Dear friends, it is my 64th birthday wish that we can each stay true to our personal beliefs and continue to argue with each other, without the spectre of chaos and despair looming over us. Let each of us shine our bright light of truth, without fear. I am prepared to continue making my mistakes and learning to get on with this journey.
Gather round, I am gonna tell some history at you, and you probably won’t like it and it’s gonna hurt, but I will feel better afterwards. Back in my early days we did not talk to our computers, or stare at our palms twiddling messages with our thumbs. No sir. We had war veterans who were paid to walk in the snow and rain and hot weather, all of it, just to bring pieces of paper and small packages right to our mailboxes that we used to keep in front of our houses. That was all we had and it worked just fine because we did not know about email and the inner net.
Music was only on vinyl, except for the radio. The radio was the miracle of our grandparents’ time, for us it was just part of the car, or it came with your clock or was part of your hi fi set if you were lucky. Music came on vinyl, which was something you kids today might not know about. It was big round black circles of plastic, you used a needle that you would drop on the whirling round black circle and everyone would dance. Sometimes the vinyl holes were smaller, there in the center of the round black circles of plastic and some of the vinyl holes were bigger and had one song on each side, instead of the long playing big round black circles of plastic with small holes, but we called all of them records, well, sometimes we called them albums or singles. In the store they called the big ones LPs. That is all there was, there was nothing else. Except the radio. I said that didn’t I. Audio cassettes were toys only suitable for children to play with, they were stuffed with ribbons of tape that would sometimes get drawn out of the plastic box they came in and get caught up in the toy cassette players, so you could only just throw it away. Or you could take a pencil and try to push the little wheels around to draw the tape back into the little plastic box. But you might as well just throw it away, it was a toy.
Vinyl was all we had and that was all we needed, there were new records coming out every day. You would have piles of them, you would eat pizza and spill soda pop on them. You would throw them at your enemies or your dog, later we had frisbees that worked much better, if you scored a hit the enemy would probably not bleed so much which meant mom didn’t have to take them to the hospital again.
So there we were with our radios and our record album collections, we thought we had it all because that was all there was and we did not know any better. Those darned kids had their toy audio cassettes and darned if they did not figure out new things to do with them. One kid would use the record button and read comics into the damthing and even make up sound effects, and sure enough she had new friends and old friends that thought she was pretty clever. Another kid turned on the record button when his brother was playing music in the basement with his friends. He was going to use that to show how stupid and awful the sound was but that backfired, and sure enough his brother and those friends became famous in the neighborhood, they grew up and got to play at dances and everyone stayed in the basement.
Our parents did their best to keep a lid on all that gawdawful racket. Why, I remember when Elvis was King, and my parents said “No way in hell will you play that (undecipherable) in this house, not while I am going to pay for it!” So we had to listen to Elvis in the garage or when nobody was around. And that was good enough, because we did not know any better at the time.
One day Elvis died, and we found other things to listen to besides the Beatles and Motown. Back then there were wild people who would tell their parents to go shovel it and would play records from The Rolling Stones right there in the house! This led to all kinds of mischief and we loved it. It was GREAT and we knew better but we did it anyway. This led to the great genius Frank Zappa who showed us we could tell them “Oh yeah? Listen to THIS!” and we really could do things anyway because we liked it and that was darned good enough. Eventually that led to Bob Marley and the Wailers, and we loved the rebel music because our smoke smelled just fine thank you (manic deranged laughter that goes on way too long and changes to coughing).
Now where was eye… Oh yeah, those little plastic audio cassettes. Well, one day someone made a portastudio and we could bring home a device that had more power than those Beatles had when they took over the world. We could mix and bounce tracks and layer sounds, record the drums when the drummer could be there, and add the guitar and vocals later when nobody was home. Or we could mail our drum solo to another friend who lived somewhere far away, and we could make a song or a bunch of songs together even though we lived in different parts of the world. We could make fancy covers one by one, or we could use the xerox machine to make lots of covers that fit right into the plastic boxes that the toy audio cassettes came in. We had incredible possibilities and all this happened back in the days when those war veterans would trudge through the rain and snow and hot weather every day to bring stuff right to the door. Sure you had to pay for it. You had to wait too, but that was just fine thank you and we loved it, because we did not know any better.
No. Because now we had the means of production, we could record in the basement or in the bedroom if we had to, but now we needed to find someone to listen to our audio cassettes.
The lesson I am trying to tell at you is that MUSIC DOES NOT CARE WHAT FORM IT COMES IN you have your black round vinyl circles big and little which have made a come-back, you have your toy audio cassettes which are still around in boxes in the attic, you have your laser discs, you had your silver-rainbow mirror CD discs that came and went, and your 8-track tapes and your freakin inner net, and MUSIC DOES NOT CARE. It is here anyway so you better listen up. There, I said it, you can go back to looking at your palm and talking to your furniture. Yer welcome. Now, shut up and start dancing, and stay offa my lawn.
This is a celebration of my hometown and the website albionmich.com, which contains the web version of the writings of Frank Passic, including the weekly columns that have appeared in the Morning Star Shopper, Albion Recorder, The Mich-Matist, and other articles Mr. Passic has written in various publications about Albion history. Even the most casual of readers will find these articles educational, more than a little interesting, and often amusing.
An Albion native, Frank Passic is a 1971 graduate of Albion High School and has been writing Albion history articles since 1976.
He has an extensive collection of Albion history archives, including Riverside Cemetery records and obituaries, family surname files, genealogies, photographs, city directories, high school yearbooks, Calhoun county plat maps, history books and other materials which he uses to help people research their Albion roots. He is always looking for various materials to add to the collection.
Feel free to contact Frank with your questions or comments by way of his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, he enjoys finding out more about Albion History, and sharing it.
We present here some of his best writings. This material consists of reproductions of articles written by Frank Passic that originally appeared in various publications. They will be added to on an ongoing basis.
