The sound of nothingness: after months of experimenting with “nothingness” as my inspiration, I'm releasing this instrumental album. Even as I type these words, I have no idea if this is the right thing to do. It's been a weird ride, though with plenty of inspiration and discovery along the way.
Something Out Of Nothing
The first thing I noticed when would start each of these compositions is that my usual crutches were missing. I'm so used to beginning with an idea or from a specific (either inspirational or musical) concept. Since I was intentionally avoiding these, I often had to wait and see what would come up. No wonder this album took so many months to complete — even though the final release seems quite simple in many ways.
Generally, I would warn anyone trying this to remember that creating from nothing does not mean that everything has to be random. It also does not require that every sound seems to come from the void. Since I was in the experimental stage, these pieces still have a sense of that randomness and coming from pure emptiness.
Track one is “Guitar Nothing” which I created with a combination of real and virtual guitars. Everyone loves a guitar song. Right?
Get Your Nothing Running
“Oh, Nothing” typifies this album if any track does. It's a curious combination of historic, Eastern instruments (a Turkish dulcimer, for example) and more modern, Western ones. Hopefully, I managed to hybridize this diverse orchestra in a way that will be pleasing to your ears.
Speaking of orchestras, “Nine Nothing” (it was the ninth composition in this series) is pretty much a pop orchestra sound. I'm not surprised that I slipped back into this style of composing. I have enjoyed the performing, arranging, and composing I've done for orchestra instruments so greatly over the years.
It will come as no surprise to those of you who have been following along at home that I love to create piano improvisations. Here is the one on this album: “Starting Nothing”. I did mix in a little bit of synthesizer and made sure it's in a non-typical time signature. (Extra points when you figure out what the count is on this one. I'll give you a clue, it's not in 3 or 4.)
Where Did This Sound Come From?
The next track is one of my favorites on this album. It was fun to create and I enjoy listening to it even after all the mixing and such. “From Nothing” has some great sounds on it including the ever-mesmerizing hang drum and a few bits of found percussion. (That literally means that I made sounds by tapping on stuff that I found around the house and yard.)
Do some songs paint a picture for you? I know that's how many musical tracks affect me. Even while I was creating this one (“Scene Nothing”), I knew that it was painting a scene. Somewhere in Brazil, I was at a cafe with my love and enjoying a delightful beverage. Nearby, there were street performers opening up their tiny stages and beginning to sparkle with their act…
I find the oboe to be an irresistible sound. “Just Nothing” starts and ends with solo oboe. This sound is a beautiful mixture of organic reeds used in many cultures and the refined flair of the contemporary orchestra. In keeping with that orchestral feel, I opted for plenty of sul ponticello, col legno, sul tasto, and similar ethereal string techniques.
The Sounds of Nothing
The rest of the tracks on this album are all quite ambient and ephemeral. Though there's not an absence of structure, they tend towards a more minimalist and introspective sound. Check them out, though! I think a few of them are quite pleasing or relaxing listens.
“Knew Nothing” was the first track I created for this album. I suspect you will easily hear my meandering attempts to stay with the flow of nothing's inspiration. This was a piece that I over-arranged and then removed about half of it to make it sound better. (My wife often encourages me to get rid of stuff in my arrangements when she listens to them.)
Eventually, I found it to be challenging to pull inspiration from nothingness. At first, it was novel and so the arrangements flowed. Even though “Much Of Nothing” is ethereal, it took more craft and effect to get it to the point that I could even consider releasing it on this album. You may have a completely different opinion and I'd enjoy hearing from you about it.
“Four Nothing” is the most ambient piece on the album. Put on headphones and listen to it just before bedtime. Hey, maybe I'll take my own advice.
And the final track on From Nothing is the orchestrated version of “Starting Nothing”. You've already heard the piano improvisation that became the basis for this arrangement. Somehow this version has a character all it's own.
I hope you enjoyed this new album of instrumental pieces and a little bit about my journey to create it. Let me know your thoughts about these tracks. And if you ever have questions about creative process, I enjoy discussing stuff like that. (Leave a comment here or contact me on Twitter.)