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Started the show with some deep space music, you know, electronic music impressions of starfields and galaxies. Rudy Adrian’s new album DISTANT STARS is an excellent addition to the canon.

(ARTIST — TITLE — ALBUM — LABEL)

8:00 AM  (starting w/ the program’s theme music):
Gustav Holst (cond. by Simon Rattle) — “Neptune the Mystic” — The Planets — EMI Classics
Michael Stearns — “In the Beginning” — Planetary Unfolding — Sonic Atmospheres
Michael Stearns — “Toto, I’ve the Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” — Planetary Unfolding — Sonic Atmospheres
Rudy Adrian — “Distant Stars” — Distant Stars — Lotuspike
Juta Takahashi — “Faraway” — Hymn — Lunisolar

~9:00 AM
Oophoi & Tau Ceti — “Chryse Planitia” — Celestial Geometries — Amplexus/Arya
Oophoi & Tau Ceti* — “Isidis” (~1st half) — Celestial Geometries — Amplexus/Arya

Peter Michael Hamel — “Felix, Schlaf Ein” — Piano Performance — Kreuz Plus Musik
Robert Rich — “Open Window” — Open Window — Soundscape Productions
Bruno Sanfilippo & Mathias Grassow — “Cromo [piano & drones] 5” — Cromo [piano & drones] — ad21 Music
Kevin Keller — “Cordoba” (part) — Santiago’s Dream — Kevin Keller Productions

~10:00 AM
Bruno Sanfilippo & Mathias Grassow* — “Cromo [piano & drones] 1” — Cromo [piano & drones] — ad21 Music
Bruce Kaphan — “Arctic Front” — Hybrid — Wiggling Air
Bruce Kaphan — “Country & Eastern” — Slider — Wiggling Air (orig. on Hearts of Space)

Stellamara — “Strumica” — The Seven Valleys — Lucidity Music
Dead Can Dance — “Saffron” — Selections from North America 2005 — DCD Discs
Lisa Gerrard — “Ajhon” — The Mirror Pool — 4AD
Irina Mikhailova — “Lescoviq” — Fearless — Elefaria
Rudy Adrian — “Test Piece for upcoming album ‘The Quest for Nostalgia'” — Distant Stars Bonus — privately released CD-R

~10:30 AM
Jean Michel Jarre — “Oxygene Part II” (~1st 6:30) — Oxygene — Polydor
Deep Imagination — “Part 01: Space” — Awareness — Prudence Cosmopolitan Music
Sun Electric — “Beauty O’Locco” (part) — Kitchen — R&S
Yagya — “Rigning Einn” — Rigning — Sending Orbs

* voiceover music during breaks

For this morning’s broadcast, I felt like dwelling in a “lighter” space — just didn’t feel like playing “darker” or particularly serious music this time around.  I love music along the lines of Klaus Schulze’s X and the orchestral music of Arvo Pärt.  But for this edition of “Neptune Currents,” we heard mostly quiet, contemplative music, with a little more emphasis on melody than usual — a serene, vaguely happy mood.  I featured the ‘bubbly’ sequencer based tracks from Steve Roach’s brand new Sigh of Ages album, having played the more sombre middle portion of this fine CD a week earlier.  Definitely one of the best releases of 2010 IMO!

During the last half hour, I even played some music that had humorous spoken-word portions (e.g. “Feathers” by the duo Dogon and also “Box of Sky” by Darshan Ambient).  Definitely a rarity on “Neptune Currents.”  This music puts a smile on my face! 🙂  Was going to follow those pieces with the conclusion of Laurie Anderson’s Big Science album, but had trouble finding my CD copy at home, or even the LP copy that I was sure was in KKUP’s library.  Oh well, some other time.

I know that I knocked New Age music in my introductory post of this blog, but that doesn’t mean that all New Age music is bad.  I believe that the early days of the New Age movement offered some innovative music (e.g. Iasos’ Angelic Music at the beginning of this morning’s broadcast).  It’s when the movement became more commercially successful — when the major labels got involved in the mid to late 1980s — that the decline happened rapidly.  Fortunately, other genres (e.g. dark ambient, tribal ambient, ambient dub) emerged to fill the void.