One of Albion’s assets from the beginning has been the flowing spring at Victory Park. When the Park was developed in the early 1920s, a vertical iron pipe was placed at the spring, with a horizontal pipe inserted at the top from which the water flowed. In the 1930s, Victory Park received updates as part of Works Progress Administration projects. A small pond was constructed surrounding the spring, and a casing installed that still remains there today with a continually-flowing spigot. The casing was completed in 1941 and states on top, “SPRING WATER.” The Victory Park spring has been a source of drinking water for Albion residents for many years.
A 1939 Calhoun County Health Department report by George Fassnacht about Albion’s sanitary conditions gave the following information about the spring: “The drinking water supply in Victory Park is the pet of the city fathers and the pet gripe of the Calhoun County Sanitarium. A flowing well on the river bank has been walled up with seven feet of 24-inch V. C. tile. It is entirely unprotected, but as usual it is “the best water in the county.” One either dips water with a bucket or drinks horse fashion with his face in the spring. It is much preferred to city water from a nearby spigot.”
Fassnacht continues, “The last time I saw the spring it was pretty well supplied with apple cores and a crop of filamentous green algae which undulated with the flow. Small bits of foreign matter were rising with the water to flow over the crest. It looked so bad that I felt safe in taking a water sample. But I had no luck. The sample came back sterile.”
From our Historical Notebook this week, we present a picturesque postcard photo of the spring during the 1920s, when a vertical pipe came up from the ground into another smaller horizontal pipe from which the water flowed. This is before improvements were made in the 1930s. The caption at the bottom reads, “Flowing Well, Victory Park, Albion, Mich.” How many of our readers have visited the Victory Park spring recently?
Here are the most recent articles added to the albionmich.com website:
Welcome to my website, here I expand ideas and try to look at all the diverse interests and experiences I have accumulated, The Remaining Puzzle is my invented method for me to try to figure out who and when and why, and what is or could be next.
Elements: the arts, music, communication, new projects to discover.
History, interests, short term goals and situation: I am ready for a new adventure
Currently I reside in Pittsburgh PA, recently new uncertainty has emerged, so I have been trying to be open to the next thing. I came here from Olympia in December of 2019 to assist with my brother’s hospice, he passed away in February, just before the COVID-19 kicked in. I have been renting a furnished room from my brother’s widow, Fran, there is another fellow living here, he has been here ten years. He was a college chum of Fran’s son (my nephew Evan who passed away a few years ago) the fellow’s name is Chris. He currently uses his car to drive for Lyft, while seeking his next real job. The house where we live has just been sold and the future is uncertain, nobody has said anything definitive to us yet, like if the rent is going up or if we have to go, or this or that. Fran is ready to live closer to her sons and grandchildren in the Harrisburg area of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
I have never spent much time in New England, I have visited Boston and NYC. I love the woods, I want to work hard, I want to share my future with some interesting people who have similar interests. I have never had a plan.
What I need: I need an internet connection to continue my work writing. For health reasons I have some dietary concerns because of my high blood pressure and mild (because I do eat properly) diabetes: protein and vegetables (no carbs, no starch, no sugar, no salt, nothing wrapped in plastic packages) mainly fish, cheese/yogurt, vegetables and fruit, oatmeal, sometimes eggs, sometimes chicken, not so much beef or pork. Passion: Thai, Mexican, Ethiopian, and hippy-new-age fusion cuisine. Here in Pittsburgh its mostly pizza for the local diet, but nearby are two Chinese restaurants where they serve me vegetables and tofu, there is Thai place within reasonable walking distance too. I really hate my own cooking, mostly because I have been living in shared situations with limited kitchen space. And I am not a good cook. But I can clean.
One of my dreams has been to participate in a b&b project, doing whatever needs to be done. My special fantasy has been to create a destination themed house, visitors would be immersed in a full semi-theatrical experience including costumes, cuisine, activities, decor, music, etc. Not sure of what the specific story or theme is, but for example there would be a full immersion that guests would come to take part in, for a weekend or week, based on a novel or perhaps a folk tale, a full blend of theater and adventure, exercise, entertainment, meals. Something to do with the north woods, something to do with Maine?
I came up with this blended theater-inn type dream living in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I was living in a part of town that was essentially a very old village, largely empty but well kept up. My idea was based on a community theater fantasy, build a house with performances in mind, visitors are treated to music and activities based on a story or legend or epic setting. I was kind of into history and haunted houses at the time, but literature offers so much more than just spooky stories.
At the time I was trying to find my inner author, experimenting with writing as a possible new vocation. Before that I was a program associate at the University of Michigan, International Institute, Center for World Performance Studies.
Before that I was a film researcher/video cataloger in Detroit. Before that I was an indexer at Microsoft and Aldus. Before that I was in grad school (library science)
Library school was supposed to be my new life’s work, instead of this artist lifestyle of poverty and uncertainty I was to have a steady job and time to do my projects. I applied for lots and lots of wonderful jobs, I got hired as an assistant reference librarian in Pottsville PA, and I got hired as a library manager for the American Institute of Alternative Medicine in Columbus Ohio. None of those two jobs lasted five years, which would have made me eligible for some kind of pension. Is it my luck or is it the times? This is not what they seemed to promise me in library school, but I am happy to have had the variety of training and experience that I have acquired along the way.
Before that I was involved with music journalism and created the Cassette Mythos project. Before that I was an assistant publisher of a music magazine. Before that I was involved with community radio. Before that I invented a game using small pictures to create narratives. Before that I was in a performance art project, The Theatre of Transformations. Before that I was in film school at The Evergreen State College. Before that I was a painter and sculptor dabbling in film studies.
