Tag Archive: contemplative

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted to my blog.  But below is the playlist for my latest program on KKUP (Sunday March 11).  For this program, the music grouped itself nicely into three main courses (with an “appetizer” by Paul Beaver & Bernie Krause to kick things off).  First, we heard some ambient ocean soundscapes by Danna and Clement and by Jonn Serrie (from his brand new album on Valley Entertainment).  Very serene music for the first hour!

Secondly, mostly electronic music with the metaphor of the heartbeat running through it.  The idea of this segment came to me when listening to Klaus Schulze’s 1980 album LIVE — a wonderfully atmospheric piece titled “Heart.”  Mentioned on-air that the early back catalog of Schulze seems to be deleted for now, owing to the financial bankruptcy/demise of SPV Records in Germany.  In fact, many of the older titles (1970’s, 1980’s, early 1990’s) recently vanished inexplicably from the iTunes store!

The third hour morphed from a sort of tribal sound to choral/orchestral/rock music hybrids by Mike Oldfield and the late David Bedford (a classically trained composer & conductor who worked with Oldfiled on numerous projects).  Very unusual music back then — ebullient, free, playful even — neither classical nor pop, but with elements of both.  Who does music like this today?  Seems to me there’s still room for new innovative soundscapes in this arena.  Dan Pound’s new album Cocoon does seem to share some of that energy.

The final song was in honor of SF Bay Area guitarist Ronnie Montrose, who unfortunately died on March 3rd, 2012.  Can’t help but think that “Voyager,” the song by his band Gamma, is not just a song about one man at sea — but that it’s about our lives.  We are all voyagers charting course on an enormous ocean that’s sometimes stormy, sometimes gentle.  There’s fear about what lies ahead, but hope also.


8:00 am
Gustav Holst (cond: Simon Rattle) — “Neptune the Mystic” — The Planets — EMI Classics (theme music)
Beaver & Krause — “By Your Grace” — In a Wild Sanctuary/Gandharva — Warner Bros.
(featuring Moog synthesizer, pipe organ & saxophone)

~8:15 am (Ocean soundscapes set)
Jonn Serrie — “Sunday Morning Peace” & “Maiden Voyage” — Sunday Morning Peace — Valley Entertainment
Mychael Danna & Tim Clement — “To the Land Beneath the Waves” — The Best of Danna & Clement — Mirage/Oasis Productions

~9:00 am (‘Heartbeat’ set)
Klaus Schulze — “Heart” (~1st 11 min) — Live — Revisited/SPV
Steve Roach — “Destination Beyond” (~1st 11 min) — Destination Beyond — Projekt
Mickey Hart — “Music to be Born By” (~1st 12 min) — Music to be Born By — Rykodisc
Paul Ellis — “Chambers of the Heart” — Mysterious Sketches — self-published [download only]
Tangerine Dream — “Invisible Limits” (~1st 8:30) — Stratosfear — Virgin

~10:00 am (from tribal electronic to Native American harmonized peyote chant to orchestral/rock hybrids)
Dan Pound — “Life Stages” (~1st half) — Cocoon — Pound Sounds
Primeaux & Mike — “Awakening” — Prophecy [v/a compilation] — Hearts of Space
Mike Oldfield — “Part Two” (~last 9 min) — Incantations — Mercury (CD reissue)
David Bedford — “Penelope’s Shroud (iii)” & “The Sirens” — The Odyssey — Virgin (orig. vinyl LP)

~10:45 am (after events annc. — a meditative track for flute & keyboard synths)
Deuter — “Traveling the Stars” — Empty Sky — New Earth

~10:55 am (after sign-off — a prog rock classic in memory of guitarist Ronnie Montrose)
Gamma — “Voyager” — Gamma 2 — Elektra (orig. vinyl LP)


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:


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.


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.