Apologies to Al Gromer Khan and the late Klaus Wiese for my speaking over “The Alchemy of Happiness” from the CD of the same title.  This is a very nice album, similar to the long form ambient works of Brian Eno (e.g. Thursday Afternoon and Neroli).  Will have to devote more time to Alchemy… soon.

Anyway, here’s my playlist for Sunday August 15th:

(ARTIST — TITLE — ALBUM — LABEL)

8:00 AM  (starting w/ the program’s theme music):
Gustav Holst (cond. by Simon Rattle) — “Neptune the Mystic” — The Planets —
EMI Classics
Iasos — “Angel Play” (~1st 10 min) — Angelic Music — Inter-Dimensional Music
David Michael & Randy Mead — “Heartscape” _and_ “Wings at Dawn” — Heartscape — Purnima Productions
P.C. Davidoff — “Santosh I” (~1st 21 min) — Santosh — Garland of Letters, Inc.
Robert Scott Thompson — “Moonbeam Splashes on Water” — Poesis Athesis —
Lens Records

~9:00 AM
Al Gromer Khan & Klaus Wiese — “The Alchemy of Happiness” (excerpt) — The Alchemy of Happiness — Rasa/TeaTime Music
Steve Roach — “The View from Here” _and_ “Return of the Majestic” (1st half) —
Sigh of Ages — Projekt
Stu Jenks — “Molino Falls Blue” — West of the Fire: Soundtrack for Photographs, Vol. 2 — Fezziwig Music

~9:40 AM
Jean-Paul L’Heureux & Marc Laperle — “August Moon” — Crepuscule/Dusk
Third Ear [cassette only]
Mychael Danna & Tim Clement — “Sparrow Hill” — Another Sun — Chacra Alternative Music
Scott August — “River of Stars” — Radiant Sky — Cedar Mesa Music

~10:00 AM
Blow Up Hollywood — “RKK” _and_ “Eos” — Take Flight — Blow Up Hollywood
Yes — “Close to the Edge (iii. I Get Up I Get Down)” — Close to the Edge — Atlantic

~10:25 AM
Robert Rich — “Moth Wings” — [unreleased version] — n/a
Dogon — “Feathers” — Notdunjusta — New Dog
Darshan Ambient — “Box of Sky” — Re:Karma — Lotuspike
Utopia XO — “Under a Blue Sky: Above You” — The Light — Birnam CD, Scotland
Utopia XO — “Under a Blue Sky: Together” (part) — The Light — Birnam CD, Scotland

~11:00 AM, after sign-off
Richard Bone — “Fractal Ashes” — Sudden Departure — Quirkworks Laboratory Discs

* voiceover music during breaks (except for break at 9 AM):
Steve Roach — “Immersion: Four” (~1st 7 min) — Immersion: Four — Timeroom Editions

I particularly enjoyed presenting the show today… listening to a lot of Peter Michael Hamel’s music recently.  So one of his compositions for overdubbed electric organs (“Aura”) was featured today, along with a similar piece for piano and electric organ by Terry Riley.  This music touches on several traits mentioned in my first post (minimalist structure, strong tonal center, Eastern musical influences, immersive timbral qualities).

The first hour of the show was especially dreamy…electronic music with an almost choral quality — sometimes created from tape loops of actual voices (e.g. the piece from Brian Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’), sometimes just very reminiscent of (very slow) choral singing.

Here’s my playlist for Sunday August 8th:

(ARTIST — TITLE — ALBUM — LABEL)

8:00 AM  (starting w/ the program’s theme music):
Gustav Holst –“Neptune the Mystic” — The Planets — Deutsche Grammaphon
     (this version performed by the Berlin Philharmonic w/ Herbert van Karajan, cond.)
Brian Eno –“2/1” — Ambient 1: Music for Airports —  Editions EG
Kevin Braheny — “Perelandra” (excerpt from middle, ‘chorale’) — The Way Home — Hearts of Space
Steve Roach — “Sentient Breath” _and_ “Morning of Ages” — Sigh of Ages — Projekt
Kevin Braheny — “Perelandra” (conclusion) — The Way Home — Hearts of Space

~9:00 AM
Peter Michael Hamel — “Aura” — Hamel — Wah Wah (reissue)
Terry Riley — “Journey from the Death of a Friend” — Les Yeux Fermes & Lifespan — Elision Fields