There are some gaps in there, where I was surviving by working in warehouses, call centers, and doing home health work (caring for seniors, caring for developmentally disabled adults) and applying for many many jobs with no results. Floral delivery, dish washing, custodian, night watchman, animal caretaker…
2018 was a really bad year. My live savings were almost gone, I accepted an offer to live with some college-era friends who were empty-nesters and wanted to help me through those hard times, so I moved from Olympia to Owensboro, Kentucky. Then I returned to Michigan, where I also failed to thrive, I returned to Olympia and in December things started to get better, I sold my audio cassette legacy to a collector, which allowed me to try new things, I decided to try the music journalism biz again and somehow found an actual gig, which with my social security has provided enough to keep from spending my savings and to eat comfortably, but not to build any savings or anything like that, but I am over that approach to growing old, now that I am actually retired.
My other passion is local history, I am involved in the AlbionMich.com website, my particular project there is to convert the weekly articles by historian Frank Passic into web pages, and that has allowed me to experiment with creating navigational tools.
Right now my job is to support the various activities of The B Company, based in Burbank CA, Beth Hilton is the owner. The house specialization is New Age Music, which ranges from religious chanting to ambient electronic music. I write reviews, conduct interviews, create press releases and do various kinds of research. I got this gig from my friend Dick Metcalf, who had once offered me $5 per title to review jazz recordings for his website Improvijazzation Nation, which has since morphed into something better. He sent me to Beth, who at the time happened to be looking for help with her business.
Worrying about actively predicting the next thing is not very useful, it is much better to be open and alert for new opportunities, nothing is guaranteed, nothing is certain except that our lives will one day all end tragically. Meanwhile, each day offers new possibilities.
The flow of sand in an hourglass can be used to measure the perception of time passing amidst the swirl of experience going on all around. Jourdan Laik and Philip Wilkerson inspire a deep fascination about time and how we experience it, and the present is always located between the past and the future, with their new album An Ocean of Time. This metaphor is further complicated by enlarging the scope from an hourglass to a vast ocean. Ever evolving and unfolding, consistently relaxing and engaging, without requiring your constantly focused attention, the music both rewards focused listening and at the same time allows the listener to float in their own inner worlds without external drama. The synergy of Wilkerson and Laik together forms the creative musical entity known as Time Being.
The sound of Time Being sometimes portrays forms in fog that offers suggestions without always simply resolving. To further illuminate what I hear on the album, I have reached out to both musicians to discuss their process and to bring their electronic art into a more crisp context. What you will read here are many short ideas that resemble a stream, flowing past bits of quartz and gold, containing bountiful plant life and an amazing range of small living creatures; life is raging all around, and every moment is magical, forming an interplay of the eternal, unchanging consciousness and the temporary, material world.
The conversation begins with the topic of making music. How would you describe your methods for inventing your sounds?
Phillip: I’ve had a lifelong interest in the creative process and discovered that creativity is more of an opening to the experience rather than trying so hard to capture the experience. Opening to the creative process sets vibrations in motion that are expressed as sounds or words. Capturing the vibrations (recording sounds) is just a mechanical set up–a recorder, a pen, etc. Getting stuck in the mechanicals is easy to do and sometimes, even results in new forms of creativity. So balancing both aspects is necessary, but for me, the mechanics are always secondary. Jourdan: Layers. You cannot sit down and create an intricate soundscape in one fell swoop no more than you can create a flower with just carbon.
Robin: How did your parents prepare you for your journey? What do you remember about discovering music? How does that allow you to create now? Jourdan: I couldn’t have been more than 8. I was with my parents at a record shop. My mom asked me which I would like; she held out a few cassettes for me to choose. I picked one that was all black – I thought it looked cool. It was Mozart. We listened to it all the way back home. Once home I listened to it till bedtime. It wasn’t my first time hearing classical music. Maybe it was because the tape was mine but this was likely the first time I actually listened to music. I liked picking out all the instruments and following them up, down, in and out. I would even wave my hands around to the beat pretending I was a conductor. Phillip: Most recently, I’ve discovered that the music primarily creates itself and the mechanics take care of themselves. Music channels through me and gets recorded. I don’t always “make it happen” It often happens spontaneously and without intent. Again, it’s setting up creative opportunities and then letting whatever happens next happen. Jourdan: I want to make music and sounds that take people to a different place. Each composition means something to me personally – but I’m not interested in forcing your brain to take you there. I want your brain to go where the music takes it. So as long as the music allows you to disconnect from where you are now, and go to a different place, then I have achieved my task as a composer. Phillip: My task as a composer is primarily to create music that listeners enjoy returning to again and again–not necessarily on repeat, but over a number of years, revisiting like an old friend. To create ambient music that is evergreen and timeless. I wouldn’t call composing a task, but rather an opportunity.
Robin: What is music? Phillip: Music is setting vibrations in motion in the form of sound. Sound is primordial and is a two-way manifestation that we can all participate in–as sound creators and sound listeners–neither is merely passive. Jourdan: Everything is vibrating. The frequency of these vibrations define the different things we see. Humans love to experience beautiful things. When the vibrations are just right – they please us. Music is vibration organized into patterns and harmonies. But so is a flower. You can see a flower. But you can only really appreciate it when you look closer. Understanding everything about even one flower requires more than just a glance. Listening is the aural version of visual exploration. Robin (to Phillip): What is listening? Phillip: Listening is Awareness, being aware of what is happening in the imminent moment. We can listen with our whole body to what is happening all around us and within us as a field of our immediate presence–locally, globally, and as a universal presence. And maybe simply because there is no definitive answer, it becomes apparent, if you ponder long enough, that life calls upon each of us, individually, to create a reality for ourselves and to take responsibility for creating an existence, within our sphere of influence, that is meaningful and beautiful. I think that might be what ‘waking up’ is really all about–taking personal responsibility for making our brief, fragile lives as beautiful and meaningful as we can. Jourdan: Our reality is now. Dreams are a part of that reality because we experience them. If we were to “wake up” to something else, the same questions would persist. There’s a lot of conjecture and speculation about what’s out, up, outside of here. I think that’s a result of people wanting to escape the many unfortunate realities that befall us in the now. The best way to be more awake is to love.
