Trance Mission, who have released two albums on City of Tribes.
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