Music for Healing on a Tired Planet
Tell us about yourself and your music
I’m a classically-trained composer. My studies include undergraduate work at Boston University, and residency as a Graduate Teaching Fellow at The University of Chicago, where I also served as the Founding Director of the university’s Studio for Electronic Music.
My writing followed a contemporary classical path for a number of years, until one year, personal and family issues demanded that I change my path in a fundamental way, and needed to set aside the musical life I had chosen.
In recent years, I have had the opportunity to do two things that have changed my life once again.
To pursue ordination as an InterFaith/InterSpiritual minister, and also to revisit the possibility of that musical life which was once so large for me in my world view. Coming out of that, my choice has been to pursue the ambient style to which I am now committed. I did so because I believed at the time, and still do … that my best path would be to write music that could support both my spirituality, my compassion for a world in need of healing, and a personal dedication to the one humanity which we are and the one planet on which we all must co-exist.
Today, the personal vision for my work is to continue to support the spiritual and holistic needs of thousands of listeners and somatic practitioners around the globe, and for that I am extremely grateful. My work on the global meditation platform Insight Timer now exceeds 8 million plays.
Talk to us more about your latest release
My latest release, “In Gratitude,” celebrates those moments where we allow ourselves to experience the grace in cherishing our present, in ways that make us feel in abundance rather than deprived.
Those moments when we feel connected to everything, with our hearts wide open. The bliss that envelops us in love and which takes us beyond whatever makes us suffer.
Simple moments. There is tremendous grace in gratitude.
What inspired you to write this release?
“In Gratitude” is the latest in a series of works that I call Watercolor Washes.
They all speak to our individual and collective need to embrace presence at the moment, as that is all we really have. In 2020, and in the midst of a global pandemic filled with loss, it is difficult to hold closely the concept of gratitude. I wanted this to be a small opportunity to embrace that, and draw comfort from those people, places, and things in our life for which we are grateful.
Describe the writing and recording process
As all of the works in this series are instrumental soundscapes, the writing process, in general, is similar from one work to the next … and that is to create an environment inside of which the listener can let go of the mind chatter which often overwhelms us, and embrace calm at the moment.
All of my work is done in my home studio and often seeks to blur the line between orchestral and digital sound sources.
Any plans to hit the road?
No plans to hit the road. However, my vision does include streaming multimedia presentations that cross over between music and spirituality.
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
My niche, more and more, is the point at which ambient music and spirituality cross over. Even though most of my work is purely instrumental, listeners somehow find a devotional quality to it.
Who have you been listening to lately?
My listening is sporadic, eccentric, and in celebration of a diverse expression of musical talent. Artists range from contemporary classical composers such as Luciano Berio and Toru Takemitsu to the iconic fusion of artists such as John McLaughlin and Béla Fleck, to old favorites such as Frank Zappa and Eric Clapton.
Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influences continue to be those who taught me how to think musically from a compositional perspective. The big concepts which over-arch style. Those with whom I have been fortunate enough to study: Ralph Shapey, Emmanuel Ghent, Shulamit Ran, and Joyce Mekeel … as well as that outside of a classical reference, such as Chuck Wild and Brian Eno.
Tell us about your passions
Hmm. What gets me out of bed more and more is the spiritual work to be done, and to which I am committed. Creating a world where once we realize our similarities and needs … whether they be for instance religious, social, cultural … we can be better equipped to understand and accept our differences. The roadblocks to our humanity.
What else is happening next in your world?
I’ve begun working on a number of things, but one which is near and dear to me is the first in what I hope will become a series of works which embrace these kinds of inter-spiritual differences and similarities which I’ve mentioned, and which invite both reflection and involvement on the part of the listener. That may sound rather vague, but that’s all I’ve got in the moment!
Thanks for an awesome interview, James Anthony Walker