Robin: What would you tell a youngster about getting ideas for composing and about the process of creating music? Phillip: Don’t follow anyone’s rules or try to imitate other artists. Discover your own processes and let the music make itself. Jourdan: Learn everything you can about music. Train your ears. Learn the rules. Learn the piano. You will wish you had these skills only a few years from now; and it won’t be long before you realize that you should’ve started earlier. Phillip: Life calls upon each of us, individually, to create a reality for ourselves and to take responsibility for creating an existence, within our sphere of influence, that is meaningful and beautiful. I think that might be what ‘waking up’ is really all about–taking personal responsibility for making our brief, fragile lives as beautiful and meaningful as we can. Meditation is just a way to access and open our inherent powers of Awareness into spontaneous Being and Presence.
Robin: Are you able to bring music back from your nocturnal dreams? Jourdan: I can lucid dream and have full control over making music. I seem to have the ability to create almost anything I want. I can’t seem to bring anything back with me though. When I wake, it’s all gone – only the memory that I could do it remains. Phillip: Dreams are just another form (vibration) of Awareness. I would not make a distinction as to “where” music comes from. Recorded music is just an incident in Awareness that was captured. Jourdan: We can be surrounded by a lot of info all the time. You can soon feel like all things are known. Where we’re from and where we’re going. The fact is that we know so little. There’s so much to discover. Phillip: Life isn’t a passive process. It’s a creative opportunity. In many ways, I feel like I do live my dream, without being in an actual dream. My life is good. Which is not to say that I don’t have challenges. I just let whatever happens next happen and meet it with a welcoming attitude to see what unfolds.
Robin: The music of Time Being allows listeners to consider many impossible things. When listening I find myself exploring strange new oceans and vast alien summits. What are the most beautiful places you have ever experienced music in?
Jourdan: We don’t have any noteworthy mountains or seas in Wisconsin. But in the early summer, when it’s warm and the corn is still short – there are places where the vista goes on and on. With not a sound in the air – it is as tranquil as can be; you can float. Phillip: I live in the land of magnificent sunrises and sunsets, Florida, with vast skies and magnificent clouds. We don’t have mountainscapes in Florida, we have sunscapes and cloudscapes. I’m being inspired constantly, just looking out my window. Jourdan: Sometimes I want to be in a dark huge forest. Other times, someplace warm. I’d love a chance to photograph the upper midwest, Oregon etc.
Robin: What would you like to share about yoga and meditation, and your personal methods for experiencing a good life? Jourdan: If you have a hard time with the kind of meditation where you’re alone with your thoughts, try meditation with music. Listen to it and try to visualize where your brain takes you. Don’t try to think about what the artist wants you to see – just let it happen. I have found that this is an incredibly easy way to quiet the mind.
Robin: Time is “what a clock reads” or a certain number of repetitions of one or another standard cyclical event, the motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, the pulse of the surf on the shore, or the beat of a heart. What if our clocks were to Stop? Jourdan: We’d need to change the batteries in our clocks. Phillip: In a sense, the clocks can stop if you move your Awareness outside the paradigm of time and deeper into Awareness. Again, this is pretty close to a definition of meditation.
Robin: What would you like explorers of the ever expanding universe of music to know about An Ocean of Time? Jourdan: Just to listen and go where it may lead. Phillip: The artwork for An Ocean of Time reflects the expansive, boundless, spaciousness that the music opens up for the listener. It also hints at that balance / interplay between dark / light and time / being. I don’t necessarily equate the word “ocean” with the actual body of water we call the ocean, but more like the “face of the deep” primordial ocean or void (although I really don’t prefer that word if we can “avoid” it). “An Ocean” is a play on “A Notion” as in the first and last title tracks. Time and Being first and last in titles to tracks 1 and 8. Time “seems” to Be endless (a notion). And Being (in the truest sense) is Timelessness. So we are Beings, experiencing “being” (awareness), in the infinite oceanic void of perceived Time, yet we’re always in this moment, in the now, where living and experiencing life really takes place. Sure, we have memories and expectations. They are just part of the play. All the titles of the tracks reflect these basic questions and themes: Awareness, presence, infinity, the essence of Being, timelessness–it’s all ultimately illusory, yet it is also fully and imminently experienced by our senses and our Presence in the eternal Now.
Robin: Your new album is a moving mirage of strings and particles touched and reverberating, patterns form in the haze, this one might be called substance and that one might be called serendipity, life understood as life is lived. Thank you for all of your fantastic work and for sharing your perspectives on the creative way of life!
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Time is sometimes described as a simple linear event, the past and future flow in one direction and the two ends are sort of balanced evenly on the focus of the now, the metaphor of an ocean invites a more complicated mental image… We write our own lives, the self is made over time through experience, and physical matter is a sort of test for our willingness to live in good faith, to exert our freedom. Perhaps life is all about dreaming, and how we can sometimes lucidly control our dreams. The brain’s perception of time is known to be a highly distributed system, distances in space can be measured by how long light takes to travel that distance, and yet music can somehow bring about the perception of slowing and expanding a moment of time. Time travel is the concept of moving backwards or forwards to different points in time, and people travelling at different speeds, while agreeing on cause and effect, measure different time separations between events, the past lies behind, fixed and immutable, while the future lies ahead and is not necessarily fixed. Music such as this investigates being as being, often transforming our concepts of both personal and universal existence. The only questions that matter: does it sound pleasing and will you play it again?