~9:50 AM
Irina Mikhailova — “Pusto Mladost” — Fearless — Elefaria
Vas — “Mandara” — Feast of Silence — Narada World
New Jakarta Ensemble — “Flea Market” (~1st 3 min) — Commonality — Siam Records
Stellamara — “Baraka” — The Seven Valleys — Lucidity Music

~10:30 AM
Mickey Hart — “Elephant Walk” — Spirit Into Sound — Grateful Dead/Arista
Anawaty/Russell — “Blue Years Day (and Night)” — Monjour — Pi2 (Singapore)
Rush — “The Camera Eye” — Moving Pictures — Mercury

* voiceover music during breaks:
Deep Chill Network — “If Only” (part) — Dreams 4 — Dark Duck
————————–

Oh, BTW, I played the Rush song at the end in honor of their concert appearance at Shoreline Amphitheater on August 9 — they’re playing the Moving Pictures album in its entirety on this tour.  A classic album in rock music, to be sure.

Peace,

Steve Davis

a NASA photo of Neptune rising over Triton, one of its moons. Neptune has 13 known moons.

Hi, my name is Steve Davis, host of “Neptune Currents,” a radio program on listener-sponsored community radio station KKUP (91.5 FM) in the San Jose CA metropolitan area.  Info on KKUP at www.kkup.org (dot com works too!).  Not currently streaming online, but KKUP broadcasts throughout the South Bay & Santa Cruz/Monterey areas… and some points beyond. 😉

Heard on Sundays from 8-11 AM, “Neptune Currents” features an eclectic blend of ambient, electronic and contemplative music.  I’ll be using this blog to post playlists, recommendations, announcements of concerts of interest, etc.

To give newcomers and the curious web stroller an idea of what this music is like, I’ll try to describe it a bit here.  Many people write off “ambient” music as a kind of aural wallpaper, a background noise babbling away while you’re doing the dishes, reading the newspaper, surfing the net, sorting the laundry, scooping the cat’s litter box, etc.  Then there are also the long-standing jokes about “New Age” music (esp. since the Yanni & John Tesh era) and the “simple” repetitive structures of minimalism. [Remember the one that begins “knock knock, who’s there”?  I wonder what moron created that joke.]  The basic structure of process music & minimal music is transparent, even simple, but the music itself is hardly ever simplistic.  Try playing a few bars from “Music in Similar Motion” by Philip Glass on a piano, if you don’t believe me!

And the hyped-up pseudo orchestral synthi-sound of Yanni has very little to do with 1) meditative music or 2) the post-modern avant garde (of which the “minimalists” are certainly a part).  I don’t think I have ever played John Tesh on my radio program, and I’ve played early Yanni recordings _very_rarely, usually to fulfill a listener request… even then, being very selective — choosing, for example, a short piano interlude that felt more “honest” to me than the flourishy “fake rock” (to quote a former KKUP colleague) that Yanni churned out from the Acropolis and elsewhere, seeking the limelight, fame & fortune.

So what is the music of “Neptune Currents”?  Well, when I created my radio show in October 1985 (yikes! almost a quarter century ago!), I was drawn to the astrological symbolism of the planet Neptune, which relates to (among other things) mysticism, spirituality, the “other worldly” — going beyond.  The music that really captivates me is usually consonant, tonal music, but rarely conforms to 19th century harmonic practice.  In a way, it has more in common with the classical music of India, the gamelan music of Indonesia, or the trance-like music of the Gnawa (in Morocco).  I’ve also had a strong affinity for texture and timbre in music, sometimes preferring the immersive wash of tone colors to the linear nature of melody and the narrative approach of song.  Electronic music synthesis is the perfect vehicle to explore this sonic world, with its ability to create new sounds and, conversely, to imitate (to a degree) familiar acoustic instruments and even complex natural/environmental sounds.  Again, the “going beyond” aspect of Neptune is paramount… other-worldly yet connected to Earth; synthetic yet organic; cerebral yet transcendent/emotional; visceral yet psycho-active.

All this might give you a hint of what “Neptune Currents” is about… spacemusic, ambient music, tone-color music, contemplative moments within the realms of sacred and ethnic/folk music, the reawakening to harmony pioneered by the early “minimalists,” and explorations in sound by progressive rock and jazz fusion groups.  In short, a re-visioning of tonality… and with an ear turned toward that ever-present search for the Beyond…oceanic, immersive, atmospheric, mysterious.