Perhaps this one album, Hemispherica Portalis, changes everything. Music is organized sound, an invisible expression that lights up your inner universe. Here are some new colors and materials. Here are some delicate flavors for your tongue’s sensitive ears, moving between different points in time, experiencing products of vivid imagination, whose goals aren’t purely to explain phenomena beyond comprehension, but perhaps they also function to assure, encourage, and inspire. In the history of humans it has been said that the world has always existed, or the world did not always exist but was created in some way, or the world previously existed, but in another form, and has somehow been brought into this present moment. Music can provide an atmosphere for thinking new thoughts. On Hemispherica Portalis I hear lots of textures, there are no words except for the song titles. The artists deploy new technologies which create a sonic experience that has never before been considered to be possible.
Desensitized is a collaborative project realized between Deborah Martin and Dean De Benedictis. The name “Desensitized” could be an antidote for our strange times, seeking relief from the most recent changes that have emerged from the teetering and whirling globe we live on. H.P. Lovecraft once postulated that the most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. Desensitized is a balm for these new tribulations we are living through now in 2020.
Deborah Martin is blessed with a vivid imagination and a deep love of historic places and peoples of the past, she has the ability to travel through space and time to create a mystical and energizing sound journey, a melding of modern and ancient music. She blends visual elements of places, people and events of long ago with sound, spirituality, theatre arts, music, anthropology and medicine. Deborah is one of three owners of Spotted Peccary Music as well as being one of its best selling artists. She is a multi-instrumentalist, her favorites include ambient electric and acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards, orchestral textures, Taos drums and various percussion. In previous albums she has been known to use sampling technology to include partial segments of Omaha and Kiowa cylinder recordings from 1894, and live recordings of Kiowa pow wow songs as well as field recordings from her own travels to places such as Nepal and Tibet. Her sound comes from a very deep and ancient place, whispery melodies and lush, haunting chordal movements, evoking the sights and sounds of past and present while invoking the theme of sacred spaces.
In 1996, De Benedictis released a self titled album called Surface 10, which remains one of his primary stage names. This was his debut ambient electronic music CD on Hypnotic/Cleopatra Records, featuring dark, ambient soundscapes and Teutonic techniques with a borderline space rock sound. Since then, he has brought the Surface 10 name into completely uncharted territory, melding a broad range of genre-based styles with edgy experimentation. Dean gained later momentum rekindling his ensemble-performance roots by working with groups including Brand X and The Stratos Ensemble. He is perhaps most known for his solo music, creating new sounds, sometimes even exploring the glitchy side of digitally generated melody, amidst his techno tribal and ambient music exploits. Dean is also the co-founder and producer of Cyberstock, an outdoor music concert and visual arts display that was once held in the Santa Monica Mountains. He is the founder of both Fateless Records, and the Fateless Flows Collective. He has a mountain of composition and recording accomplishments, many of which include visual components, and he has dabbled in filmmaking as well. In addition to Spotted Peccary, Hypnotic/Cleopatra and Fateless Records, his work has also been recorded on DiN Records, Novabeats, Bottom Heavy and Hypnos. His sound has been described as electronica, experimental, ambient, IDM, Berlin school, jazz fusion, progressive rock, deep space, tribal, down tempo, and drum & bass. Some of his favorite instruments include piano, synthesizer, guitar, voice, cedar native flute, concert flute, and percussion.
I had the opportunity to experience a video conference with Desensitized, which was hosted in late August of 2020 by Beth Hilton of The B Company, and I walked away with some quotes and notions to think about, deconstruct, and then share with you today, right here, right now.
DM=Deborah Martin, DB=Dean De Benedictis, RJ=Robin James
The only possible first question — I have heard some odd band names, but this one is truly unexpected, which is perfect for the sounds I hear on the album. Would you care to provide some context? I know you made the decision to work together a few years ago. How did this project named Desensitized first get launched?
DB Deborah approached me with this idea of calling the duo Desensitized, and from that first moment the word was attractive to me, just that one word alone. Then she went on to explain how she thought it was a great metaphor for the state of society we are currently in, as well as how the term “desensitized” gets thrown around alot.
To me, the word describes something happening to the general populous, because so many of us experience the world through media now, and I find this somewhat of an additive to all of the other experiences that are inherent to life on earth. In a way, yes, the media kind of homogenizes our potential authentic experience, but I think there’s even more to it than that. I myself, personally, get more of an abstract impression from the term desensitized, not as just as the name of our band, and not implying only one cause, but a multi-tiered and universal affect. When you say the word desensitized, it actually implies many aspects of the world that we have become “desensitized” towards, at this point. Sensory overload’s sometimes come from many different places now, not just living life. Yes we get it from our own real-world experiences to some degree, but when you add modern developments like media and technology to that, now we have so many different angles and convolutions about experience in general that there really is no one thing that we have become “desensitized” towards.
The human race is desensitized to a countless amount of things now, even though not all the same. What each of us is desensitized to is all dependent on the individual, and what that individual has been exposed to. Many of us are “desensitized’’ to some things while some of us are “desensitized” to other things. Some people live their life out in the physical world, so they are desensitized to that world, while others live only in an imaginary world, so they are desensitized to imagination, while others live in a world that the media provides, so they are desensitized to media perceptions. Some are even desensitized to all of it, and I haven’t even listed the many aspects of the world that we can grow potentially desensitized towards. Take your pick, and it varies for every personality.
However, I’m not sure I view this as some kind of threat, but simply as a development and a natural effect of evolution. Deborah and I have spoken about this and we may differ on that subject a little, both on the consequences of it and the degree of it, but most importantly, we both still share an interest in the general phenomenon. We both find desensitization to be an interesting observation and meditation on the modern world.
DM When Dean and I first decided we wanted to work together on a music project, that in itself was very exciting. Dean is a very recognized artist in his own right. He does a lot of different music projects. He has formed and performed with many groups over the years and has a lot of albums out there, many of them not a part of the Spotted Peccary label. In his own right, he is very much a well known and accomplished artist. I have been with Spotted Peccary for a very long time, so I am established as an artist for that, not counting the music projects in other genres I have worked on over the years. So when we decided to get together and work on a collaboration, even though I have my name on other collaborations with Spotted Peccary, I knew we were both about to do something very different. I was inspired by the spirit of this, so I proposed that we create a moniker that fuses both of our energies in a way that does not detract from our individual artist names.
We both felt that the name Desensitized covered two bases: it made a statement about how we view the world, and also preserved the aesthetic meaning of our individual solo works. I thought of the name Desensitized simply because, as Dean said, we’ve become oversaturated with many things, whether it be media, or even medicine. The are just so many different things that we have become used to that it does not have a shock value anymore. We are not affected as much by all of it, and that is distressing to me personally. So, considering how desensitization is something we both sometimes think about, we agreed to make that our moniker, so to speak. As Dean described, and I agree with him completely, desensitization covers many different aspects, not just the initial connotation of the word. So there is a depth to it that we feel accommodates this music project.
RJ Next question, Hemispherica Portalis, the album, what is it about?
DM The internal and the external realms, whatever the mind can imagine, other worlds, other dimensions, planets, universe, nebulas, stars, things inside the center of the earth. There could be a whole other universe inside and outside that most people don’t see. It kind of encompasses anything and everything that the imagination can hold, or that discovery can introduce. My entire life, even as far back as when I was four and five years old, I always thought that whatever the mind can imagine, it could become a reality, and so I have always created along those lines. It has mystery, it is surreal, it is sublime, it has almost a hint of danger in some of the passages that were created. The mystery is the main thing, discovery, curiosity. Those are all words that would describe these pieces of music that Dean and I worked on together. When Dean first came here, I felt an Instant explosion of creativity. This was a couple of years ago, and I remember he came and stayed a couple of weeks, and we sequestered ourselves in our own little environmental box. We went out for food occasionally, but most of the time, for those first five or so days, we just stayed in and experimented with sonic and musical approaches. It was just one thing after another, ideas just kept coming and coming to me.
After we had first agreed to work together, I knew he was actually driving up from CA to get here. I kind of panicked, like “I have to be ready!” So, I started plugging in gear and I started talking to myself, and having conversations with the equipment, as funny as that may sound. I’m sure most people in their life have, at some point, done something similar, talked to a door or a piece of furniture, making it real to them. I started doing that, and these names started coming out. By the time Dean arrived, I said “Dean, I think I have some names for our project already, and some song ideas.” I said “I wanted to make sure I had something ready.” Dean just looked at me in amazement as I rattled these names and ideas off. I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not, but apparently he was being quite serious. It seems he really liked them.
DB I arrived to work on this album with Deb, and the first moment I arrived, I sit in the studio, start setting up, and I am hearing these thoroughly whimsical ideas and visions for the album. I am fairly impressed and almost overwhelmed by how elaborate the worlds that she conjures in her mind can be, and so spontaneously. Most of us, we get spontaneous ideas a little more like something here and there, for a concept here and there, but Deborah was describing visual concepts as well as titles and layout, and masses of it all. The final product we have now is very comprehensive, but to be honest, Deborah had quite a lot more in mind that we simply couldn’t fit. She’s a powerhouse once she gets going.
I specialize in improvisational music and media performance, so when I’m not the driving force behind the main concepts, I also know how to complement other people’s concepts, so I did just that. When people are open to Deborah, she can really let the floodgates down and dive in headfirst, swimming around in an entire universe. I’ve been involved in the visual arts and dabbled heavily in concept art and film for many years now, so I can appreciate and relate to that side of her. Pardon the silly pun, but sometimes it really does take one to know one. This is why I think she is so great as an artist, because she has no filter about sharing those worlds with the public. It is all suitable, because she knows it is all coming from the same source, from the same inspiration, which is abundant with her. I just sat there, and was listening to all these names and ideas and thought to myself “These names and titles are kind of like abstract variations of the Latin language. That’s actually pretty wild!”
I love abstract art and abstract music, so of course I was very drawn to it. I think she knew I would be, because she knows my aesthetic. We are both very different artists, in our aesthetics and our marketing, and how we handle our image, how we present ourselves to the public. But we have also been fans of each other. We can admire the craftsmanship. We can admire the creativity, whether it is the same genre or not, it doesn’t matter. We have indeed been fans of each other. Deborah knows my work as much as I know hers, and she knew that I would be into these ideas. They were very new approaches for her. By default, this project was very new for me as well.
RJ What is the act of listening?
DM Listening is a passive participation, whether it be purely in the experience of the audio of the music, or it’s relation to life. When you listen, you are absorbing, you are passive, but you are also participating in a way. You are not just a by-stander, which is actually a whole other conversation.
RJ How would you describe composing music for a young person who is curious about what it is or how to get started?
DM I would ask them, “When you were listening to the music, how did you feel? What did that make you feel like?” Because then, they would have to go deep within, to come up with an answer. I think this would get them in touch with a depth that would help them in terms of their curiosity, their curious nature, and in turn their exploration and discovery. It gives them a deeper insight into the analyzing of what that music is, which is also part of the listening, which is why I am answering it in this way.
RJ How would you like people to listen to the music of Hemispherica Portalis?
DB I do think of this as art, and art is all good, however it affects someone’s life. When we don’t prefer certain types of art, we always have the option to avoid it. There is nothing to fear in the world of art. If our specific art affects anyone’s life negatively, sure, we would probably like to hear about that (and I wish you could hear me laughing to myself after saying that), but I’m fairly certain that our music will have only positive effects if any, considering the intentions behind it. I am fairly confident that this music can be experienced in many constructive ways, and perhaps in ways that haven’t been imagined yet. Just as important to me personally, I suppose, I would like listeners to acknowledge the novelty inherent to Desensitized; two electronic musicians from two wildly different sub genres came together to create a unique contrast. This thought has potential to enhance any sense of adventure that listening to the album from beginning to end it may yield.
DM I envision hearing Hemispherica Portalis in the next launch of a space shuttle, the astronauts listening to it as they fly off into another dimension. I envision hearing Hemispherica Portalis in hospitals. I envision it with autistic children. I envision it in retirement homes where the elderly are. I envision it in schools. I envision hearing Hemispherica Portalis in vehicles, in people’s homes. I envision it at yoga centers, dentist‘s offices, doctor’s offices. I envision it in people’s cars, on airplanes. I envision it on the radio, in people’s homes and computers. Wherever there is a way for audio to be transmitted, I envision this music being played, because it does go into the far outer reaches of where sound can go. I envision it with a single individual who just wants to relax at the end of the day. I envision it with someone who fills a tub with water and throws petals into it and has scents and lights candles, a glass of wine, soaking in the tub and lets that music take them wherever they are destined to go, internally or externally.
I think that no matter where you are listening to it, you are going to get a visualization of other places. If somebody is worried or stressing over something, I think it will take them to another place and relieve that. I envision it being used in medicine, anyplace where it would be heard. I think music, any music, not just this album but any music, has the ability to do that. For this album in particular, because there is a dimensional depth to it, I would simply love to have people experience it as such and become a part of that world, even if it’s just for a moment.
RJ How did you make it sound the way it sounds?
DB I have a general interest in sound design, and how far you can explore such a thing. For music, I suppose this is one of the aspects at the heart of my “nerdiness.” For me, it’s not about what exact equipment I am using to do it, but more about the process and the result. However, I will still share my gear and techniques for the sake of clarity, if you’d like.
What I physically brought to these sessions for this album and this music, as far as gear goes, was my world of the laptop. That’s pretty much it. I was seduced by that world about a decade ago. I bought one in 2007, and then slowly proceeded to go completely internal. But this shift was an adjustment, and threw me off from the whole music game for quite a while. This is one of the reasons I didn’t release any albums for a long period of time. I was getting to know the internal equipment inside my laptop, and all of the virtual synths, and all of the vast amounts of plugins and software, and this took much longer to master than I had expected or planned. I was almost purely external before that, using only outboard gear and physical synthesizers, so this big adjustment was not necessarily effortless or natural for me.
But yes, going internal still opened up such a new world to me that the idea of sound design took on a whole new meaning. I have been immersed in that new world ever since. I like to refer to it as cutting edge sound design, digital sound design. That’s the angle that I’m coming from now, so this is what I brought to Desensitized, especially texturally. Knowing that Deborah would fill in a lot of melodic spaces, I focused more on texture for this project, rather than the melodic aspects that I usually bring to other musical situations. Deborah has a really great sense of song, so I was bringing a more experimental background approach to this album, filling in that backing space.
In that sense, for me this is why our project is kind of like a merging of the ancient and the new, because you have these cutting edge methodologies being used for certain aspects of the music, and you also have aspects of the music that were clearly influenced by a more ancient and/or mythical origin. Deborah has been quite fascinated with ancient music forms and ancient interpretation, so I view this project as a sort of combination of those cultural influences, perhaps modern and mystical. The title Portal of a Thousand Years can almost be seen as something that implies an open portal from the ancient to the new, back and forth, to somehow combine the two. The Portal of a Thousand Years sort of connotes a tie from the present to the past, the river of time in musical form, because, as I said, you have cutting edge methodologies in the music as well as ancient melodic spirit.
RJ Would you care to reveal something about any possible influences in your work here creating this album?
DM The influences for the music on this album I think totally came out of what Dean and I created. There was no past influence of previous works that I have done. Perhaps some of my listeners might think “Oh, that is definitely Deborah Martin because you can hear her melodic passages.” You hear recognizable traits perhaps, but the music that was created in the few weeks that we worked together was very new between Dean and myself, at least in my opinion. I would start playing something and go “I have this idea, Dean” and “what do you think of this?” and he would immediately jump onto his computers and go “Oh! I’ve got this” and it didn’t seem as though what followed was really that recognizable to either of us. We only know that we liked it, and felt it. Dean brought what are called “stems” of these terrific sounds. He told me he created some of them just for me because he knew I loved frogs and wolves, and some of these stems were field recordings of those beautiful creatures. He actually created these sounds, and I said “Oh, Dean, I love you, we have to put this in the recording!” and it naturally occurred. It is almost like when you turn on the faucet and the handle gets stuck. All of the sudden you open it, and it flows, and that is exactly what happened, we could not stop once it got started, we just kept going and going, we created enough music for our second album. It is already there, it’s just going to need some fine tuning and so on, and so forth. The name of our second release is going to be… Dean, is it okay if I reveal this?
DB Yes, of course.
DM The name of our first album is Hemispherica Portalis, a totally different world, it is neither here nor there, it is in the realms in between the different layers of existence. The next album deals with being present, and experiencing immediately whatever is there, like an unfolding story, and the album title is Chaos and Premonition. We actually have the third album too, but I am not going to reveal that. I have collaborated with many artists over many years and I love each one of them, but Dean’s uniqueness as an artist is rare and I really do cherish it. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such a creative individual. We have great fun when we are together. It’s wonderful.
RJ What instruments were used in creating Hemispherica Portalis? I know you are both multi-instrumentalists and on this album in certain places I think I hear just about every instrument known to the ear, and then some things not previously known.
DM I remember the flute recordings, we recorded Dean playing the flute here in this room and it was just wonderful. He did several takes. I worked on arranging and later on the recordings, which were just wonderful. He did things with the flute that not every flute player will do, and that was really special. We were able to extrapolate from those recordings what was needed for the opening song of the album, the Portal of a Thousand Years, and it really sounds like you are in a portal to me. So, it really accomplished, for me, visually, what we did with the audio. It matched beautifully. We did record Taos drums here, live. I have many percussion instruments and Dean brought a few himself. We did play a lot of Native American instruments. I like using the hand-made instruments, specifically because they carry the energy of the individual that made them. That is important to acknowledge and understand. When you are recording with a live instrument, like those Taos drums, they are living and breathing in their own way. You have to treat the skins. The tree was a living thing that either fell over or… Taos drums are not made by cutting down the trees, they are made from trees that have fallen down, so their life force is done. The medicine men that make them sometimes put a chant into it upon crafting the drum. I have several like that. You get these live animal skins, they don’t kill animals to make the drums either, they will only use an animal that has died of natural causes. So, there is a lot of energy in these instruments, the shakers that are handmade by different American Indians — Hopi, Navajo, Apache, different ones. Wherever I end up getting them from, or if they are gifted to me by a particular tribe, the energy really does lend itself and carry over. So yes, a lot of those were live recordings. We did it all here and put them together along with all of the electronics that Dean so masterfully contributed. We had several synth keyboards that were used. On the album itself it does list what we used for the recordings and the monitoring. I think what we did was kind of unique in combining things that I don’t think have been used in that fashion before. We were very excited about that as well.
DB There are actually countless other acoustic instruments that we never incorporated into this album, but yes we definitely still had our share for it. There were also field recordings, some of which were custom made but others that were not. One or two of them were custom made but most of them were standard issue that came with my computer. I have different ways of manipulating these recordings. Some of the sound textures I came up with are from sound generative synthesizers of different types, and some are effects used on those field recordings. Sometimes I manipulate synths and sound generators in a way that does sound like a field recording of real-world sounds, and other times I will simply manipulate real-world sources themselves. Sometimes I will create completely new textures that sound nothing like anything familiar, and other times I will combine the two. I knew this approach would mix well with pretty much anything I do with Deborah, because she has been known to use field recordings almost as much as I do, so she shares those sensibilities. As far as the real instruments, those were indeed real instruments that we played. Very little of it was sampled. For anyone who doesn’t know, a sample is an audio clip of an acoustic sound or instrument, and that clip is chopped in to a piece of music in a way that the composer desires. The sample, or clip, could have been recorded by another person, or could have even been recorded years or decades earlier. Deborah and I featured very little sampling on Hemispherica Portalis. pretty much all of the acoustic instruments you hear were played by either of us, and no one else. We played drums, flutes, anything you can hear that is acoustic. I brought my flute, I used to own many but now my collection has been narrowed down to a concert flute. The only exception to what I’m describing are a few synthesizers Deborah used, that contain presets that sound so realistic you almost can’t tell if they are acoustic instruments or not.
RJ No vocals? You both use vocals in your other work, Deborah sings and Dean sometimes uses words in his sound sculptures. On Hemispherica Portalis I hear no words, but there are lots of interesting words in the song titles: Hemispherica Portalis (Portal of 1000 Years), Concunus Dracus (Dragon of the Heavens), Formulata Oblivonos (A Complicated Tale), Ecumenicus Orato (The Umbilical Center), Saltis Nominus (Floating Seabeds), Terminus Equitos (Redemption Seeker), Amphibinatum (Myths and Legends).
DB We did record Deborah doing a lot of chants, performing in lots of ways that she is known for on her albums, but for this particular album we haven’t used them yet. I even have her recording these things on camera. I filmed a long recording session of like three hours I think. We used a lot of instruments that were around, but when all was said and done, we ended up using only a small fraction of those recordings for this album. The rest will likely make it to the next album, and whatever is left over may make it to the album after that. Whatever is not noticable on this album, will likely be noticeable in the next one.
DM I am a vocalist yes. I have done many vocals over the years, singing in jazz, country western, rock and roll, and all kinds of stuff, opera… I love vocals, but this style of music does not totally lend itself to actual word-based styles. I have a couple of things where I did work with Edgar Perry, the Mountain Apache elder who collaborated with me over several of the American Indian albums we did together. I did do vocals on that. There is the Anno Domini album, I wanted to write some Latin chants, based on chants from a long time ago, so I will use vocals occasionally, and in some of my recordings I will use the voice as an instrument. I will sing out a sound or a tone. Perhaps this will occur on a future Desensitized release also, but for this one, we just went with the flow.
RJ What would you like to do that you have not done yet? What if you had access to a Time Machine?
DM I like being in the here and now because Dean and I have so much more work to do and I like going on those adventures, so I love that part of it. I love ancient history, probably anywhere between the 1300 to the 1500s I would love to explore if I had the opportunity. One thing I would still like to do, I would like to learn, is an electric violin. That is an instrument that is not here in my studio yet and I have been wanting one. Not an electric cello, but an electric violin, and I would like to ride in a glider plane one of these days. Maybe Dean, you and I will go on a glider plane, there are no engines in them. You go and you are gliding in the air.
RJ Dean and Deborah, and Beth, I thank you for your time and words, and most of all, thank you for all of the adventurous music you have brought to the world, and I wish you the best of success with the new album, Hemispherica Portalis, and with your exciting new duo project, Desensitized.
RJ: What are the most dangerous places you have ever performed in?
DB: Not only do I love exploring abandoned buildings, but I also love heights! A friend and me climbed a huge grain silo and filmed “I Got Rhythm” on top. Not great acoustics, but the views were amazing!
RJ: What would you like to try that you have not tried yet?
DB: Skydiving! (And playing the sax at the same time???) Also, I love learning new instruments, and so I’m just about to rent a cello and learn me some strings!
Extras: YouTube Gallery
BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE! Derek also does online tutorials…
This album cover links to my review of DRIFTING MEMORIES
TRACKS 1 Awake in Swirling Dreams 2 Drifting Memories 3 All That Has Been 4 Ascension
‘Brain Voyager’ is the name of a 1985 album title of the German electronic musician Robert Schroeder. This name covers exactly what the Electronic Music of Brainvoyager’s music stands for. It is music that tries to invoke voyages within the listener’s brain, thus turning him or her into a real brain voyager.